[FoRK] [LATimes] Dan Neil review of HS250h

Rohit Khare rkhare at gmail.com
Fri Oct 30 11:50:44 PDT 2009


Speaking of radar and LKA, here's another gem that reminds my why Dan Neil has more Pulitzer prizes than I do! :) --Rohit

"Find me a person who thinks this luxury hybrid is beautiful and I'll find you someone who has a plaid La-Z-Boy in the family room."

"This narrow, graceless, cosmically unlovely economy car -- which is not sold in the U.S. because it fails the ugly-car clause of various trade agreements -- crushes any desire I might have to own an HS250h."
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-----Original Message-----
From: Smruti Vidwans <smruti at gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 2009 09:03:58 
To: Rohit Khare<rkhare at gmail.com>
Subject: Dan Neil review of HS250h- Oy

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 Lexus HS250h: Keep the lights off in the garage

   - Dan Neil
   -  [image: Dan
Neil]<http://www.latimes.com/business/la-columnist-dneil,0,1620166.columnist>
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Stats<http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-neilbox30-2009oct30,0,4690930.story>

   Find me a person who thinks this luxury hybrid is beautiful and I'll find
you someone who has a plaid La-Z-Boy in the family room.
By Dan Neil

October 30, 2009

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 If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning, I'd hammer in the evening and
all over the Lexus HS250h until I beat it into something that vaguely
resembled a luxury car.

I'd start by chiseling off the Ford Fusion-like grille, then I'd go to town
pounding some rakishness into the hood and then I'd ding and dent some
character into the fuselage.

Anything. Just make the boring stop.

This is one of those instances that defy the notion that automotive styling
is subjective. Find me a person who thinks this car is beautiful and I'll
find you someone who has a plaid La-Z-Boy in the family room.

In most respects, this car makes sense to me. It makes sense for Lexus --
the luxury imprint for Toyota -- to offer a dedicated hybrid, which is to
say, a vehicle that is not a hybrid version of a conventional vehicle, and
to slot it in at the bottom of the price ladder ($34,200), between the IS
and ES models. This is Lexus' mileage marquee player, with an EPA average of
35 miles per gallon. Well done. Bully.

It also makes sense to transplant the Camry hybrid's excellent powertrain --
a 2.4-liter, 147-horsepower Atkinson-cycle engine, continuously variable
transmission, 141-hp traction motor, 244.8-volt battery, the whole kit --
into said car. We call that amortization.

It is likewise reasonable to roll in every fancy bit of electronic hardware
available in the Lexus larder. After all, sparkly electroluminescent gizmos
are a time-honored Lexus brand value. There's even an available system that
monitors the driver's face to detect whether he or she is turned away from
the road. If a frontal collision seems likely, the car will advise the
driver to turn around and continue to scream normally.

Sensibly enough, Lexus wraps that all in the propofol tranquillity Lexus is
known for. The glass is acoustically laminated; the engine sits on dynamic
engine mounts that help null out transient vibration; every corner, crease
and seam is wadded with soundproofing material like an Abbey Road studio.

I'm cool with all of that.

But it is madness -- sheer, biting-chicken-heads-off, barking lunacy -- to
stick all that hard work and expertise into the sheet metal of the
European-market Toyota Avensis, upon which the HS250h is based.

This narrow, graceless, cosmically unlovely economy car -- which is not sold
in the U.S. because it fails the ugly-car clause of various trade agreements
-- crushes any desire I might have to own an HS250h.

At this point Lexus designers will be foaming at the mouth. They'll argue
that the Avensis and the HS250h don't share any sheet metal. Please, their
mothers couldn't tell these cars apart. They'll also note they spent a
zillion hours in the wind tunnel to optimize the HS' shape for aero
efficiency as well as to tune out wind noise.

I can't hear you. The ugly is just so loud.

Here's why looks are important: Almost all cars are good, and many cars are
great. The most middling entry-level sedan today has more performance,
comfort and convenience than the most majestic luxury steamship of 20 years
ago, and much more content than most drivers ever use. Honestly, how many
times do you readjust the pedal height or set the dual-zone climate control
to different temperatures?

The point is, the reward of owning a luxury car isn't found in the bleeping
displays and ventilated seats. It's in the moment when the garage door goes
up, and you experience the deep, neuronal pleasure of confronting something
beautiful. That's luxury. That's why you write the big check.

Meanwhile, the aesthetically hamstrung HS250h is up against some serious
competition, much of it built by Toyota itself.

On the one hand, there is the Toyota Prius, which can be decked out with
many of the same tech amenities as the Lexus, and for less money too; gets
about 50% better gas mileage; and is an established icon of the Whole Foods,
MoveOn.org mind-set.

Then there's the Camry hybrid, which isn't as fancy but is a heck of a lot
bigger and more practical than the HS250h. So Lexus has cocked a howitzer,
taken aim at its foot and fired. Too bad. The HS250h is actually a pretty
interesting car and downright compelling on the inside.

The dramatically sloped central console extends on a kind of free-standing
pier between the front seats. Our fully loaded test car was equipped with
the terrific Lexus Remote Touch controller (first seen in the RX450h), a
kind of leather-lined computer mouse with haptic feedback that tugs and
kicks back as the cursor scrolls along the screen. The seats are big and
comfortable. The material quality is excellent. Lexus says about 30% of the
interior plastics are derived from plant-based materials. According to
Lexus, 85% of the HS250h is recyclable.

The sooner the better, I say.



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