Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: March 15, 2016
There exists a certain stereotype of the fine folks in California – particularly the rich and famous – that consists of iced chai lattes, a laid back attitude, and a Toyota Prius. While I figured it was a plausible generalization, I never really believed it until I stepped foot outside of the San Francisco airport and found the entire pick-up and drop-off lot crawling with Priuses (or is that Priusi?).
With all the green in California, it comes as no surprise that their residents want to protect it (yes, I did mean green in more ways than one). What did surprise me though was the absence of Lexus hybrids on the street. Considering how Toyota’s premium marquee offers an abundant selection of hybrid vehicles, I expected to see more, especially the ES 300h.
First released in 1989, the ES originally represented the brand’s take on compact executives. And in typical Lexus flair, the result was reliable, quiet, and comfortable – albeit a bit boring. What has remained consistent throughout every model year was the ES’ underlying philosophy and now in its 6th generation, the ES has transcended its compact designation to full-size.
Facelifted for the 2016, the ES receives a bold new look that fits in with the rest of the Lexus lineup. It all starts with the company’s signature spindle grill, new LED headlights, and redesigned fog lights. Hybrid models (such as this review example) gets unique 17-inch wheels clad in low resistance rubber and out back, the new look is rounded off with the L shaped lights tail lamps found in other Lexus offerings.
Powering the big ES 300h is Toyota’s tried and true 2.5-litre 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle motor paired with an electric motor. Total system output? 200 hp. While the ES 300h offers instant torque off the line, the hybrid drivetrain quickly loses steam and struggles to move the 1,633 kg car on the highway due to a weak top range. The 3.5L V6 found in other Lexus offerings have a better spread of power, but doesn’t come close to providing the same kind of fuel savings. Furthermore, the ES 300h is mated to a CVT, keeping the ride smooth when accelerating but typical rubber banding does persist when being pushed.
Being one of the first in the hybrid game has let Toyota and Lexus master the regenerative braking system. Let off the throttle and the system kicks in seamlessly, slowing the car down while simultaneously charging the battery. It takes some getting used to and the first few stops can be a bit jerky, but it only takes a few minutes to learn how much pedal travel is needed to modulate a smooth landing.
Given the ES 300h’s emphasis on efficiency, trips to the grocery store may take a bit longer than a track hardened sports car. Slow and purposeful, the ES is extremely comfortable when cruising. Press hard on the throttle and the 4-cylinder activates almost imperceptibly – the car shivers for a brief moment as the gasoline engine kicks in to aid in highway passes. Taking corners hard induces a bit more body roll, but it comes on gradually. The ES handles large bumps and divots in the road with a bit more poise than its platform mate – the Toyota Avalon. Whereas the latter tends to bounce after a dip in the road surface, the ES manages the bump without feeling underdamped.
The interior of the ES 300h has been given a slight refresh as well. Hard plastics are gone from the cabin and the leather upholstery feels more lush. A new interior colourway is an available option too, Lexus calls it Flaxen…perhaps because it looks like flax seeds?
Regardless, it is a beautiful medium between beige and cinnamon. The Shimamoku trim sets off the interior too with wood accent inlays on the steering wheel (except the 3,6, and 9 o’clock position) and dash. As expected of a Lexus, the build quality of the cabin feels top notch with any semblance of cost cutting measures hidden from plain sight. Acoustic windows and plenty of insulating materials make the ES a silent cruiser across the city.
Let’s talk pricing. At an as-tested price of $49,350 the ES 300h comes fairly loaded with all the safety and tech features of a modern day car. Our particular tester was a mid-tier ES 300h with the Touring package that includes a backup camera, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, a heated steering wheel, and LED headlamps.
Those with more cash to burn can opt for the $54,350 Executive package which adds a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio sound (a system we loved in the RC 350 and RC F), lane departure alert, pre-collision braking, and Dynamic Radar Cruise. All in all, a very well rounded package for the extra coin.
Plenty of options exist for those in the market for a mid- to full-size luxury sedan. German rivals like the BMW 5-series, Audi A6, and Mercedes E-Class offer German sophistication, engineering and pragmatism. They all provide a better driving experience and the option of all-wheel drive as well, whereas the ES 300h remains front wheel drive only.
And while most people generally compare the ES 300h to the German’s luxury offerings, one cannot forget about the Hyundai Genesis Sedan either. Available with a venerable V6 engine, all-wheel drive, and all the latest gadgets and gizmos, and it's apparent that Toyota's premium brand has got some stiff competition.
Lexus may not be the king of hybrids or mid-size sedans, but their step by step advancement with their tried and true formulas brings us enough to be content with. While the ES 300h may not push the envelope of innovation or populate the streets of California, it stands as a respectable and fuel-efficient cruiser that provides a calculated amount of comfort, luxury, and technology.
型号 Model: 2016 Lexus ES 300h
顏色 Paint Type: Matador Red Mica
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $44,700
試車售價 Price as Tested: $49,350
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,820
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,910 / 1,820 / 1,450
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,670
引擎 Engine: Atkinson cycle 2.5-litre inline four, permanent magnet AC synchronous motor
最大馬力 Horsepower: 200 hp (net)
最高扭力 Torque: 156 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
波箱 Transmission: CVT
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 5.8 / 6.1 / 5.9
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 7.9
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P215/55R17