It was all the rage in 1989 when Lexus sedans hit U. S. markets with the ES 250 and flagship LS 400. Lexus sedans continue to dominate brand sales even while some domestic sedans are being phased out.
Hard to top the Lexus strategy of churning out refined automobiles with posh interiors and enough oomph to make driving fun, although some glitches persist.
Pros: Elegant styling, whisper quiet ride, awesome mileage
Cons: Infotainment system awkward, lacks sporty thrust off the line, can get pricey
Our test car for the week was the ES300h, a hybrid sedan that seamlessly switches between a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle, four-cylinder inline engine and a pair of electric motors. Total horsepower output is 215, up 15 from last year.
For a heavy sedan that tips the scales at 3,730 pounds, our ES hybrid made the zero to 60 miles per hour in a conservative 8.2 ticks. Worth noting from a value perspective, European import base hybrid prices tend to equal the ES300h fully loaded. Enough said. The Base 300h well equipped starts at $41,810, mid-range ES 300h luxury at $47,010 and Ultra Luxury at $50,810. The latter was our test car and the one we’d recommend since the relatively close price will give you the kitchen sink including the full safety suite of technology, real wood, leather surfaces and lots more.
The added benefit of this luxury hybrid is its 44-mile per gallon combined mileage in EPA testing. And since the ES300 is based on the company’s Toyota Avalon platform, you could further reduce your cash outlay up to $5,000, albeit without the Lexus panache.
Sitting in the driver’s seat is a nice place to be with multi-powered adjustments and lumbar support in both positions. Digital displays are a welcome addition with a 12.3-inch center readout for navigation, vehicle settings as well as entertainment controls that are redundant with steering wheel switches.
While the large screen is functional, its mouse-like touchpad is tedious to operate and requires eyes off the road for drill down features. To be fair, we did notice a slight improvement in touch sensitivity over previous years.
A 10.2-inch heads-up display is a welcome addition as it projects vehicle information through the front windshield along with live road sign displays, navigation readouts and more.
A small power trunk lid opens to a large space, enough to hold four sets of golf clubs made possible with battery placement away from the trunk shell. Lexus says rear seats pick up a few inches more leg room due to a lengthier wheelbase.
Don’t like to mess with switches? Lexus has an available voice command for cabin adjustments included with the first 10 years of ownership. It’s easy to use and we found voice recognition spot on.
While not as sporty as some European imports, the ES300h will meet most consumer needs in city driving and highway maneuverability. Its continuously variable transmission provides smooth shifts while regenerative brakes charge its batteries. The stylish exterior and 18-inch noise-reducing alloys combine with acoustic glass and sound deadening material throughout the platform to keep outside noise, well, out.