Lexus ES300h review: Living large on a modest budget
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2022 Lexus ES300h
- Very luxurious
- Cheaper than European alternatives
- Great fuel economy
- The touchpad still isn’t great to use
- Toyota Camry ZR could be seen as a much cheaper alternative
- Doesn't offer much of an interesting drive
Over the years, Lexus has had a handful of halo models that has put the brand in the spotlight. Cars like the original LS400, the drop-dead gorgeous LC500, and who could forget the iconic LFA with its engine note that came straight from the heavens.
Despite all these models, I’d argue that no Lexus captures the essence of the brand better than the ES, as like the brand as a whole, it’s just a fancy Toyota.
If you aren’t familiar with the ES, it has been based on the Toyota Camry since its inception, and unlike the rest of Lexus’ sedan range, it sends power exclusively to the front wheels.
In New Zealand, three ES models are offered by Lexus, all with hybrid power. The range starts with the 300h, which is priced from $78,100. In the middle sits the 300h F-Sport at $89,500, and the 300h represents the most premium in the range at $93,800.
All three of these ES models get the same Toyota-sourced 2.5-litre mild hybrid engine, which makes 160kW and 300Nm across the range. Fuel consumption sits at just 4.6L/100km for the standard and Limited models, but the F-Sport curiously gets a higher rating at 4.8L/100km.
For DRIVEN’s with the ES, we were in the range-topping 300h Limited, so got to see what a near six-figure Lexus sedan looks like in 2022.
The first thing you’ll notice about the ES is the stunning exterior aesthetic, that’s evolved from the 2018 model. Lexus’ standard angular grille is flanked by a pair of extremely sleek headlights, and the stunning body contours tie it all together.
On the inside, the ES is more of an executive suite than anything, with oodles of room and modern luxuries available in both rows. For those that have driven other modern Lexus models, the dash layout will be very familiar. The woodgrain inlays work surprisingly well with the black and white cabin, and dare I say it – it feels a little Scandi.
A new 12.3-inch infotainment display sits closer to the driver, and gets Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity. Though this display does have touchscreen capabilities, it sits a little too far from the driver, and either the steering wheel or the other controls have to be used.
As usual, the one area where the ES gets let down is the infotainment system that still uses the same laptop-like touchpad that we’ve grown used to. Though this one is a little easier to use than previous systems, a closer screen would still be a better bet. It’s also worth noting that Lexus still includes a CD player in the ES.
I’d argue that the second row of the ES is a nicer place to be than up front, with a metre of leg room, and the centre console with all its controls. Entertainment, climate control, and the rear sun shade can all be controlled via this panel, all it feels like its missing is a champagne fridge.
On the road, the Lexus glides along as it should, and power delivery is smooth. Though it uses a CVT to send power to the front wheels, Lexus has tuned it to step through gears, and doesn’t seem to wind itself up like other CVT units.
With its fuel economy of 4.6L/100km combined with the 50-litre fuel tank, a range of almost 1000km is achievable off a single tank, which is a figure usually reserved for diesel-powered SUVs.
The usual European-built alternatives such as the BMW 5-Series, the Mercedes E-Class, and the Audi A6 are all still available in New Zealand, but none of these full-sized sedans leave buyers with much change out of $100,000. There’s also Toyota’s range-topping Camry ZR to consider, which offers almost the same experience without a few luxuries for a significantly cheaper price point.
As a whole, this Lexus ES represents a lot of luxury well beneath $100,000 at its starting point of $78,100. Though it’s a stunning looking car, it can feel dated at times with the touchpad, but seems well targeted towards its demographic.
2022 Lexus ES300h
ENGINE: 2.5-litre hybrid
GEARBOX: CVT, FWD