Lexus ES 300h engines, drive & performance
The ES 300h is superbly cosseting when driven in a relaxed fashion, but if you're looking for something livelier, a BMW 5 Series is a better bet
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Lexus hybrid drivetrain technology is improving all the time, and the installation in the ES feels like one of the best yet. Smooth and refined in normal usage, it also has less of the ‘rubber band’ effect that afflicts other models under hard acceleration – although it’s still evident and frustrating if you’re in a hurry.
Lexus ES 300h hybrid engine, 0-62mph and acceleration
Although the ES is available with a 3.5-litre petrol engine in other markets, the UK is only offered the 300h, which has a smaller 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that’s laden with technical innovations designed primarily to eke the most miles out of every gallon. This doesn’t come at the cost of smoothness and refinement, though.
Drive is to the front wheels through a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT), which has artificial stepped ratios in an effort to mimic an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It works better than the CVTs in some other Lexus models, but floor the accelerator and the ES speeds from 0-62mph in a shade under nine seconds.
That won’t nearly trouble key rivals in a traffic-light grand prix – and neither will the car's 112mph top speed. The truth is the heavy ES feels like it could do with a little more than its total power output of 215bhp, but drivers who prefer to take it easy will be rewarded with a truly refined experience.
The front-wheel-drive chassis of the ES doesn’t have the same feel or agility as a rear-drive BMW or Jaguar, but it’s not so far off an Audi A6’s. The primary handling characteristic when cornering on the limit is for the nose to push wide, but the Lexus ES is pretty grippy, so this doesn’t happen too early.
The steering is direct and accurate and the suspension absorbs bumps well without being too soft – so the car doesn’t lean too much in corners, and feels poised and stable even at relatively high speeds. The F-Sport has adjustable suspension modes, designed to make the car feel sportier, but it’s hard really to notice much difference. It rides on larger 19-inch wheels, too, but the trade-off in comfort outweighs any handling benefit.
In This Review
- 1VerdictThe 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
- 2MPG & CO2 emissionsThe ES 300h is targeted primarily at business users, and there are tax benefits over diesel rivals – but a plug-in hybrid will be better still
- 3Running costsThe ES 300h should be cheaper to run than a purely petrol or diesel-engined equivalent, but it's left behind in this respect by plug-in hybrids and pure-electric cars
- 4Engines, drive & performance - currently readingThe ES 300h is superbly cosseting when driven in a relaxed fashion, but if you're looking for something livelier, a BMW 5 Series is a better bet
- 5Interior & comfortThe ES 300h's interior is beautifully made and nicely styled; the fiddly infotainment has been improved somewhat by the addition of a touchscreen
- 6Practicality & boot spaceThe ES 300h's ‘long coupe’ styling limits rear headroom, and while the boot is big, it's not as versatile as an SUV's
- 7Reliability & safetyWith plenty of safety kit and a rock-solid reliability record, the Lexus ES 300h has your peace of mind covered