New Lexus ES comes in two variants, both very well equipped; the ES300h Luxury has privacy glass, Nulux seat trim, powered tilt and slide moonroof, dual-zone air-conditioning, automatic wipers, electronic park brake, and a power-adjustable steering column.
The ES300h Sports Luxury expands the air-conditioning to three zones, cooled front seats, has semi-aniline leather-accented seats, a rear armrest with climate and audio controls, a heated steering wheel.
Heated front seats in ES Luxury offer 10-way power adjustment. In Sports Luxury, they are also ventilated with 14-way adjustment for the driver’s seat and 12-way for the passenger seat.
Incidentally, the little ‘h’ tells us it’s a hybrid. Lexus and its parent company Toyota are past masters at petrol-electric hybrids, with a history stretching back over 20 years. They continue to add more performance, at the same time reducing emissions.
What a gorgeous car inside and out, with a high standard of finish both in the paintwork and the materials used in the cabin.
We particularly liked the spindle grille, some of the early efforts of Lexus at this fascinating shape just didn’t work to our eyes, but this one is brilliant.
The swooping asymmetric shape of the dashboard makes a real stylish statement and the use of multiple materials that complement each other make the cabin a most pleasant place to be
Satellite navigation, Lexus Enform and DAB+ digital radio are standard. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are not, though this situation may change soon.
ES Luxury features a 10-speaker Pioneer audio system. The Sports Luxury has a 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system. Sound quality is excellent and we really enjoyed the feeling of luxury inside the cabin it provides.
The Remote Touch Interface pad has been redesigned and gains vibration feedback. However, it’s still not our favourite system, being rather awkward to use and more time consuming than we like.
Advanced combustion technologies in the new-generation 2.5-litre petrol engine make it amongst the most thermally efficient engines in any production vehicle.
It is combined with an electric motor and the combined hybrid system components are smaller, lighter and more efficient.
Power has been boosted over the gen-six by almost six per cent (9kW) to 160kW while fuel consumption has been reduced by 16.4 per cent to 4.6 L/100km (combined cycle).
It drives the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. In a weird way you can get the Lexus to make sounds that give the impression that is changing gears as though it’s a conventional automatic.
Rear-wheel-drive is considered the norm by many shopping in the prestige class so the Lexus may be regarded as a bit of an orphan by some potential buyers.
The new ES 300h is equipped with the Lexus Safety System+. New features include daytime cyclist detection. Already capable of detecting oncoming vehicles and pedestrians, the system has also been enhanced to detect pedestrians at night by increasing the radar’s sensitivity and dynamic range.
In addition to auto high beam the Sports Luxury has an adaptive high beam system with 24 LEDs. It adjusts the light distribution pattern and brightness to provide optimal illumination for the driver while reducing glare for oncoming drivers.
The new Lexus ES300h has 10 airbags, pop-up bonnet, all-speed radar active cruise control, reversing camera, hill-start assist control and clearance sonar.
Sports Luxury adds a panoramic view camera, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
It comes as no surprise that it has an ANCAP safety rating of the maximum five stars.
While the Lexus ES can carry five adults, with plenty of legroom for all, four makes more sense.
Beautifully smooth and quiet in the manner of much more expensive prestige cars from Germany and Britain, the Lexus ES300h is very pleasant to drive. Or even to travel in the back seat limousine fashion with the seats set to your preferred angle, and heated or cooled depending on the outside conditions.
The ES body has a rigid feel in this new generation using the same technology is in the far more expensive LS model. Combine that with the aforementioned tyre-noise reduction of the ‘hollow-rim’ wheels used on the Sports Luxury and you really do feel cosseted from the outside world.
It’s no sports machine (‘sport’ is the arguably the most misused word in car titles these days) as acceleration is leisurely rather than thrilling. It’s all but silent when running on electricity alone and there’s little increase in sound when the petrol unit does kick in.
Stop-start systems can be irritating in some cars with conventional engines but in a hybrid the large electric motor makes it seamless.
We particularly like the weighting of the steering and the fact there’s virtually no dead-zone in the centre position, making for instant response to match the electric acceleration.
Handling is competent enough and the Lexus ES300h grips the road safely at speeds well over those likely to be chosen by typical owners. There’s little doubt the ES leans in the comfort direction in the endless comfort/handling compromise.
Fuel consumption during our week’s 475 kilometre test was amazingly low. Typically in the five to six litres per hundred kilometres range around town, and comfortably under five litres per hundred on motorways and easy paced country roads.
Keep in mind this isn’t a tiny city car, it’s a large saloon that’s similar in size to our much-missed Commodore and Falcon and these fuel figures are just amazing.
The big Lexus ES300h is beautifully styled and built, easy to drive, lovely to ride, amazingly economical, and has very low emissions. What’s not to like about it…
AT A GLANCE
ES 300h Luxury: $59,888
ES 300h Sports Luxury: $74,888
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Lexus dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury four-door sedan)
Capacity: 2.494 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 118 kW @ 5700 rpm
Maximum Torque: 213 Nm @ 4500 rpm
Fuel Type: Premium unleaded / electric
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.5 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 130 g/km
DRIVELINE: CVT with six-speed manual override
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4900 mm
Wheelbase: 2820 mm
Width: 1820 mm
Height: 1450 mm
Turning Circle: 11.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1705 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 65 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Four years / 100,000 kilometres