What is it?
It’s been revamped. It’s lighter, sleeker and stronger. It’s the 2019 Lexus ES 300h hybrid.
Based on a new platform, with higher quality steel for more rigidity, along with revamped suspension for a better ride, the hybrid Lexus is a sweet deal.
Although clearly Toyota based, it packs a grunty hybrid powertrain, some good tech, and a reasonably enjoyable handling package.
The 2.5-litre capacity petrol engine and electric motor generate a combined, but restricted 160kW.
The petrol engine contributes 131kW of this, while the electric motor adds another 88kW, and together they deliver a 5.1L/100km consumption figure in a purely urban environment.
Lexus quotes an even lower figure of 4.6L/100km for the combined cycle.
The petrol engine’s 221Nm of torque and the electric motor’s 202Nm certainly help.
ES, by the way, stands for Elegant Sedan — Lexus uses its prefixes with good reason.
What’s it cost?
The 2019 Lexus 300h comes in two trim levels.
The “Luxury” as tested tips the scales at $67,139 driveaway.
Prices start from $59K plus on roads, but the driveaway figure may vary depending on location.
Apart from the aforementioned economy figures, there is a pretty decent equipment set to play with.
Up front is a redesigned interior that features a revamped touchpad system.
The previous mouse controller has been ditched, replaced with a touchpad, push setup. It’d be nice to say that it’s better . . . but it’s not.
The touchpad is just too soft and a push — slightly harder than a sneeze — activates it.
When getting it right, however, the new widescreen 12.3 inch display shows info such as power distribution, fuel economy, audio, general car info, and navigation.
That’s complemented by a vastly better looking interior and a very clever, double-hinged centre console lid.
Press a button on the right side and it flips left. Press the button on the left side and it flips right. It’s simple, elegant, and beautifully designed.
Inside there’s a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones, but again it’s not entirely user-friendly either. If the phone has a case fitted, then it it’s a tad difficult to extract.
Safety levels are high with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Radar Cruise Control and Traffic Sign Recognition standard.
There are 10 airbags, plus Lexus adds Pedestrian Detection for outside safety.
The driver also gains Lane Tracing Assist to keep the 4975mm machine on the straight and narrow.
It’s now 60mm longer, with a wheelbase that is 50mm longer, and the whole shebang sits 5mm lower.
On the road the extra length is noticeable inside, with a sense of room all around. Rear seat passengers can stretch in all directions, and front seat passengers also benefit.
It’s a cosseting experience, and listening to the superb DAB equipped sound system is a treat.
Extra sound proofing in the body and glasshouse is noticeable on road.
You can’t miss the signature Lexus “spindle” grille either. It’s bigger and more prominent, but it’s certainly a matter of personal opinion as to how it looks.
At the other end of the car are good looking LED tail lights, sitting under an integrated boot-lid spoiler.
What’s it go like?
It’s typical Toyota/Lexus, in that the hybrid drive system brings in the petrol motor at around 20 km/h.
That’s even happens when the driver selects the just electric EV drive mode.
Initial acceleration seems sluggish, but seems is the operative word. Glance down at the speedo or straight ahead at the Head Up display, and the ease with which it’s actually gets going is staggering.
The insulation hides most of the engine’s noise, creating a quiet and distant feeling.
But what the seat of the pants conveys, doesn’t equate to the physics, as the numbers are ahead of where the brain thinks they should be.
Ride quality is very good, with the Luxury rolling on 17 inch diameter alloys.
The rear end feels softer than the front however, especially over the usual road imperfections. On flat roads, the ride is eerie, almost silent and unflustered.
The steering ratio is a little slow, in that a normal amount of effort actually produces mild understeer, instead of pulling the nose around nice and tight.
Once that’s understood, it’s otherwise mostly precise.
The steering is on the heavy side too, with a distinct lack of fingertip twirling possible.
Underway the lack of external noise makes both conversation and audio system clearer and more defined.
Punch the accelerator and that really doesn’t change, such is the refinement.
There is a defined engine note, yet it never sounds urgent.
Overtaking and passing safely becomes easier thanks to the electric backup of the petrol engine.
What we like?
- The lovely sense of quietness inside
- Smooth and comfortable ride
- High overall build quality
What we don’t like?
- Good looks all around but the front is a personal choice
- Rear end softer than front
- Steering ratio off centre — could be tighter
The bottom line?
It’d be interesting find out Toyota/Lexus’ rationale for why they bring in the petrol engine so early. There is plenty of torque on tap from the electric motor to get the ES 300h up to speeds higher than that. Less engine work would lower that already fine consumption figure too.
As a driver the ES 300h is more suited to those that aren’t of a sporting bent. It’s definitely a luxury car, in the sense it wafts along, quietly and softly.
CHECKOUT: Hybrid goes the distance (and the dirt)
Lexus ES300h Luxury, priced from $67,139
- Looks - 7/107/10
- Performance - 8/108/10
- Safety - 9/109/10
- Thirst - 9/109/10
- Practicality - 8/108/10
- Comfort - 8/108/10
- Tech - 8.5/108.5/10
- Value - 8.5/108.5/10