Hybrid Efficiency in a Midsize Premium Sedan
If you are looking for something a bit more premium in a midsize sedan that can seat five adults, plus a car that gets very good fuel economy, then the 2017 Lexus ES 300h should be on your shopping list. Toyota, the parent company of Lexus, builds quality cars, but when you step-up to a Lexus, your ownership experience also rises a step or two.
The front-wheel drive 2017 Lexus ES 300h, which is unchanged for 2018, is powered by a parallel hybrid drivetrain, the Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive. In the parallel hybrid system the electric motor can power the car by itself, the gas engine can power the car by itself, or they can power the car together.
The Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive system comprises a 2.5-liter, 16-valve I-4 engine, that runs on unleaded regular. The hybrid portion consists of two electric motor generators (MG1 and MG2): MG1 starts the internal combustion engine and charges the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery, while MG2 drives the wheels and regenerates during braking and coasting. Total system horsepower is 200 and torque is 156 pounds-feet.
The power gets to the front wheels via an electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT). The EPA rates the fuel economy at 40 mpg city/39 highway/40 combined. In 301 miles of 65-percent highway/35-percent city driving, Clean Fleet Report achieved an average of 39.7 mpg.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Our ES 300h weighed in at 3,682 lbs. which aided in a smooth, if not exciting, driving car. The ride was smooth on the highway and around town, with the electric-assisted power steering programmed for cruising, not performance. Clean Fleet Report’s ES 300h came with 17-inch wheels and 255/55R all-season tires. Overall the ES 300h was pleasant and easy to drive, with low wind noise and a respectable 0.27 coefficient of drag (Cd).
There are four driver-selectable settings of EV, Eco, Normal and Sport, offering distinctly different driving opportunities.
- Eco prioritizes fuel economy by optimizing throttle response.
- Sport sharpens the shift points, throttle response and steering feel. Selecting Sport mode will get you 0–60 mph between eight and nine seconds.
- Normal is a mid-point of Eco and Sport
- EV runs solely on electricity for about a half mile at no more than 25 miles per hour
On this last point, here’s what to expect from the EV drive mode. When driving a hybrid, I like the option to select EV, especially around town, forcing the car to run solely on electric power. The ES 300h has this option, but the driving range in pure electric mode is short. Plus, when in EV mode, only the slightest accelerator pedal pressure kicked-in the gasoline engine. Being able to hold the car in electric mode for a longer distance and at higher speeds would be a nice feature and would increase overall fuel economy (though of course it would require a bigger battery). When the gasoline engine kicks-in, you hear and feel it. This was unexpected on an otherwise smooth and quiet hybrid system.
The four-wheel power-assisted anti-lock disc brakes are part of the regenerative charging system. When applying the brakes or coasting, it converts kinetic energy into electricity and stores it in the battery. The ReGen brakes were a bit grabby at first pedal push, but then evened out and provided straight and no-fade stops. Completing the stopping suite are brake assist, electronic brake distribution, vehicle stability control and smart stop technology–all standard equipment.
Driving Experience: Interior
Clean Fleet Report was driving the 2017 Lexus ES 300h with the Luxury Package, which raised the interior comfort, look and feel a few notches. It could be considered
elegant with the simple dash design covered in soft materials on most surfaces. The straight-forward gauges and controls were all within easy reach of the driver and, with Clean Fleet Report being big fans of knobs for the radio controls, Lexus earned our praise. Our Luxury Package came with driver and passenger embossed leather seats that were heated, ventilated and were 10-way power adjustable with lumbar. Rear head and leg room was excellent.
The piano black and wood grained interior trim was tasteful and not over-the-top in any way. The optional power rear window sunshade offered appreciated privacy, while the power moonroof opened the skies. The trunk suffered a bit in size to accommodate the hybrid battery.
There was no challenge finding a comfortable seating position with the power tilt and telescopic steering column. The heated, wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel included audio and telephone controls. Our ES 300h had the optional Navigation Package with the 15-speaker, 833-watt Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound audio system. This package includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen color display that handled navigation, backup camera, SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription) and AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3 cache radio. Connectivity includes a USB port with iPod control, aux-in jacks, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone with Siri Eyes Free mode. The audio bundle includes a wide array of features through the Lexus Enform App Suite.
Other nice interior features are power windows and door locks, power and heated outside mirrors that are auto-dimming, dual zone automatic climate control, carpeted floor mats and an auto dimming rearview mirror with Homelink. The rain-sensing front wipers with deicers are a very handy feature.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Starting with the signature Lexus spindle grille and the L-shaped LED headlights, the 2017 Lexus ES 300h falls right in line with the current Lexus design style. The hood sweeps up-to the laid-back windshield to a smoothly-sloping roof with a shark fin antenna. It all ends on the short, one-touch power trunk lid with a built-in spoiler and LED rear tail lights. Be sure to look for the blue Lexus badging which signifies this ES 300h is electrified.
Safety and Convenience
The 2017 Lexus ES 300h has a 5 Star government safety rating, the highest they provide. Safety and convenience features include 10 air bags, remote keyless entry, theft deterrent system, tire pressure monitoring system and push button start. Standard and optional safety technology includes pre-collision braking, pedestrian detection, high-speed dynamic cruise control, blind spot monitor, intuitive parking assist, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure alert.
Pricing and Warranties
2017 ES 300h base price is $41,820. Clean Fleet Report’s test vehicle had option packages totaling $6,835, for a MSRP of $48,655. All listed prices exclude the $975 delivery processing and handling gee.
The 2017 Lexus ES 300h comes with these warranties.
- Hybrid Components 96 months/100,000 miles
- Basic 48 months/50,000 miles
- Powertrain 72 months/70,000 miles
- Corrosion/Perforation 72 months/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2017 Lexus ES 300h
Smart shoppers know that Lexus is the upscale division of Toyota, and that Toyota has a long-standing reputation of building quality vehicles. When you ask a Lexus owner about their experience, the conversation pretty much centers around how much they like their car. The ES 300h should not disappoint many owners either.
The midsize sedan segment is quickly being overtaken by crossovers and SUVs, meaning that if a manufacturer wants to compete successfully in this category, they had better have a strong story to tell. If the premium materials and build quality of the ES 300h are not enough, consider that 40+ mpg in a car weighing almost two tons is no small achievement. New for 2017, Lexus made the ES 300h even safer by making the Lexus Safety System+ standard This means no longer do you need to order a package or higher trim level to get safety technology such as pre-collision system, lane departure alert with steering assist, Intelligent High Beam (IHB) and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
With an attractive design, impressive interior room, safety systems and, of course, hybrid technology, there is far more to the ES 300h than mere fuel sipping.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
In order to give you, the reader, the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Clean Fleet Report has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. This comes under SRO-Second Road Test Opinion. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–some are just below—and let us know what you think in comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Road Test: 2017 Lexus ES 300h (Steve’s view)
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