The Lexus ES300h is the hybrid powertrain version of the ES300. Instead of a V6, it gets the familiar and perfected Toyota/Lexus 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. This bumps the fuel economy into the stratosphere (with 44 mpg both in the city and on the highway). While most people considering the ES300 might be looking for a quiet and comfortable sedan, the F Sport definitely adds some visual flair and sportiness. I appreciated the touch of fun to a vehicle that is so quiet and good it might be considered boring. Some folks might also like the mundaneness of 10 years of trouble-free operation. Lexus can’t guarantee that, but statistically speaking, the Lexus is the choice for those who don’t like to visit the mechanic.
The Lexus powertrain is buttery smooth. It switches over from electric to gasoline seamlessly. It doesn’t have the peppiness of the traditional V6, but when you stomp on the gas, at least it’s responsive.
The F Sport package injects a little fun back into the deal. According to Lexus, since the F Sport was introduced on the seventh-generation Lexus ES, it has appealed to a younger and more diverse buyer looking for more aggressive sedan styling. You can get the F Sport package on both the regular V6 and the hybrid 300h package. The F Sport design package adds 19-inch split-five-spoke alloy wheels with a gloss black finish, a unique front bumper and grille surround and a rear spoiler.
You can add a Handling package that complements the exterior treatment. It delivers F Sport-tuned adaptive variable suspension, heated F Sport steering wheel and aluminum trim. A black headliner and race-inspired aluminum pedals are the icing on the cake.
Lexus makes it easy to change from Normal handling mode to Eco, Sport or Sport Plus. According to Lexus engineers, the vehicle’s computer can select from 650 levels of fine-tuning adjustment for the road conditions at hand. The result is the smooth Lexus ride you would expect and then some. The Lexus isn’t a sports car, but it allows you to have some fun through the turns if you want to.
Lexus Chief Engineer Tetsuya Aoki says, “Our goal was to deepen the high quality of the ES and to add new value. In addition to further improving quietness and ride comfort, we pursued linearity in vehicle movement, in response to steering wheel operation, that is faithful to the driver’s intentions.”
The control device is a knurled knob on the right of the instrument binnacle that you give a twist to. I prefer the location there rather than on a cluttered center console. Instead, the ES300 console is for a large wireless Qi charging station. That’s a much better use of the central real estate.
The big news inside the cabin is that Lexus has ditched its control joystick for a full-on 12.3-inch touchscreen – which is easier to use than the old joystick. A microphone icon appears on the screen in case you want to input anything via voice control, or you can press a button on the steering wheel.
A Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 1,800-watt PurePlay Surround Sound audio system is available. Oddly, my tester did not have the Mark Levinson but the stock unit, which was surprisingly good. The engineers used the good speaker placement developed by Mark Levinson, which made the regular version shine. Dynamic headroom was impressive. Also super impressive was the multifunction volume knob and tuning knob. Each station or track can be selected with a satisfying analog click.
Other interior niceties include a power rear sunshade.
The ES300h has the usual driver safety systems, including a pre-collision system and radar cruise control. The lane departure alert has been improved, with enhanced recognition of road lines and road edges. This enables the system to track the paths of nearby vehicles in adjacent lanes for greater lane-centering capability. The system also looks at lateral g-force performance and strives for enhanced control and stability after lane changes.
In a world of SUVs, it’s refreshing to get a comfortable hybrid sedan loaded with technology. The fuel economy is terrific, and the ride is Lexus smooth and quiet. The F Sport package makes the ES appealing to a younger buyer. It features all the reliability that made the ES popular with mature buyers with a dose of fun to boot!