The hybrid that feels unlike any other hybrid
- Effortless driving and predictable Lexus quality we’ve come to expect
- 600 mile cruising range (17.2 gallon capacity)
- EV mode in slow-and-go traffic
- Mark Levinson sound system
- Functional and elegant interior design
- Not enough airflow from the ventilated seat fans
- Finicky Nav-system inputting destinations
Toyota/Lexus is probably one of the first companies that come to mind when thinking hybrid cars. With strict 2016 CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards looming closer and closer, the minds at Toyota decided to leverage their clout with hybrid technology and apply it to their entire 2013 production line of Lexus cars. All of which, except for the IS, are available to U.S. consumers. Now you can have your favorite flavor of Lexus and consume less gas.
Redesigned for 2013, the best-selling Lexus car, the ES entry-luxury sedan, is now available as a gasoline-electric hybrid. It has an impressive EPA estimate of 40 mpg in city driving and 39 mpg on the highway. Our 1,200 mile road test in the concrete canyons of Los Angeles city congestion and on the open highways of California confirmed the government’s fuel economy rating along with a recorded 35 mpg combined city and highway driving.
In hybrid mode, the ES 300h drives like a normal car, with everything managed expertly by electronics. Transitions between engine power, electric power, and combined efforts were practically seamless and barely noticeable. Total system power from the hybrid drivetrain is 200hp and enough to hustle the car up long hills and past slower traffic. We rarely sensed the ES 300h has only a 2.5-liter, dual-cam four-cylinder engine operating under a fuel-thrifty Atkinson cycle.
The four cylinder engine is rated at 156 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 156 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm — meshing seamlessly with the two on-board electric motors/generators and 1.6 kilowatt Lithium ion battery pack that helped save on fuel.
The ES 300h features a Drive Mode select feature, with Normal, Eco, Sport, and EV modes, allowing drivers to customize their experience as traffic conditions change.
When driving in electric mode, the ES 300h power comes strictly from the hybrid battery pack. To keep the car in EV mode, you have to gently accelerate from stop lights and rolling speed has to be kept under 26 mph, otherwise the system is instantly kicked out EV mode. Seems a bit limiting, but the advantages of having the EV mode, saving fuel, and keeping our carbon footprint as small as possible were comforting when crawling in stop and go-slow L.A. traffic.
On long highway drives, we liked how the ride was extremely comfortable and how Lexus did a good job of isolating us from road, wind, and engine noise. The powertrain didn’t seem to be straining at all to hold our slightly-above-legal cruising speed.
In sport mode, the steering is responsive, with good on-center feel and appropriate assist at all speeds. The suspension is tuned for comfort more than handling. It absorbs bumps well and is competent in maneuvers.