Test Drives

New Lexus ES 300h Review: Luxury Essential


What’s this, a new Lexus LS luxury limo?
Not quite – the LS is the biggest and most expensive Lexus sedan and it is due for replacement, but in fact this is the ES sedan, the least expensive Lexus four-door. It’s been the best-seller for the brand here in Singapore since its launch two-years ago, and now has received a mid-life facelift.

What’s the difference in looks?
You can’t miss that huge spindle grille unless you’re a bottom-grazing ruminant – well it does look a bit like a cow-catcher. There’s also new LED main-beam lights with DRLs and LED foglamps, and it lends the ES a more pointy, aggressive air it didn’t have before.

It’s an interesting design, especially since you can actually see the ‘hips’ of the spindle as they overlap the grille, something which could be done in a less-expensive fashion, but which Lexus has used to make a literal, and figurative, point. The rear end has re-designed ‘L-shaped’ tail-lamps but remains otherwise the same in the tailpipe-less hybrid model – the ES 250 has sleeker looking exhausts this time around.

READ MORE: Lexus goes all-aggro with the radical-looking new RX SUV

And under the skin?
The ES remains mechanically the same, and we’ve tested both variants (the ES 300h and ES 250) previously and found them to be very accomplished. Tested here is the hybrid ES 300h model and it’s very much the same as we remember it: Powerful enough, refined, clever and turbine-smooth.

As with most hybrids, it starts out silent, the better to highlight the lack of tyre roar, and the handover to combined electric/combustion power is near seamless. Egg the gas on more and there’s a distant thrum of the inline four, but otherwise noise remains at a impeccably low level. The ride quality is unshakeable, smoothening out the worst the road can offer (and it can be very bad nowadays) although there is a little noticeable judder in the rear on the most horrendous surfaces, likely due to the extra weight of the hybrid’s battery.

Everywhere else, the ES 300h remains resolutely tranquil, and it’s very likely the most refined car you can get for the money. What we enjoy about it most as a driver is that it seems to inculcate calmness and patience, which itself leads to a cheaper, safer driving experience. That the hybrid ES delivers great fuel economy (we averaged less than 6.5L/100km) is just the cherry on top.

READ MORE: Can’t afford a Lexus? Toyota’s Camry does very much the same, with the same underpinnings

So it’s really comfy…
That’s really the whole raison d etre of the ES. The cabin gets a bit of love too, with some improvements:The test unit had a two tone brown-on-tan interior colour which might not be to everyone’s liking (plain colours are available too, naturally) but it signals the ES’s intent to venture away from literal beige normalcy.

The steering’s a re-designed three-spoke unit which is reshaped, has a bigger Lexus badge and new, easier to use button layout. It feels the business, with soft leather and wood inlays, while the door armrests have gloss plastic inserts that also lift the appearance of the cabin – they used to look a little more budget.

Legroom is still massive, and the rear passengers get their own climate control zone and manual blinds. While there isn’t anything fancy like massage chairs or entertainment system, the sheer space, comfort and silence make up for it.

There’s not much equipment, you mean?
Not exactly. As before there are two models, the ES 250 and the ES 300h, in two trims, Executive and Luxury, we tested the most expensive ES 300h Luxury here. Pricing for the ES 250 is $233,000 with COE, while the ES 300h costs $243,000 with COE, and the Luxury package adds $12k on top of those indicated prices.

For the extra dosh you get a panoramic sunroof, Lexus Remote Touch infotainment system with navigation and Bluetooth, Mark Levinson 15-speaker premium sound, a blind spot monitor, 17-inch alloy wheels (unique to the hybrid model), passenger memory seats and comfy aniline leather upholstery that feels top-notch. Ventilated AC seats are standard across the range, as are LED main lights, and the main safety systems like ABS and VSC and a haul of 10 airbags.

Is the ES perfect? Not totally. The slope of the A-pillars means visibility in some tight spaces or obtuse corners is limited, and as it is with any design language, not everyone will like the new looks. The thing is, Lexus being what it is, and Lexus customers being who they are, if you like one, chances are you’ve already laid down the money for one by now.

Lexus ES 300h


Engine                         2,494cc, 16V, inline 4

Power                                    156bhp at 5700rpm

Torque                        211Nm at 4500rpm

Electric Motor            141bhp, 270Nm

Battery                        1.6 kWh, NiMh

System Total                         202bhp

Gearbox                        CVT

Top Speed                        180km/h

0-100kmh                        8.5 seconds                                   

Fuel efficiency            5.4L/100km

CO2                                    130g/km

Price                                    $255,000 with COE

Availability                        Now

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong