If a hybrid sedan is in your purchasing plans, Lexus has a model for you. Their line-up covers the gamut with UX, RX, NX, LS, LC and ES models, the latter is the carmakers midsize luxury sedan that was tested.
Lexus’ ES 300h has a gasoline only equivalent, but the 300h is the thriftier with its 2.5-liter inline four cylinder that combines a hybrid electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery. So configured, the 176-hp gasoline engine with the 39-hp battery, puts out a total of 215-hp with 163 lb/ft of torque for the gasoline engine only. Toyota says the hybrid has been 0-60 tested in 8.1 seconds, and EPA rates the combination at 43 city, 45-highway mpg with a CVT automatic transmission.
As powered, acceleration is linear in fashion. When gradually starting off from a standing stop, the car is moved by battery power alone until the accelerator is pressed harder then the gasoline engine kicks in with an almost unnoticeable transition.
The ES300h is offered in three trim levels of Premium, Luxury and top-line Ultra Luxury that was tested. The latter comes with leather seating and a host of amenities including a panoramic sunroof, heads-up-display, premium Mark Levinson audio, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear pedestrian alert with auto braking, hands-free trunk release, 12.3-inch display with voice control and more.
300h’s seats were done in two-tone, perforated leather that is as classy and chic as Lexus vehicles are noted for. The fronts are supportive, sofa soft, heated and cooled.
The vertical stack houses the 12.3-inch display with split screen capability wherein some functions are selected on the touchscreen while others are controlled by the ultra-sensitive touchpad on the console. Heat settings can be selected by two toggle switches, one for the driver, the other for the passenger, or via the screen. HVAC buttons on the dash are for temp select, defrosters and fan speed. Same goes for the heated seats and steering wheel switches. So frequently used functions are still represented by tried and true push switches.
The display also serves other functions like navigation, apps, rearview camera, Enform infotainment system and more. Lexus included a wireless smartphone charging pad and … kudos to Lexus … one of the very few cars to still offer a CD player. And, the console box lid opens from both sides.
As said, the touchpad is very sensitive and not easy to use while driving. A slight minute-move can miss your desired selection. The pad shows up in all new Lexus vehicles. In this respect, my wife’s’ 2008 Lexus RX 350 SUV uses conventional knobs and buttons that she prefers as they’re precise and easier to use.
ES300h’s gauge cluster contains but one large centered digital gauge that shows speed, gear position and Charge, Eco and Power gauges. They can help drive economically if keeping it in the Eco setting. There are also two knobs protruding from the dash top. One is to shut off traction control while the other is to select Sport, Normal and Eco modes.
Back seats are comfy while offering an appreciable amount of leg room. Ingress/egress is easy thanks to wide opening doors, however a sloping roof-line may need a head duck for tall folks.
Back in the trunk, it’s rated at 19.4 cubic feet that has a loading depth of 42 inches. It’s spacious but the rear seatbacks don’t fold because instead the battery pack is under the back seats instead of in the trunk where it would decrease trunk space. The rear seat, however, does have a pass-through to carry long items.
As for the ride on 18-inch Bridgestone tires, the ES feels like a full-size luxury car. It’s smooth, quiet yet controlled with the suspension soaking up major road imperfections. Only heavily pock-marked roads shake up the interior somewhat. The ES parks easily as well with a relatively tight 19.4 foot turning radius.
The ES300h comes priced with an extremely long list of standard items and safety features. Base priced at $44,980, options such as blind spot monitoring w/rear cross traffic alert, intuitive parking assist with auto braking, rear pedestrian alert and panoramic view monitor ($1,900); wireless charger ($75); alloy wheels ($950); 10.2-inch HUD ($500); triple beam LED headlights ($1,515); Mark Levinson audio with Nav, Apple CarPlay, Enform, surround sound audio and more ($3,000); heated wood/leather steering wheel ($480); and a delivery ($1,025) takes the bottom line to $54,405.
That’s a luxury price for a luxury hybrid sedan. If you can live without the Levinson audio and fancy wheels, the ES300h can be more manageable.
Overall, it’s a hybrid with Lexus quality and dependability. The only way it could be better is if were offered with AWD for us here in the Snowbelt.