It’s been just over a month since we picked up our long-term 2020 Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury. Having the opportunity to spend more than a week in a car, like we usually do, has allowed us to experience what it really is like to live with. And the news is good.
The ES300h stays true to the Lexus brand, offering plenty of luxury in a package that looks good. Better yet, the hybrid powertrain is a peach, providing effortless motoring while remaining frugal at the pump.
How frugal? Thanks to COVID isolation and working from home, we’ve probably not done as many clicks in the big sedan as we normally would. But the 734km we have covered since picking up the Deep Blue (a $1500 option) ES300h has come at a miserly 5.8L/100km on a single tank of premium unleaded.
Those 734km covered a variety of uses, too – from the urban sprawl to a country drive and decent stints on Sydney’s motorway network.
Interestingly, fuel consumption actually dropped to an indicated 5.4L after a decent cruise at 110km/h on the motorway. Since then it’s settled back into 5.8L/100km and hasn’t budged.
So, what do we like about the ES300h? Certainly the powertrain continues to impress, especially around town where the big Lexus remains effortless to drive. Supremely quiet, especially in EV mode, the ES300h never feels ruffled or like it’s working too hard.
The transitions between internal combustion and EV are seamless and unobtrusive. Sometimes you find yourself checking the driver display to see whether you’re in EV or combustion mode, it’s that quiet.
One place the ES300h showed signs of struggle was ascending NSW's notoriously steep and winding Bulli Pass, the 2.5-litre petrol and hybrid combo feeling underdone in hauling the 1740kg (kerb) sedan up that long incline.
With peak torque (221Nm) not coming on song until 3600rpm, and peak power (131kW) at an even higher 5700rpm, the ES300h transformed from a quiet cruiser into a high-revving loudmouth. So, too, the CVT, which showed its only signs so far of the dreaded drone when under load.
In mitigation, Bulli Pass is one helluva climb. Lesser inclines have done little to faze the quietude of the Lexus.
The cabin is a hugely pleasant place to spend time in, plush, and luxurious. Sure, the blond (fake) wood accents aren’t to everyone’s taste, but they are far superior to the swathes of dark timber accents usually found in the Lexus range.
CORRECTION: Lexus Australia has contacted us and is keen to point out the blonde timber accents are in fact real bamboo which, according to Lexus is an "ecologically sustainable alternative to other woods given how quickly bamboo grows and regrows". Sorry, Lexus. It's very nice, too.
The front seats are heated and cooled, beautifully supportive, while the sunroof adds some lightness to the cabin. And second-row occupants can enjoy a toasty bum, too, with heated seats standard and power recline to find the right position for long-range comfort.
One of Lexus’s hallmarks has always been its ride. And the ES300h is no different. There’s a suppleness to the way it handles the urban grind, navigating road rash, potholes and speed humps with aplomb and ease.
There’s a particular stretch of road close to my home that is undulating thanks to a lifting surface, potholed, and generally what I reckon is right up there as the worst road surface in Sydney.
I use it regularly to assess a vehicle’s ride comfort. And the ES300h is far and away the best performer on this particular stretch, certainly by the seat of the pants, the big sedan simply gobbling up the imperfections in a manner that is commendable.
Less likeable – as it always has been – remains Lexus’s fiddly touchpad used to navigate the infotainment system. Yes, it’s an improvement over the older mouse-like toggle, but it remains frustratingly sensitive to inputs, often skipping over menu items at the slightest touch. Scrolling through radio stations can be hell.
So, too, the audible voice warnings that alert you to ‘red light camera ahead’ or ‘speed camera ahead’ – a handy feature, sure. And yet, when you spend as much time on Sydney’s network of roads that are increasingly policed by an armada of cameras, it can get a little tiresome. Switch it off via the Navigation submenu, unless you're in Victoria and need to know where those pesky cameras are hidden without warnings.
The adaptive cruise control works beautifully at maintaining set speeds, even when going up- or downhill, often environments where some ACCs get caught out. Not this one, which always remains within 1–2km/h of the set speed.
Its stop&go function works well too, the ES300h moving away of its own volition if the stop is a short one, or, for longer stops, a light touch of the accelerator will have you underway again and galloping up to the set speed in no time.
As you’d imagine, spending any amount of time in a car will see you experience some of the active safety smarts. Lane-tracing assist works fine, keeping the car centred within markings, and is less intrusive than some systems we've experienced in other brands. It works especially well on the motorway, with only the slightest hint of a tug on the steering wheel to alert you it is, in fact, doing its thing.
Autonomous emergency braking isn’t overly sensitive. And that’s a good thing. It’s activated twice over our time with the Lexus so far: once when a car in front suddenly merged into my lane a little (a lot!) too close; and once when a pedestrian walked behind the ES300h while I was reverse-parking. A jolt to the system, for sure, but both instances were warranted and both instances avoided potential collisions with a car and, worse, a pedestrian.
Overall, the first month has offered a pleasant experience, combining luxury with a frugality at the pump that’s hard to ignore. Just one trip to the petrol station for a full tank of premium unleaded, 45.38L for a cost of $59.40. The tank has a 50L capacity.
Next up, we’re taking the ES300h on a rural road trip, so we will report on how the luxury sedan handles crappy country roads and whether it can maintain its miserly fuel economy over longer distances with less traffic.
And if there’s anything you’d like to know about the ES300h, drop us a line in the comments below.
- Odometer at start: 390km
- Odometer update: 1124km
- Kilometres travelled: 734km
- Indicated fuel consumption: 5.8L/100km
- Amount spent: $59.40