By Tony West and Jamar Lee
Lexus is the frontrunner in the luxury hybrid market. 2013 models span a range of affordable efficiency from the CT200h in the compact segment to the first ever ES300h sedan, the 6th reincarnation ES that gives the middle finger to ethanol. Ironically the CT200h that gets a lower rating from us than the ES hybrid is priced at 38k fully loaded- same as the base price for the ES300h. If buyers want premium luxury with unbelievable gas savings, the ES is the best buy of all the Lexus hybrids. Fully loaded the Lexus ES300h sedan beats out most of its competitors from unmatched style to premium luxury and tech features. I’d argue that beats future hybrids BMW and Mercedes-Benz attempt with a much better price.
Premium Look with Outstanding EPA
The ES300h is sophisticated inside and out. Exterior color options like Matador Red Mica, Fire Agate, and Deep Sea Mica are contrasted with swagged out interior colors. The NuLux interior is supple leather with black contrast stitching on the instrument panel and optional bamboo wood trim. The ES300h interior is also spacious with 40-inches of legroom in the rear and 41.9- inches in the front. The trunk is not as spacious.
The Lexus ES300h is longer and wider with a new rear spoiler, hidden exhaust, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Also slick is the blue hybrid badging. The ES300h also has the familiar Lexus spindle grille with LED daytime running lights and rear tail lights. A rigid body made of high tensile steel and lightweight components aid aerodynamics. The shark fin antenna and rear spoiler are sporty and efficient.
The most impressive part of the ES300h is its efficiency. The Lexus ES300h has a combined EPA of 40 mpg’s (40 mpg city/ 39 mpg highway.) And the gas mileage feels even more efficient. A Drive Mode Selector has 3 drive modes, Normal, Sport, and Eco. Eco mode adds more efficiency by revising throttle mapping and climate control systems. The ES300h also helped me better regulate my speed. EV mode activates at low revs and optimizes efficiency. Revving less in an attempt to keep the tachometer in EV mode saved me a ton of fuel. Short trips used virtually no gas. I expected to stop and fill up the ES300h after 3, 4, 5 days, but 400 miles later I still had ¼ of a tank of gas. I passed gas stations like “not now.”
Super-Efficient Powertrain with Superb Road Presence
The ES300h has a standard 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine with a Permanent Magnet Electric Drive Motor. The Atkinson Cycle engine has 200 horsepower, 156 lb-ft of torque, and a top speed of 112 mph. The low friction twin cam, VVT engine uses an evaporative fuel system to reduce emissions. The beltless engine saves a ton of money on maintenance down the line. And the engine has an electric water pump and electric power steering. The engine is matted to an Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission with Intelligence.The ES300h rides excellent, smooth and light with a strong road presence.
Driving in “Normal” mode is very fuel efficient, but driving in Eco mode trains me to drive more efficiently. Sport mode is fun, but also very fuel efficient. In Sport mode, steering is tightened and responses more prompt. In Eco mode, throttle mapping and climate control systems are adjusted to favor efficiency.
Though the ES300h rumbled and shuttered a few times when I started the engine, it’s a very smooth ride and accelerates great going from 0-60 mph in 8 seconds. And the ES300h didn’t feel sluggish like some hybrids. The whip stayed steady whether revving or cruising which ultimately aids efficiency. The Drive Mode Selector is fun to use because each mode lights up the dash, gears, and infotainment panel a different hue.The ES300h comes with MacPherson strut-type independent front suspension and Duallink MacPherson strut-type independent rear suspension. Gas pressured shock absorbers and a reduced steering gear ratio adds responsiveness and stability.
Sophisticated Premium Lux Interior
The ES300h interior is comfortable, tech functional, and luxurious. NuLux seating is standard along with available semi aniline leather. Ironically the ES300h interior was the most stylish and comfortable of the CT200h hybrid and the LS600h hybrid that has a slightly rougher leather interior with less cool color contrasts
The ES300h interior has dual zone climate control, heated seats, heated steering wheel, and heated side mirrors. The controls for audio in this driver-focused cabin are at the steering wheel. The driver’s dash is a 3.5-inch TFT display screen perfectly tailored for the lux ES hybrid, displaying the hybrid monitor, average EPA, temperature, gas gauge, speedometer, and the EV hybrid icon.
The Remote Touch Controller, a knob at the center console is one of my favorite Lexus feature because it’s less distracting than new age touchscreens. The Remote Touch Controller operates the climate, audio, infotainment, phone, and navigation. The Lexus ES300h also has the familiar Display Zone and Operational Zone. The Display Zone houses the 7-inch screen and controls for the media and climate are in the Operational Zone.
Other Lux Options
The Lexus fully loaded is priced at 45k, and includes 4 add-on packages. Heated seats and a moon roof are standard. The Lux package adds a power rear sunshade, heated and ventilated seats, and Park Assist. The Ultra Luxury package adds a driver cushion extender, manual door sunshades, power trunk, and rain sensing wipers. The Navigation package includes a backup camera, HDD Navigation, and Lexus Enform with Safety Connect. AppSuite is included with Bing, iheartradio, Pandora, and Yelp along with NavTraffic, NavWeather, sports, stocks, and nearby gas prices. Standard is an 8-speaker Lexus Sound System. A bangin 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system is optional.
Safety features in the Lexus ES300h add confidence to lux efficiency. Standard is Vehicle Stability Control and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution with Brake Assist. Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert is optional along with the Lane Departure Alert and the Pre Collision System. Lexus Safety Connect includes Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Location Services, and Automatic Collision Notification.
Overall #1 Luxury Hybrid
Overall the Lexus ES300h gets very high marks from us. The ES hybrid is a fantastic all-around luxury sedan, well worth the base price or fully loaded. There were only a few minor drawbacks like limited storage behind the seats and the always annoying beeping for things that need no notification like when I open my door.
Despite these very minor things, the ES300h is a more swaggtastic hybrid than the Fusion, the Camry Hybrid and the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. And the ES hybrid makes buying a more expensive – less efficient lux mid-sized sedan from Audi or Mercedes-Benz a real bonehead move. Of the 3 Lexus hybrids we tested, the CT200h, the LS600h L, and the ES300h, the ES hybrid is the undisputed MPG God reigning supreme over all fuel efficient luxury whips.