2013 Lexus ES 300h

2013 Lexus ES 300h Review

Proving that luxury and hybrid can coexist.

By: Tim Healey

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: April 15th, 2013

When Lexus redesigned the ES for the 2013 model year, it did something it had never done before with its mid-size luxury sedan--it added a hybrid.

Aspiring country-club types now have the option of choosing a higher-mileage ES, which offers a maximum 40 mpg city, over the conventional car's 21 mpg city rating. That should help with those hefty monthly payments, and buyers will get to say they're driving a Lexus while still saving the planet.

  • Performance

    The ES is essentially a family sedan for consumers with larger-than-average 401K accounts, and it behaves as such. Lexus endowed the car with a selectable "Sport" driving mode (along with "Eco" and "Normal" modes), but even toggling the selector into Sport mode doesn't do much for performance driving. Push the ES hard and it understeers through corners, with too much body roll. The car never really has a sense of where you want it to go or how to get there, and the driver only gets a vague sense of what the tires are doing.

    We'll give Lexus credit for getting the steering feel mostly right, though. It's not perfect, but it's more nicely weighted and more accurate than ES units of the past--no more softness. When driven at sedate speeds, the ES's steering gives the car a nice sporting gravitas. Too bad the car doesn't live up to that impression when being hustled.

    As one expects from a Lexus, the ride is generally high-quality. Bumps are heard but only sort of felt, as if the tires are hitting pavement potholes in another dimension. The ES is less isolating than Lexuses (Lexi?) of the past, but it still coddles.

    Acceleration is a strength, thanks to the hybrid powertrain. The ES leaves the line a lot faster than 200 horsepower and 3,660 pounds would suggest.

  • Exterior

    Lexus gave the ES a bolder look than the slightly-curvy-yet-conservative design of the outgoing car. The new look is more squared-off and edgy, and it's imposing. Yet it still somehow manages to be on the bland side, blending into traffic anonymously. That may be how Lexus buyers prefer it, but we've already forgotten what the car looks like.

  • Interior

    Lexus didn't skimp on features, and almost all materials feel class appropriate, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces. We like the analog clock in the center stack; it gives the car a nice luxury feeling that sets it apart from the Toyotas on which it's based.

    We also mostly like the computer-mouse-like controller for the infotainment systems, even if it does require digging through the menus too much to find the on/off features for certain functions.

    Headroom and legroom are plentiful, and the seats are on the comfy side. There's little reason not to like this cabin.

  • Final Thoughts

    If you drive the ES 300h as intended, you'll find it to be a pleasant and luxurious commuting companion that sips fuel. Drive it aggressively, though, and you'll be reminded of its target audience.

    If you must have a Lexus hybrid that offers up a modicum of performance, save your pennies for a GS 450h hybrid. But if the goal is to get from corporate meeting A to corporate meeting B in style without burning too much dead dino juice, the ES has you covered.

  • Specs, Features, and Prices

    Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder combined with electric motor

    Transmission: Continuously-variable automatic

    Drive Wheels: Front-wheel-drive

    Fuel Economy: 40 mpg city/39 mpg highway

    Base Price: $38,850

    As-tested price: $44,159 (includes $895 destination)

    Available Features: Bluetooth, USB port, navigation, heated front seats, memory seats, heated steering wheel, cargo net, wood and leather trimmed steering wheel, remote keyless entry and starting, satellite radio, heated outside mirrors, dual-zone climate control, rear spoiler.

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