Smooth and Clean Hybrid Luxury
The Lexus ES sedan has been the brand’s entry point for a quarter century. Now, you can get your luxury blended with efficiency in hybrid form.
It’s well known that hybrids combine a gas engine with an electric motor, and the 2017 Lexus ES 300h gets its 200 horsepower that way. The 2.5-liter Atkinson-Cycle four-cylinder engine is mated to a high-output permanent magnet electric drive motor. With 156 pounds-feet of torque, the smooth, quiet system pulls the 3,682-pound midsize sedan from zero to 60 mph in a refreshing 8.1 seconds. You won’t beat a Corvette off the line at a stoplight, but this car is no slug, either. And, it gives you 40 miles per gallon combined (40 city/39 highway) per the EPA while doing it. I averaged 33.1 mpg during my test week.
The 2017 Lexus ES 300h is not a plug-in vehicle, so you don’t have to do anything to benefit from the blended powertrain. The battery charges up as you slow down and brake, regenerating electricity. The fuel savings come from the engine working less.
Few Exterior Clues
The hybrid ES shows little on the outside to distinguish it from the regular model. You’ll note a subtle trunk lip spoiler and blue hybrid badges. One thing you won’t see is the exhaust. The car uses gasoline, but Lexus hid the pipe. Sneaky?
As a hybrid, the car earns high EPA environmental ratings, with an 8 for Smog and 9 for Greenhouse Gas. Its powertrain emits 223 grams of CO2 per mile–about half that of a normal car.
As a Lexus, the ES provides a cushier experience than the more utilitarian Prius, and exceeds the new Camry Hybrid, itself a posher entry now. The car comes in one well-equipped form, but you can add option packages, such as the Premium Package my Atomic Silver test car had. For $730, you’ll enjoy memory for the driver’s power seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel; lovely wood interior trim and remote keyless memory. There are also the Luxury and Ultra Luxury packages, both worth exploring.
The Best Option
The nicest option in my tester, though, was the Mark Levinson Premium Audio system with navigation ($2,590). With 15 speakers and 835 watts of power, you’ll be tempted to just keep driving around, or park and not leave the car when you arrive at your destination. That’s definitely a commute enhancer.
As a luxury vehicle, my car flaunted a beautiful leather and wood steering wheel. I discovered that it was a $450 option, and well worth having. Your hands are on the wheel pretty much all the time, so it’s a high-use benefit. Other extras on my car included blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert ($500), a boon for helping prevent accidents. I also enjoyed having the power rear sunshade ($210); rear seat riders would be the beneficiaries, though.
The 2017 Lexus ES 300h offers touch-sensitive reading lamps, a feature you may not notice, but which evokes the feeling of luxury.
Four Ways to Drive
Lexus gives you four driving modes, accessed through a dial. Normal balances the hybrid to blend the engine and motor for pleasant driving. Sport leans towards performance, with later upshifts–and a red instrument panel. Eco is the opposite, designed for best achieving maximum efficiency. The EV setting lets you lock in electric-only driving for a short distance, under certain conditions.
I tested the EV setting during a slow section of my commute and it worked fine. However, when I moved past 25 mph, it automatically shut off. Later, I tried it again and got a “Hybrid Battery Low” message. Like so many electronically controlled devices, the car knows best for normal driving, but having these options gives you a little more sense of control.
The 2017 Lexus ES 300h drives like a traditional sedan, isolated and smooth. It’s packed with the modern electronics we all need for entertainment, connection, and safety.
Safety & Price
You’ll be safe in the 2017 Lexus ES 300h. The Lexus Safety System+ helps prevent accidents with High-Speed Dynamic Radar cruise control, which tracks the car in front of you and adjusts your speed automatically, preventing collisions. The pre-collision system with pedestrian detection uses radar and a camera to warn you of a possible collision and even brake automatically if needed.
Pricing is straightforward, starting at $42,795, but you can easily push it upward with packages. My tester came to $48,415, but the nearly $6,000 worth of extras made it feel like a more luxurious and special ride.
Hybrids are a good step towards the future, and Toyota/Lexus knows how to make them. Until all-electric vehicles take over, it’s the best way to “have your cake and eat it too” in the world of cars. The 2017 Lexus ES 300h offers traditional luxury and performance with a vast assortment of electronic safety, performance, environmental, and safety features.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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