Lexus hasn't completely moved on

2016 Lexus ES 300h Review

Fuel economy rather than luxury or speed is the name of the game

By: Amos Kwon

Web2Carz Editor-In-Chief

Published: January 26th, 2016

It seems that Lexus wants to do two things at once. They want to be exciting, daring, sporty and even edgy -- hence the new design language that makes cars seem like origami rather than modes of transportation. And then theres the ES, a car whose driving dynamics are best suited for those who think driving is more of a chore than a pleasure.

The ES 300h, especially, seems more suited for these folks than any of Lexus' other models. It takes the old Lexus formula of creature comforts, plush ride and conservative styling and brings it to the current model year. For those who want something more exciting, it's not hard to find. Even a Scion iA in sport mode seems more willing, more fun and more exciting -- and that's saying a lot. We drove the ES 300h recently and found it to be all the things old school Lexus owners want.

  • Exterior: Subtle but perhaps too subtle

    The body of the ES 300h isn't much to write home about. It's not unattractive, nor is it eyecatching. The spindle grille is present but so is a somewhat vanilla body that tempers things toward the side of conservative. Other than the badge and the grille, the uninitiated might just mistake it for a Toyota Camry -- actually the Camry's design is a bit more adventurous.

    • Nothing about the exterior styling stands out since the angular Lexus drama has been toned down significantly for the ES.
    • The ES's profile is about as plain as a luxury car can get with virtually no visual drama to speak of.
    • Avoid white and gold paint colors, which will have you moved into the retirement set post haste.

  • Interior: Comfortable but incomplete

    There's nothing remotely surprising about the ES 300h's interior since it follows the old Lexus formula of comfort above all else. Seating is cushy, as is the aesthetic -- loyal ES customers will be happy to note that there are no harsh angles like the new RX and NX CUVs, and frankly it wouldn't fit here.

    • Everything is easy to read, and almost everything is easy to use except for the awful mouse control Lexus insists on carrying over to the 2016.
    • The UI font and blue background looks like it was designed by programmers stuck in the 1990s. Lexus can't think this has ever looked good.
    • The comfort of the cabin is ideal for long, slow drives that care more about cossetting than exciting.
    • The burgundy leather steering wheel seems inspired by the Washinton Redskins football team.

  • Driving Impressions: Miserly in more than one way

    If it's performance you want, you can pretty much look elsewhere since the ES 300h isn't about nailing the apex or setting land speed records. It's a cushy car whose two bragging rights are ridiculous fuel economy (up to 40 mpg) and good road manners in a straight line.

    • Hard acceleration results in a lot of noise from the engine with little resulting speed.
    • The throttle response should be called something like throttle delay.
    • Ride quality is excellent, with great shock absorption and small amount of body roll, nothing dramatic.
    • Impressive fuel economy numbers. We achieved 28 under our heavy right foot.

  • Final Impressions: Low on excitement and features

    The ES 300h remains old school Lexus through and through. Even the spindle grille seems a bit more muted here than on other models like the IS and the RX. The car looks good but lacks the kind of drama nearly $40K should buy you. The driving experience itself should be reserved for those who care less about driving and more about comfort and fuel savings, along with a nice enough brand badge to get you into the country club without too much of a smirk. Lexus hasn't made their hybrid the least bit daring, but there's a reason for that. Those aren't the customers they're going after, anyway.

  • Specifications & Price

    Engine: 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder with High Output Permanent Magnet Electric Drive

    Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission with Intelligence

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 200 hp combined

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 40 city / 39 highway

    Base Price: $40,920

    As Tested: $41,860 (incl. $940 delivery, processing and handling)

    Options on our test vehicle: None

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• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2016 Lexus ES 300h, click here: 2016 Lexus ES 300h.