What is it: The 2017 Lexus ES300h is the company’s midsize hybrid sedan, an upmarket version of the Toyota Avalon.
Base Price: $42,795 As-Tested Price: $48,213
Highlights: The 2017 Lexus ES300h delivers 40 mpg combined from a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with an electric motor. The system delivers 200 total hp.
Our Opinion: There’s nothing terribly exciting about the Lexus ES300h, and that’s how buyers like it.
The regenerative brakes have a strong initial bite, which I like, but that midpoint, before it gets to the mechanical portion, doesn’t do much at all. I found out this morning during a small panic stop. I had to put the pedal near the floor.
The CVT sucks in any sort of spirited driving, but you probably already knew that. In sport mode the ES is quick enough — it’ll spin the front tires, but there’s no linearity at all. It’s not slow in normal mode; at least, not annoyingly slow. Lexus seems to be using every bit of that 2.5-liter four. I threw it in EV mode to use some of the battery, but when you hit a speed of maybe 25 or 30 mph, the engine kicks back on regardless. That engine kick on is not super smooth either. It growls and revs a bit, which would be charming in a different car, just not this one. That combined with the high revs of a CVT makes the ES a little rough for a luxury car.
Now, for the good. Like I said it has plenty of pep for normal driving. I wouldn’t have guessed that. The seats are spectacularly comfortable, expected, and I’ll agree with me again in that with the smaller infotainment screen, the mouse-type controller used to navigate it works okay. The big, double-wide setup used on some other Lexus models just has too much ground to cover.
The biggest criticism of the ES is that it looks boring. The spindle grille in front livens things up a bit, but the overall shape, and the rear end, just look like “nondescript sedan #1” in movie credits. The Toyota Avalon, its platform mate, is really nice, less-expensive, and God help us, I think it looks better too. At least more interesting.
Options: Navigation system/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package including Lexus Enform destinctions, Lexus Enform App Suite ($2,590); Premium Package including Lexus memory system for driver’s seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel, power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, wood interior trim, remote keyless entry-linked memory ($730); blind spot monitor w/ rear cross traffic alert ($500); intuitive park assist ($500); illuminated door sills ($379); wood and leather trimmed steering wheel ($300); body side molding ($199); door edge guard ($140); all weather floor mats ($80)
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $42,795
As Tested Price: $48,213
Drivetrain: 2.5-liter DOHC I4; permanent magnet electric drive, FWD CVT
Output: 156 hp @ 5,700 rpm engine, 200 hp total output; 156 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm engine
Curb Weight: 3,682 lb
Fuel Economy: 40/39/40(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: Cushy ride, as expected
Cons: A little buzzy inside, which was not expected