Luxury & 40 MPG
Lexus, the upscale division of Toyota, has gone big into hybrid technology, which is good for consumers looking for improved fuel economy to go along with luxury appointments. Lexus has six hybrid models, with the 2016 Lexus ES 300h being its midsize car luxury offering slotted between the smaller CT 200h and the more performance oriented GS 450h and the full-size LS 600h.
The 2016 Lexus ES 300h is powered by the Lexus Hybrid Drive series/parallel system of a 2.5L, 16-valve double overhead cam (DOHC) gasoline-powered, I-4 engine, and a front-wheel 105-kW electric motor. The 2.5L puts out 156 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque; the electric motor adds 141 hp driving the front wheels, with Lexus rating the total system output at 200 hp. All this power and torque goes through a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Running on 87 octane, EPA fuel economy for the ES 300h is rated at 40 city/39 highway/40 combined mpg. I drove 380 miles and averaged 38.8 mpg.
The Lexus Hybrid Drive system automatically switches between the electric drive mode, combined electric/gasoline engine, and gasoline-only engine power. The transitions are seamless and smooth and can be monitored by viewing the dash gauges. When driving a hybrid I like the option to select the electric mode, especially when cruising around town in stop and go traffic. The ES 300h has this option, but for the most part it is unnecessary to manually select the electric mode as the computer gets the ES 300h into EV mode at the correct times when it should be there. The Lexus Smart Stop system was nearly imperceptible when launching after a stop.
The hybrid system’s nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery is charged by the engine and through the regenerative charging system, which converts kinetic energy into electric energy when applying
the brakes or coasting and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow in/out of the battery and electric motors.
The center console-mounted Drive Mode Select dial on the ES 300h allows the driver to choose between ECO, Normal (default setting), Sport and the afore-mentioned EV—all of which have a selection light on the instrument cluster. Of these settings, I spent most of my time in ECO, which altered throttle response for the best fuel economy. Even when opting for the Sport mode I would never consider the ES 300h to be fast off the line (about 8.2 seconds to 60 mph). Cruising long, comfortable distances is where the ES 300h shines.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Lexus does not promote the ES 300h as a sporty car, which is good. It would not meet the standards for driving enthusiasts. However, nothing is below par with the ES 300h, starting with the
MacPherson strut suspension, stabilizer bars and gas-pressurized shocks front and rear. Steering is through electric rack-and-pinion. The 17-inch (18s are an option), five-spoke machine-finished alloy wheels with 215/55R17 all-season Michelin Primacy low-rolling resistance tires give the ES 300h better-than-average road feel. Michelin says their Primacy tires have a 60,000-mile warranty and are designed for “comfort-oriented touring vehicles.” I found the tires to be quiet on even the harshest grooved Southern California concrete freeways at 70+ mph. Reinforcing the point that the ES 300h is not a sports sedan, there was considerable body roll when cornering, even when only slightly pushing above the posted speed limit.
The stops were straight and consistent coming from traction and vehicle stability control, and an electronically controlled brake system (ECB) that incorporates regenerative control and power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). If you are not familiar with hybrid technology, when coming to a stop, the combination of the regenerative braking and the hybrid motor made a noticeable, but not unpleasant, whine.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Lexus calls the 2016 ES 300h “The Bolder Hybrid,” which begins with the recognizable chrome-trimmed spindle grille, narrow LED headlights and a redesigned front fascia with fog lights placed at the lower edges, which, according to Lexus, “accentuates the wide stance.” Lexus had a goal of impressing drivers with their attention to detail that began with the dramatic spindle grille design, which is easily recognizable as are the L-themed headlights. Both designs have drawn mixed opinions but I personally like what they have done. The ES 300h proportions are traditional for a five-passenger sedan, including the rear roofline being high enough for easy rear seat access. The trunk deck-mounted spoiler and swept-back L-themed taillights contribute to a low 0.27 Cd of drag.
Driving Experience: Interior
Clean Fleet Report’s ES 300h came with a few upgrades, including the optional Luxury Package adding equipment that is expected of a luxury car. Among the first thing new car buyers consider are the comfort level of the seats—are the controls convenient and easy to reach and use; are the gauges easy to see and read. Lexus has done an excellent job of designing an interior with high craftsmanship and attention to detail. This begins with heated and ventilated leather-trimmed front seats. Both driver and passenger seats are power 10-way adjustable. Usually the passenger gets less power adjustments or none at all…nice going Lexus! For the driver, the power tilt, telescoping and collapsible steering column, the wood and leather steering wheel (that included controls for the audio, telephone and voice controls) made it easy to find a comfortable seating position. The driver seat also has three memory settings.
The rear cabin is roomy, as in tall people fit easily, and has HVAC vents, a power port and directional reading lights. The rear seat back does not recline, but there is a folding armrest with cup
holders. And behind the back seat is a power rear sunshade that automatically retracts when the car is in reverse.
The dash is a very handsome two-tone with wood and leather, plus aluminum and piano black trim accents. Two large round gauges are deep set under a hood to reduce glare; the right gauge the speedometer and the left monitoring energy use for the EV system.
Our ES 300h came with the optional Navigation Package and an infotainment (entertainment and information) system starting with the Lexus eight-speaker premium audio system that features an eight-inch color touchscreen display. There was a short learning curve and minimal driver attention to operate the Remote Touch Controller that controls the navigation, Siri Eyes Free, SiriusXM/FM/CD/HDAM radio with iPod/MP3 playback capability. The FM/AMHD is a cache radio that offers the ability to pause and playback ten minutes of programming. SiriusXM service is included for 90 days. There is an auxiliary audio jack, USB ports, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and hands-free phone capability. The auto-dimming rearview mirror was Homelink-equipped and the voice activation for the telephone and navigation worked well.
The cockpit design is driver friendly, featuring a dual-zone automatic climate system (with rear vents), digital and analog clocks, a center console storage box and cup holders. The interior also has a power tilt and sliding moonroof, power windows with one-touch up/down, power door locks, Smart Access with push button stop/start, 12V power outlets, folding and electro-chromatic heated outside rear view power side mirrors.
The ES 300h is well equipped with active and passive safety features including 10 air bags, the Lexus Enform App Suite (subscription required), a tire pressure monitoring system, rain sensing wipers with de-icers, remote entry, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, first aid kit, intuitive parking assist, hill start control, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, rear view camera and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.
The 2016 Lexus ES 300h has earned the US Government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) overall 5-Star rating.
The 2016 Lexus ES 300h has a base MSRP of $41,020. With options and packages, Clean Fleet Report’s ES 300h was priced at $46,300. All prices do not include the $940 delivery, processing and handling fee. The 2016 Lexus ES 300h comes with these warranties:
- Basic – Four years/50,000 miles
- Powertrain – Six years/70,000 miles
- Hybrid-related Component Coverage – Eight years/100,000 miles
- Comprehensive – Three years/36,000 miles
- Corrosion Perforation – Six years/Unlimited miles
- Roadside Assistance – Four years/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2016 Lexus ES 300h
The 2016 Lexus ES 300h cruises very nicely. Get it out on the open road and the hybrid efficiency, a comfortable and spacious interior for five adults, entertainment choices to keep all those passengers occupied for long road trips, an exterior design that is unique in its class and smooth drivability reward you in miles and miles of high quality touring.
So what is entry-level luxury? For the Lexus ES 300h, it means premium materials, upgraded finishes and exterior color choices that include Autumn Shimmer, Nightfall Mica, Caviar and Eminent Pearl White, which was the color of Clean Fleet Report’s test car. The personality of the ES 300h can reflect your lifestyle choices that are one step above the ordinary.
The only way you will know for sure is to visit your Lexus dealership and have them walk you through all the features, technology and options. Especially take the time to have them explain the hybrid technology in detail.
Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
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