One thing is for sure: Lexus isn’t afraid to ruffle some features when it comes to design. Between the bold front grille, and the unique curved headlamps, the front end of the ES300h will get your attention, and there’s no guarantee that it will be your style. Some luxury buyers will love it, but others will opt for more classic looks from other high-end automakers.
Once you move to the sides and rear of the ES, the design becomes less in-your-face. And once inside, you’ll instantly recognize the high level of effort put into making this look and feel like a luxury ride.
The plush and comfortable design did not disappoint, with seats remaining welcoming even on longer rides. And the rear seat is actually somewhat roomy for what is essentially a small sedan. Trunk space also does not disappoint.
HOW’S THE RIDE?
Being a hybrid, the 2017 Lexus ES 300h features the Lexus Hybrid Drive system, featuring a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor that produces a total of 200 horsepower. The transmission is an electronically controlled CVT automatic.
If you are driving at low speeds, strictly electric power is being used and the silent nature of a hybrid is at its peak. But when you start to accelerate the gas and electric portions work together. Also, at a stop, there is no idling; the gas engine shuts off when you stop (actually, as you are slowing down), and restarts after you get moving via the electric motor.
As tends to be the case with hybrids, the ride is very quiet due to the power plant setup, though occasional road noise does seep in. The ES 300h is a front-wheel drive vehicle.
Acceleration isn’t of the drag-racer variety, but is better than I’ve experienced in most hybrids. I was pleasantly surprised at this.
I found that the experience driving the ES 300h was impressive both in terms of overall sportiness of the drive, and in the acceleration I experienced. These are usually the most frustrating parts of driving a hybrid, but I never had those feelings about the ES hybrid. It had more pep than I anticipated, and handling did not disappoint.
And perhaps my favorite thing about the operation of hybrids is that when you brake, the system stops providing power and begins generating electricity via regenerative braking, with the kinetic energy lost during braking being sent to the battery.
Lexus’ Safety System Plus system comes standard on the ES hybrid, and includes: Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection; High speed dynamic radar cruise control; Lane departure alert with steering assist and more. These safety features, along with the known longevity and reliability of Lexus vehicles, are big draws to the brand whether we’re talking standard vehicles or hybrids. As expected, government safety ratings of the ES hybrid are near the top of the charts.
The optional Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio system in my test ride was a treat to the ears, capturing details crispy and offer booming bass when desired.
The biggest tech concern I had on the Lexus ES hybrid was the Remote Touch system to control the infotainment screen. This mousepad-influenced controller is not easy to use while driving, and the brand would be better off if it were replaced.
Luckily, the verbal commands worked very well so I could avoid it most of the time. Also, my experiences with the Lexus Navigation system were all positive.
These numbers were a bit disappointing to me in the real world. Official numbers on the 2017 Lexus ES 300h are 40 city/39 highway/40 combined. But when I did my testing, I only was able to reach an average of 33.5 mpg. Even accounting for the fact that maybe I wasn’t doing everything I could to maximize fuel mileage, that’s still a large drop from listed numbers and something that will be a cause for concern among potential buyers.
The 2017 Lexus ES 300h has a starting price of $41,820, and my tester came out to $48,213 once options (blind spot monitor, premium audio, navigation, parking assist) were added.
If you’re thinking green (eco-green that is), but are not yet sold on driving full EVs, Lexus’ ES 300h hybrid is definitely one to take for a test drive. My biggest concern is the mpg coming up a bit short in my testing, but there are few alternatives, and there’s a lot else to like about the look, feel and ride of the ES300h that make it remain an attractive green-luxury car option.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.