Is the Hybrid model of one of our favourites just as good?Although the ES300h isn’t the nimble sports sedan I’m used to, I’m happy to say the ES300h still meets that high standard. You see, it’s a car built for comfort, and nothing else. It sort of does everything for you, without you knowing, whether or not you like it.
Up until recently, Lexus hybrid technology initiative has only seen limited application. Lexus offered hybrid drivetrains on the flagship trim of their cars almost purely for performance enhancement rather than a true effort to be greener. As a result, the electric motor and battery were just power supplements, the gasoline engines remained the same size, and the cars only saw a minimal increase in fuel efficiency. Soon after, the HS250h and CT200h were introduced, and were the company’s first efforts into producing a small and fuel efficient hybrid. If we’re being honest, the HS250h was complete garbage at best, made obvious by its horrible sales numbers and subsequent sacking. Fortunately, Lexus redeemed itself with the CT200h. It provided a unique option for people, one that offered the small car utility and efficiency of a Prius but also the luxuries that should be associated with the Lexus brand.
For 2013, Lexus launches the brand new ES in two versions, the ES350 which we tested several weeks back, and the ES300h hybrid. The only difference between the two is the drivetrain. In contrast to the 268hp 3.5L V-6 equipped to its brother, the ES300h employs a downsized 2.5L inline-four gasoline engine coupled with two electric motors for a combined 200hp. This isn’t one of Lexus’ previous half-assed “hybrids”. This is the real deal. Lexus is projecting a quarter of ES sales to be its hybrid, and after testing one for a week, I can see why.
Before I continue I should first mention that if you’re looking for something sporty, this is not the car for you, and far from it. I actually own a first-generation IS300 and I love it, so I hold the Lexus brand to a high standard. Although the ES300h isn’t the nimble sports sedan I’m used to, I’m happy to say the ES300h still meets that high standard. You see, it’s a car built for comfort, and nothing else. It sort of does everything for you, without you knowing, whether or not you like it. I can appreciate what Lexus is trying to do with this car. The smoothness and quietness makes you feel almost detached from the driving experience. There is a knob on the center console that allows you to select driving modes: eco, normal, and sport. For increased fuel efficiency, eco mode holds back throttle input as well as alters climate control settings. In sport mode, the light steering becomes a bit heavier, throttle response is sharpened, and a tachometer is displayed instead of an eco-efficiency dial. And finally, normal mode is a blend between the two; normal. I’ll be the first to admit that I usually cannot stand CVT drivetrains, but I can tolerate this one, partly because it’s actually a good CVT transmission, and partly because it fits the character of this car so well. The hybrid system operates like clockwork and the startups and shutoffs of the gasoline engine are seamless. You really don’t notice any of the wizardry that’s happening behind the scenes.
The hybrid drivetrain does indeed output less power than its V6-powered brother, however it’s more than enough for a car in this segment and it’s definitely more than enough for its front wheel drive Avalon platform. It’s actually enough to spin its front wheels at ease under hard acceleration. The combined 200-hp and ample torque courtesy of the electric motors enables the ES300h to accelerate competently and smoothly, only a second behind its brother from 0 to 100km/h. The steering feel is exactly like what you would expect from a non-sporty Lexus; numb at best. Braking feel is pretty stiff and there is very little pedal travel between what feels like completely on or completely off. Lexus estimates approximately 5.9L/100km for both city and highway driving. We were able to achieve around 7.0L/100km which is in-line with Lexus’ estimate considering our testing conditions.
Our 2013 Lexus ES300h has an as-tested price of $45,700. For its price, the ES300h provides good value. Our tester came equipped with a navigation system, an 8-speaker audio system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, and iPod/AUX connectivity. Heated seats, heated mirrors, and a heated steering wheel are all greatly appreciated, especially considering we’re heading into the Canadian winter. The seats provide good support and I was able to find a comfortable driving position. Lexus calls their navigation and entertainment interface Remote Touch and it is operated via a control in the center console. The entire system is very easy to use and I’m personally a huge fan of the unique haptic feedback control. 10 airbags also come as standard, and the push-to-start ignition and smart key system is a nice touch. In short, the inside of the ES300h is a very nice place to be.
As an enthusiast, much of Lexus’ luxury offerings are not for me. They tend to take a little too much away from the driving experience and the driver ends up feeling underwhelmed. However, I’m not the target audience of the ES300h. It’s targeted for someone who’s probably a little older than me, maybe even a lot older. For those who can appreciate what this car offers, it’s a great overall package. The exterior styling is elegant but handsome, the beautiful interior is comfortable and quiet, and the hybrid drivetrain is nothing short of awesome. So if you’re looking for a luxury car that lets you and your passengers ride in complete comfort but at the same time limit your carbon footprint, then the 2013 Lexus ES300h could be the car for you.
2013 Lexus ES300h Gallery