We drove the Lexus ES300h: the classic Lexus sedan of your dreams…

If you want to experience what Lexus really stands for, than get behind the wheel of this sleek and stylish ES300h: smooth comfort and roominess, technical perfection, sleek and velvety power, a full luxury cabin, and totally stunning economy. It embodies it all, in a masterful and very attractive way.

Of course, you must like sedans. We still do, and let us tell you right away, we were totally sold on this Lexus. We drove it extensively, and took it also to the French capital of light. We couldn’t think of a more appropriate transport to the city of elegance and savoir vivre…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Grace and space

The Lexus ES300h looks the part. Almost 5 meters long, it stylists could freely shape its contours to show off its stretched elegance, and the result is pleasing indeed. Present Lexus styling shows bold elegance, and the front grille already amply shows this. This sedan has style, does not overstate anything, but shows panache and character throughout.

The interior breathes luxury, and the sweeping contours combined with the quality of the materials create an atmosphere of opulence and refinement. Of course, this sedan is technically of very high standard, and this translates also into the dashboard layout and commands. They introduce you into the Lexus world of perfection, and therefore require you to concentrate at first to learn to use them.

The main controls are intuitive, and it takes only seconds to drive away with this Lexus, but to get fully acquainted with your sophisticated mount, you have to show application. Rewards come soon your way, and after a day or so you come to appreciate fully why things are laid out the way they are. We liked the Remote Touch Interface (RTI) finger-tracing touchpad for navigation and infotainment with last but not least the big round volume knob for the radio with a larger concentric rim for choosing stations…

Of course the 17-speaker, 1,800-watt Mark Levinson PurePlay surround sound system again warrants a soothing, melodious drive every time you are lucky enough to take the wheel.

Speaking of the cabin, let’s indeed talk about room. You have lots of it, in the front and in the rear. The quality of the seats, the endless possibilities of adjusting them, all this warrants a comfortable trip. It certainly is an exquisite pleasure to go for a long drive in this ES. There is not too much space for all your things in the cabin, but the boot will hold an impressive 454 liters.

Hybrid drivetrain honed to perfection

The ES breathes technical perfection and this totally. Well proven elements are used here, like the 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine, which is combined with an electric motor fed by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack mounted underneath the rear seat.

You find all these reliable components partly also in the UX for instance. Together, these components produce 218 horsepower, which is enough to propel the ES 300h to 100 km/h in 8.9 seconds. Fast cruising is also warranted, as the Lexus will speed further to a whispering 180 km/h.

The biggest quality of this drivetrain is its smoothness, indeed the imperceptible switch between electric and engine power, and the velvety way both power flows are continuously combined or alternated is so impressive. No other brand equals this.

But there is another asset, which it has in common with (very) powerful electric cars: the constant and instantaneous availability at the slightest push of the throttle of all the impressive system power, which makes the Lexus totally nimble in urban and other traffic situations were instant acceleration power is required. Joining into driving traffic lanes is a breeze, quickly gathering speed without any effort is an ever returning pleasure for the man or woman behind the wheel. And the beauty of it, this hardly costs any fuel. We averaged with this 1,7 tonne heavy luxury sedan an average consumption of 5,3 liters over the test distance, thanks to the constantly clever power switches the system makes in function of the driving situations. Of course we adopted an anticipative, smooth driving style, in tune with what the designers meant this car to be.

Mind you, our test car was the “F Sport” version of this Lexus, and suspension and drivetrain response in the “Sport” and “Sport +” modes are top notch. To add zest and panache to all this sportiness, the virtual instrument display treats you with large increasingly red tachometers. You also have paddles at both sides of the steering wheel to let you choose electronically controlled and emulated fixed gears in the CVT transmission. So when you are in the mood…

Like we said before, as soon as you decide to lift the throttle and adopt a quieter gait, the Lexus will start to use EV power whenever possible, even with the system remaining in the chosen “Sport” or “Sport+” mode.

Suspension tuned for balance and comfort

This is a comfortable limousine. But not at the cost of safe handling. The ES300h steers quite precise, will take long fast bends wonderfully in its stride, and will also power out of tight bends with stunning ease and loads of grip and sheer balance.

It led one impressed front passenger to exclaim: “wow, now it goes instantly into four wheel drive, what a grip and power”. The man is a car connoisseur and Maserati Ghibli owner, so he is forgiven… It just shows how well engineered and tuned the chassis and suspension of this front wheel drive Lexus has become. Of course, the ideal weight distribution with the battery pack sitting beneath the rear seats and the long wheelbase help here. But despite all these dynamic qualities, comfort reigns. Not only does the suspension smoothen out things, it also filters rough road surfaces to provide a quiet, vibration free ride.

Conclusion

For those among us who like mechanical perfection, refinement, smoothness, power, elegance, panache and last but not least reliability together with environmentally very responsible economy, this Lexus is the one.

Because on top of all this, it is luxurious, lavishly equipped and has style and distinction. Finally, it is well priced too…and due to its “green” hybrid character, it is treated well taxation wise.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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