2015 Lexus ES 300h Review
Where the rubber stamp meets the road.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: April 14th, 2015
Whether it deserves it or not, Lexus has a reputation for making extremely boring cars. Yes, Lexuses are nice, comfortable, technically advanced, and reliable. But unless the car name starts with an "F," the popular conception goes, you're in for a very boring ride.
Lexus has tried hard to shake that reputation, and they've succeeded with some cars - most notably the RC - but the ES 300h is at the end of its current generation, so it still brings the boring.
Because it belongs to the sixth generation of ES sedans, which was introduced in 2012, the ES hasn't caught up with the current Lexus design language, which is much edgier, both literally and figuratively, than the Camry-with-a-fancy-grille look of the last generation.
There's nothing particularly wrong with this look, you've seen it a million times by now, but it is in dire need of a refresh. Besides, it's wrong to say the ES is just a fancy Camry. The ES is actually built on the Avalon platform, so it's a fancy Avalon, not a fancy Camry. Get it straight, haters.
As usual, the only way to distinguish the ES 300h from the ES 350 (if you can't see the badge on the back of the car) is by the hideously ugly Hybrid badge that currently ruins the styling of every gas/electric automobile on the planet. Hopefully it's easy to remove.
One reason Lexus is such a popular brand is that it understands the value of sameness, which in marketing is known as "familiarity." There's a reason every Walgreens and every Starbucks in the world looks pretty much the same. Those companies understand that people have neither the patience nor, in most cases, the mental stamina to learn a new routine every time they go into a different store or coffee shop.
Walgreens and Starbucks may not have the most soul-soothing interior designs, but you know when you walk into them that you will know your way around even if you've never been there before.
On the one hand, this approach is generic and uninteresting, on the other hand, it's good business, and it works. Lexus pretty much nailed the feeling of "generic luxury," and while this may not make them the most drooled-over cars in any given press fleet, it probably makes their customers extremely happy.
Lexus also knows that comfort is job one when it comes to transporting the executive class (ES stands for "executive sedan," if you didn't know), and the ES 300h is definitely the most comfortable hybrid you'll ever drive, at least until you drive a Cayenne Hybrid.
Driving the ES 300h is one of the easiest things you'll ever do in your life. Once this car gets equipped with the new Lexus Safety System +, it won't just feel like it drives itself, it pretty much will. Until then, it's hard to beat this interior for comfort, quiet, and beaucoup high-tech features, especially for under 50 grand.
On the Road
Earlier we pointed out that people who claim the ES is just a tarted-up Camry are way off the mark. The ES is really a tarted-up Avalon, but the ES 300h is probably best described, in performance terms, as an extremely fancy Prius.
Even though Lexus provides its typical drive modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport, you won't find yourself doing much sporty driving in the ES. Eco mode provides a frighteningly accurate analog of the Prius-driving experience, while Normal drives more like a normal car, and Sport gives you a normal driving experience with a slightly less floaty suspension and an infinitesimally tighter steering feel. But this being a hybrid, it should be judged on its ability as a hybrid, and not on its lack of ability as a regular car.
It's hard to argue with the fuel efficiency of the 300h. In the city you'll get 40 mpg, while freeway driving will drop you down to 39. It's not the best mileage in the hybrid sphere (the Accord Hybrid boasts close to 50, but the 300h is in line with the recently killed Acura ILX hybrid), but it is nearly twice the mileage offered by the standard gas-powered ES 350, which gets 21 city and 31 highway mpg.
If you're looking for a large sedan, but you don't want to spend a fortune on gas, and you even don't mind not killing the environment quite so quickly, the ES300h is definitely the way to go. If you're looking for driving fun or up-to-the-minute style, you'd do well to look elsewhere. But if a quiet, comfortable, high-tech ride that goes easy at the gas pump is what you're after, look no further.
Specs & Prices
Engine: 2.5-liter naturally aspirated inline-4, with permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor
Transmission: Continuously variable
Drivetrain Layout: Front engine, front-wheel drive
Power Output: 200 horsepower (combined gas and electric)
Fuel Economy (mpg): 40 city / 39 highway
Base Price: $40,430
As Tested: $46,995 (incl. $995 destination)
Luxury Package: Perforated leather-trimmed interior, heated and ventilated front seats, bamboo trim, power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, keyless entry.
Individual Options: Blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, HID headlights with LED daytime running lights, power rear sunshade, 8-inch VGA screen with navigation, backup camera, voice command, DVD/CD player, power trunk closer, intuitive parking assist, bamboo-trimmed steering wheel
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2015 Lexus ES 300h, click here: 2015 Lexus ES 300h.