Posted by Sara Zucker on December 4, 2009 08:21 AM
As December temperatures hit the '60s in the eastern US this week, consumers got a global warming reminder. Automakers working to make the planet greener are now joined by Lexus, the latest to jump on the hybrid bandwagon.
All sorts of ironic? The company recently revamped their classic RX SUV and is setting its sights high with the new HS 250h fuel-efficient gas-electric hybrid luxury car: its main competition is a Benz.
The $87,950 Mercedes-Benz S400 hybrid sedan, for example, is rated at 21 mpg in combined city and highway driving, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The 295-horsepower car uses a six-cylinder engine and a "mild hybrid" system to average three miles per gallon better, on the government's tests, than the eight-cylinder, 382-horsepower Mercedes S550 sedan.
The HS 250h's body architecture was adapted from a European Toyota model, the Avensis. It racked up a 35 mpg EPA rating for combined city and highway driving. With a continuously variable transmission, it starts with the push of a large button on the dashboard, and can move out of a parking space on electric power, but starting it is like flipping a coin: “You might hear the gasoline engine come to life right away, or you might not.”
Gas-electric hybrids account for a little less than 2% of the total car market, and luxury-brand hybrids a small piece of that pie. The Lexus HS was created to target environmentally-conscious consumers looking for in an advanced-technology vehicle, but we're bound to see some imitations real soon.