• 2017 Lexus ES 300h
  • 2017 Lexus ES 300h

Road Test: 2017 Lexus ES 300h

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.

2017 Lexus ES 300h

The entry point for Lexus’ version of hybrid luxury

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?

2017 Lexus ES 300h

The only clue

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.

2017 Lexus ES 300h

Flaunting the wood and leather

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.

2017 Lexus ES 300h

Four ways to go

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.

2017 Lexus ES 300h

It’s real luxury that delivers fuel economy, too

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.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: Steve Schaefer

Steve Schaefer has written a weekly automotive column for 26 years, testing more than 1,250 cars. Now, he’s focusing on EVs and hybrids. Steve remembers the joy of riding in his father’s Austin-Healey. After discovering the August, 1963 issue of Motor Trend, he became entranced with the annual model change, and began stalking dealers’ back lots to catch the new models as they rolled off the transporter. Coming from a family that owned three Corvairs, Steve was one of the first Saturn buyers, earning him a prominent spot in their 1994 product catalogue. To continue the GM tradition, Steve now has a Chevrolet Bolt EV. Steve is a founding member of the Western Automotive Journalists. Read his EV/hybrid blog at stevegoesgreen.com.

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