Road Test: 2017 Lexus ES 300h

Road Test: 2017 Lexus ES 300h

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.

2017 Lexus ES 300h

The ES 300h takes fuel economy into the luxury realm

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).

2017 Lexus ES 300h

4 Drive modes to choose from

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

2017 Lexus ES 300h

Tasteful touches of luxury inside

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.

2017 Lexus ES 300h

What the “L”?

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

With the recent announcement by Lexus than the CT 200h was being discontinued after this year, the ES 300h becomes the entry level hybrid sedan in its line-up. This is not such a bad thing.

2017 Lexus ES 300h

Lexus’ ES 300h conveys luxury in its interior appointments & technology

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

Road Test: 2017 Lexus ES 300h (Steve’s view)

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Road Test: 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