2013 Lexus ES 300h. Click image to enlarge
The redesigned ES gets a notably tighter ride than its predecessor, but the light, uncommunicative steering disavows any notion that it’s anything like a sport sedan. Handling is improved over the old ES, but that’s hardly a monumental achievement. A drive mode selector can be toggled between the ‘normal’ default, fuel-saving eco and sport modes (the former dials back throttle response, while the latter sharpens it, reduces power steering assist and turns the hybrid power gauge into a tachometer).
If anything disappoints about the new, more upscale and modern interior, it’s that there’s little tangible improvement in space, save for a bit more rear-seat legroom. Front seat headroom is limited by the standard sunroof, and while the headliner is scalloped out for rear-seat occupants, taller riders find themselves nearly eye-level with the ceiling where it scoops down to make space for the sliding sunroof glass.
The ES 300h’s 342-litre trunk is a useful size, but gives up about 30 L to the Camry hybrid. Hybrid hardware behind the rear seat eliminates the folding seatback of the gas-only ES 350.
ES 300h pricing starts at $43,900, a $4,400 premium over the V6-powered ES 350. My test vehicle had the optional leather package ($6,550, according to the price sheet I got from Toyota Canada, but Lexus.ca quotes a price of $5,200), which added navigation, rear door sunshades and a powered rear window sunshade, leather seating, wood-grain trim, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats and auto-levelling headlights. Even with a $50,000-plus as-tested price, this car is a solid value for the comfort and convenience features it includes. That said, buyers looking for a comfortable, roomy hybrid sedan should note that the Camry Hybrid can be had with many of the same items for less money.
In the luxury segment, hybrid technology has typically been limited to more expensive cars, the BMW 7 Series Hybrid ($140,000) and Porsche Panamera Hybrid ($110,000) being good examples. Buick was among the first to add electrification to a mid-sized entry-level luxury sedan, with the eAssist mild-hybrid drivetrain used in its LaCrosse and Regal.
The LaCrosse is (barely) more of a driver’s car than the Lexus ES (Buick offers a fantastic, but expensive, suspension upgrade that notably improves handling), but the standard eAssist drivetrain that’s standard in base models doesn’t save enough fuel to make up for the complexity it adds. Lexus’ addition of hybrid tech to the ES not only makes the ES itself a more compelling car in its own right, but creates an affordable hybrid luxury sedan worth spending a little more for.
Pricing: 2013 Lexus ES 300h
Base price: $43,900
Options: $6,550 (Leather Package)
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $52,555
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