The 2021 Lexus ES300h Luxury is, somewhat confusingly, the entry point to the range. That’s despite the term ‘Luxury’ in the nameplate. Regardless of how Lexus works its naming conventions, though, the ES platform is a compelling alternative to the established Euros with a mix of build quality and value.
The ES300h range is three models strong, with Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury making up the available grades. Luxury and F Sport can be optioned with an Enhancement Pack (just over $3000), which effectively means there are five to choose from. Pricing starts from $62,525 for the Luxury we have here on test, and rounds out with the Sports Luxury at $77,000, both before on-road costs. Our pricing and specification guide has the full rundown.
Late in 2020, Lexus announced minor tweaks to the specifications list and some price changes as well, with the primary focal point being increased safety. Across the range, the ES300h gets rear cross-traffic alert and braking to complement the existing Intelligent Clearance Sonar and Parking Support Brake systems. The three systems work together to prevent low-speed incidents up to 15km/h in both forward and reverse. The Luxury grade also gets blind-spot monitoring as standard, which was previously an Enhancement Pack option.
Further standard features include a 12.3-inch infotainment system with Lexus Remote Touch Controller, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, proprietary satellite navigation, Nulux leather-look upholstery, LED headlights, keyless entry and start, electric sunroof, wireless phone charging, head-up display, powered front seats with heating, dual-zone AC and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Add the Enhancement Pack and pricing goes up to $68,875 before on-road costs. That brings with it 18-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front seats with memory function, more electric adjustment than the standard seats, a powered rear sunshade, and a 360-degree panoramic-view camera.
|2021 Lexus ES300h Luxury|
|Engine||2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol/hybrid|
|Power and torque||131kW @ 5700rpm, 221Nm @ 3600–5200rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||4.8L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||5.2–5.9L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up/down)||473L/NA|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||5 stars (tested 2018)|
|Main competitors||BMW 330e, Mercedes-Benz C300, Volvo S60 T8 R-Design|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$68,875|
The ES300h is powered by a 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor combination, as it has been for some time, and rated to a claimed 160kW combined figure provided by Lexus. The petrol engine makes 121kW and 221Nm, while the electric motor generates a theoretical 88kW and 202Nm. There’s a CVT and FWD only, with fuel consumption a claimed 4.8L/100km. On test, we saw an indicated return of 5.2L/100km around town. On the freeway that rose to 5.9L/100km, which is incredibly impressive for a sedan of this size.
There’s no doubt that Lexus offers solid value for money – and always has really – against the competition. The brand goes in hard in terms of standard equipment in order to offer as much competition as possible to brands that are either more expensive, or not as comprehensively equipped.
That’s never more evident than inside the cabin, where the Lexus has a carved-from-stone solidity and quality to every surface. There is attention to detail and quality design, as well as practicality and functionality. Lexus interiors are good things, even though they haven’t always been right up at the head of the class for things like infotainment.
The cabin is spacious, like the best medium and large sedans are, with more than enough room to transport four tall adults comfortably – including their luggage in the boot. The front and rear seats are excellent no matter how long you spend in them, there’s plenty of knee and shoulder room across the second row, and while the sloping rear section of the roof line does eat into what would be available head space, it’s not cramped.
The doors open broadly and square to make getting in and out as easy as possible – both front and rear – and there’s more than enough storage for the family buyer through the front and rear seating positions. The boot measures in at a useful 454L, which is large enough not to be too heavily compromised by any of the hybrid tech.
In short, there’s a feeling of quality and luxury throughout the cabin that even more expensive vehicles struggle to match. Lexus has always been able to deliver that feeling, and while the concept of premium is both hard to define and different for different people, the experience from behind the wheel is one we could call premium.
The addition of a user-friendly smartphone mirroring system is a good one, and removes the only issue we previously had with the ES, which was the annoyingly difficult operating input. The rear-view camera is a little on the grainy side, though, and something that was noticed by a few CarAdvice testers. It works, but it’s a long way from being as clear as the best on offer. Countering that argument, though, is the quality (and visibility) of the head-up display. It’s an excellent one that is both crystal clear, but also fades away when you’re not looking directly at it.
The ES300h drive experience is an interesting one. Plenty of people disparage Toyota’s hybrid technology for not being as cutting-edge as it might be, yet in our experience it delivers real-world smoothness and efficiency that is hard to beat. It is genuinely impressive that a vehicle of this size and comfort can be as efficient as the ES300h is.
There’s the expected, almost imperceptible, transition from electric to petrol propulsion, and the CVT works neatly with those two as well. The ES isn’t meant to be sporty, and it isn’t. It is, however, sharp enough to get off the mark and up to speed easily, and it rolls along at highway speeds effortlessly. Its case as a long-haul tourer is a good one.
The ES chassis is likewise excellent. The way in which it soaks up ruts and bumps is impressive, settling quickly and rarely ever asked to do something it can’t deal with. The suspension irons out sharp driveway exits and speed humps as well as unexpected potholes and rutted surfaces. There’s an effortless comfort to the way in which the ES deals with any road surface.
The ES300h is covered by Lexus’s four-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and requires servicing every 12 months/15,000km. Those services average out to approximately $495 each over the first three years.
There’s no doubt that many potential buyers who would have once considered a vehicle like the 2021 Lexus ES300h are now looking at an SUV. Still, the ES provides a flexible, comfortable and quality option for those of you that need an effortless daily driver with plenty of standard equipment. It delivers in every sense we’ve come to expect from Lexus, and does so at a competitive price.