Lexus ES 300h review

The Lexus ES 300h is luxurious and well built, but it's neither as good to drive nor as efficient as its mainly plug-in hybrid competition

Overall rating

3.0 out of 5

Price
£39,980 - £56,680
Fuel Type:
Hybrid Petrol

Pros

  • Refined and luxurious
  • Quite efficient, especially in town
  • Lower company-car tax than a diesel

Cons

  • CVT gearbox is frustrating
  • Not very sporty handling
  • No folding rear seats
Car typeFuel economyCO2 emissions0-62mph
Hybrid50-53mpg119-128g/km8.9s

The Lexus ES is a large executive saloon that has been on sale around the world for years, but had never been offered in the UK until this current generation arrived at the end of 2018. It was a direct replacement for the Lexus GS – the Japanese brand's rival for established German models like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class. The GS was a slow seller, however, in part because it wasn't quite as polished to drive as those competitors.

Now in its seventh generation, the ES 300h certainly isn't lacking in style, with distinctive swooping lines and a large grille that ensures you know exactly who made it. Some will see its front-wheel-drive configuration as an inherent disadvantage that could put off traditional BMW and Jaguar drivers. But its "self-charging" petrol-electric hybrid powertrain will appeal to those looking to move away from solely diesel or petrol power.

It's a setup that should not only cut fuel consumption, especially in urban driving and heavy traffic, but also reduce CO2 emissions. This is a significant benefit for company-car drivers, thanks to lower Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rates, especially compared to diesel equivalents. However, plug-in hybrids such as the BMW 530e, Mercedes E 300 e and Volvo S90 Recharge have even lower CO2 figures thanks to their ability to run on electric power alone for extended periods.

As a hybrid, the ES 300h combines a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor that together develop a joint maximum output of 215bhp. Official fuel consumption is 50-54mpg, while CO2 emissions of 119-127g/km are  lower than most diesel counterparts.

There are five trim levels. The entry-level model is called simply the ES, and features 17-inch alloys, an eight-inch navigation system, dual-zone climate control and heated, powered leather seats. Then there's Premium, F Sport, F Sport Design and range-topping Takumi. If you don’t want to splash out on the highest grade, you can spec up lower grades with option packs.

The interior design is eye-catching, with what Lexus calls a driver-centric cockpit and an airier, more open feel for the passenger. It’s certainly fresh, and displays the typical exceptional build quality we’ve come to expect from the brand – although the infotainment system will still struggle to impress anyone coming from a BMW or Mercedes. The good news is that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto became standard across the range in 2020, while 2022 saw the introduction of touchscreen, so you can avoid using the fiddly touchpad if you don't get on with it.

The ES is a big car, so accommodation for passengers is as generous as you’d expect. That said, the sloping roof reduces headroom a little in the back, but the same can be said for a variety of executive saloons boasting 'long coupe' styling. On the road, the front-drive ES offers secure and stable handling, with little body lean and direct steering making it easy and relaxing to drive.

The Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT) – a type of automatic gearbox that’s designed to maximise the efficiency of the hybrid powertrain – does let the ES down, though. As in other Lexus models, it sounds a little strained and noisy when you ask for maximum performance. It's just not a car that feels at home being driven in a spirited fashion, but when piloted gently it’s smooth and hushed.

Taking into consideration the Lexus brand’s strong reliability record – it frequently beats all comers in the Driver Power customer satisfaction survey – and a fantastic safety package, it’s clear the ES has a lot to offer in the executive sector, just as long as you won't be disappointed by its inability to offer driving thrills. For a more detailed look at the Lexus ES, read on for the rest of our in-depth review...

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