2015 Lexus ES 300h
The 2015 Lexus ES 300h gas/electric sedan has excellent fuel economy, luxury, lively performance and lots of electronic "connectivity"
Many owners of luxury sedans avoid talking about fuel-economy. Then there are the owners of the posh Lexus ES 300h gas/electric sedan, which delivers an estimated 40 miles per gallon in the city and 39 on highways.
Yes, ES 300h owners now can have their cake and eat it, too. No more big gas bills despite owning a spacious luxury sedan.
The $40,430 Lexus 300h is supposed to be an "entry luxury" model, but, while it isn't as luxurious as the larger Lexus LS flagship sedan, one could eliminate the word "entry."
After all, standard ES300 features include 10-way supportive power front seats, perforated NuLuxe synthetic leather trim, easily read Optitron gauges, automatic climate control, power moonroof and a premium audio system. Piano-black trim adorns the instrument panel, doors and upper console. A nifty dashboard analog clock is a touch of class.
A new Display Audio uses a 7-inch touch screen and includes HD radio, Bluetooth audio, automatic phone book transfer and a vehicle information display.
If a favorite song comes on the radio while a driver is busy with something, like waiting at a bank drive-through, a cache radio feature pauses it for up to 15 minutes for later listening. The touch screen can be divided into three sections to display functions simultaneously.
Lexus isn't about to let rivals get ahead of it in the technology area. For instance, the ES 300h's Siri Eyes Free Model is compatible with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 models forward, and puts select Apple's Siri technology at your service. Siri lets you call contacts, select and play music from iTunes, get turn-by-turn navigation through Siri and Apple maps--and so on.
An Enform Remote (subscription needed) lets the car's owner remotely view and control some vehicle features using a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. Key features include remote door lock/unlock, remote stop/start for the engine and climate control, besides a vehicle finder feature.
Options include bird's eye maple or bamboo trim, perforated leather-trimmed interior, heated/ventilated front seats, hard disk drive navigation system with backup camera, 8-inch VGS screen, voice command, power trunk closer, intuitive parking assist and a gorgeous bamboo and leather-trimmed steering wheel. Not to mention the extra-cost 15-speaker, 835-watt audio system
But, hey, this is a car, not an electronics showroom. How does it drive? For one thing, the electric power steering feels just right--not too fast or too slow. And a supple all-independent suspension with gas-pressurized shock absorbers smooths out road imperfections.
A stiff body structure helps provide precise handling. Helping keep things stable are front/rear stabilizer bars and a vehicle stability control system.
Some gas/electric hybrids have an odd brake pedal feel, but the Lexus ES 300h pedal feels normal. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes have electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, along with "Smart Stop" technology that can help avoid a collision.
Safety features include 10 standard air bags, including dual front knee air bags. Strategic options are a blind spot monitor with cross-traffic alert for, say, backing out of a parking space, a pre-collision system and a lane departure alert.
The front-wheel-drive ES 300h looks like a rather sporty luxury sedan. The fact that it's a luxury hybrid is only visually displayed by a few small blue hybrid badges.
A sweeping roofline provides an aerodynamic look, without hurting rear headroom, and helps the 193-inch long car achieve a low .27 coefficient of drag to reduce fuel consumption and minimize wind noise. Airflow is smoothed beneath the car to further improve stability and fuel economy. Low-rolling-resistance tires are on 17-inch alloy wheels.
However, the ES 300h has a high beltline (area where the glass meets the body) and seats are placed low. Shorter occupants, especially those in the rear, thus may feel a little buried. The front power seats and and optional power tilt/telescopic steering wheel will help give shorter drivers a more open view of surroundings.
While wide, the trunk opening is rather high. And keep in mind that the rear seatbacks don't flip forward to increase the cargo area because of the car's hybrid design.
The ES 300h is a smooth operator that gives no clue while driving that it combines gas and electric motivation. It's got a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine and a high output permanent magnet electric drive motor. They deliver a combined 200 horsepower.
Some people are misled by just looking at combined power figures with gas/electric cars because electric motors have instant torque that doesn't make you wait for a gas engine to build revs to provide good acceleration. That's why higher-powered electric cars are fun to drive. Just look at the Tesla.
The ES 300h powertrain utilizes a smooth continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Lexus says the highly aerodynamic sedan can do 0-60 m.p.h. in a respectable 8.1 seconds, although my test ES 300h felt faster.
An ES 300h driver can tailor the driving experience by selecting from among four modes: Normal, Sport, Eco and EV. In EV mode the car can be driven short distances at reduced speed using power only from the hybrid battery pack.
I mostly kept my test ES 300h in Normal mode and found it delivered a good blend of performance and efficiency. "Eco" model didn't feel much different, but "Sport" mode provided a sportier driving experience, although it made the car feel a little too aggressive for conventional driving.
The Lexus ES 300h shows that, unless you buy something like a massive twin-turbocharged V-8 Bentley, the days of gas-guzzling luxury sedans are fading fast.