I didn’t think I’d like this car. I certainly didn’t think I’d love it. But that’s exactly what happened over our three months with the 2020 Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury long-termer. I fell in love. It was hard not to.
As the custodian of our Deep Blue ES300h (a $1500 colour option, and the only option carried by our long-termer), I spent a good chunk of time behind the wheel. Almost three months, to be sure, with really only Trent Nikolic’s road trip to break up the love affair.
It was a short break-up, and once the ES300h was back in my hands, I piled on plenty of kilometres in what I imagine is a typical-case use. Plenty of sitting in traffic, long ambling highway runs, and just general day-to-day driving, like any owner would undertake. School runs, shopping trips, and visiting mates (I’m in NSW, so all done undertaken in our COVID-19 guidelines).
And every single moment spent behind the wheel did not fail to impress. From its supple, cushioning ride, to its effortless abilities as a tourer, the ES300h provided three months of trouble-free and, importantly, frugal motoring.
How frugal? Having covered nearly 4000km, including long stretches of highway and freeway running, the big Lexus would not budge from an indicated 5.6L/100km fuel consumption.
Usually, highways with their 110km/h speed limits aren't the best friend of a hybrid powertrain, the internal combustion engine required to do the bulk of the heavy lifting, resulting in a commensurate rise in fuel use. Not so the ES300h, which simply gobbled up the kays at an ever-constant 5.6L/100km. Remarkable. For what it’s worth, Lexus claims 4.8L/100km on the combined cycle.
The petrol/hybrid powertrain continued to impress in almost every situation, only the occasional (very) steep hill offering any kind of resistance to the 131kW/221Nm 2.5-litre, naturally aspirated, inline four-cylinder working in combination with an 88kW/201Nm electric motor (Lexus claims 160kW combined).
Overall, though, the powertrain behaved impeccably, with seamless transitions between electric and petrol power.
So, too, the continuously variable transmission (CVT), which offered seamless ‘shifts’ without any of the sluggishness and droning commonly associated with these types of transmissions. It worked away behind the scenes intuitively and effortlessly, and even when called upon for a burst of speed, it was never left floundering. Whatever Lexus has done to the tune of the CVT in this application, other manufacturers should copy it.
|2020 Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury|
|Engine (capacity, cylinders, type)||2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol/hybrid|
|Power and torque (with RPMs)||131kW @ 5700rpm, 221Nm @ 3600-5200rpm|
|Drive type (FWD, etc)||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||4.8L/100km|
|fuel use on test||5.6L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||473L / NA|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||5 (tested 2018)|
|Warranty (years / km)||4 years / 100,000km|
|Main competitors||BMW 330e, Mercedes-Benz C300 3, Volvo S60 T8 R-Design|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$76,988|
Inside is where the ES300h shines, with a level of comfort we’ve come to expect from the Japanese luxury brand. I even started to love the real bamboo accents, which added a lightness to the ambience inside the cabin. I’d probably lose the bamboo from the steering wheel, though, which to my eyes looks a little silly.
And while we’ve long been critical of Lexus’s persistence in using either a toggle switch (now departed, thankfully) and subsequently a touchpad (as found in this ES300h) for controlling infotainment functions, living with the car for three months actually improved the user experience.
When you assess a car for a week, like we usually do, you simply cannot learn all its quirks and foibles. But, having my bum in this car for three months afforded me the opportunity to really get acquainted with it. And that rings true for the infotainment set-up.
Yes, the touchpad is sensitive to inputs, and over a week you rarely come to terms with that sensitivity. But, after three months, I felt I knew exactly how to caress the system to offer perfect inputs. In short, you get used to it – something many Lexus owners have said in the past when the issue has been mentioned in conversation.
One criticism of the infotainment system remains its native user interface, including sat-nav, which to my eye looks a little dated. That makes the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring all the more timely and important.
The cabin remains nice and quiet, too. That’s partly attributed to the hybrid drivetrain which, even when using petrol motivation, remains nicely isolated. And, of course, when the hybrid system kicks in, the quietude ramps up another level.
It’s also partly down to the excellent ride offered by the big Lexus, arguably one of this particular car’s outstanding traits.
Road noise is barely perceptible, even when running in hybrid mode, while any bumps and lumps are sent to the rear-view mirror with barely a ripple felt in the cabin. Bigger hits, such as speed humps, also fail to upset the ES300h’s composure, the big sedan settling quickly once navigated. It’s impressive.
And that’s a word that keeps leaping front of mind with the Lexus ES300h – impressive. Whether driving around town in traffic, where the serenity inside the cabin filters the outside world, to its easy, loping gait on the highway, the ES300h simply impresses in almost every aspect.
The only issue we experienced was a very minor one – the little rubber flap covering one of the USB points coming off its hinge. Easily popped back into place, though, and didn’t come off again.
Ultimately, the Lexus ES300h is a car you can enjoy for its relaxing qualities. This is no manic sports sedan, nor does it pretend to be. Instead, the ES300h offers a blend of refinement and luxury that’s hard to ignore, especially at its $76,988 including options (plus on-roads) price.
What’s even harder to ignore is its sheer frugality. After almost 4000km, we spent just under $300 in total on premium 98RON unleaded (though 95RON can be used) at an average of $98.93 per month. Extrapolating that annually, and assuming fuel prices remain roughly the same, a $1200 annual fuel bill is not just commendable, but rather remarkable.
It’s the standout feature in a long list of standout attributes. Sure, you could, as my colleague Trent Nikolic suggested, get the same hybrid powertrain in a Toyota Camry. And while it may return a similar fuel number, you just won’t feel as good sitting in it or driving it.
If you’re in the market for a hybrid, and your budget stretches to Lexus prices, this one is well worth a look.
- Odometer at start: 2564km
- Odometer update: 4369km
- Kilometres travelled: 1805km
- Indicated fuel consumption: 5.6L/100km
- Amount spent: $126.74
- Odometer at start of loan: 390km
- Odometer at end of loan: 4369km
- Total km travelled: 3979km
- Indicated fuel consumption: 5.6L/100km
- Total spent: $296.81