Class: Premium Midsize Car
Miles Driven: 448
Fuel Used: 12.4 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 36.1 mpg
Driving mix: 70% city, 30% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 43/45/44 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Regular gasoline
Base price: $45,060 (not including $1025 destination charge)
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||A-|
|Power and Performance||B-|
|Fit and Finish||A|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Options on test car: Navigation/Mark Levinson premium audio package ($2900); heated wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel with windshield wiper de-icer and fast-response interior heater ($480); blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, park assist with auto braking, rear pedestrian detection, and panoramic-view monitor ($1900); 18-inch noise-reduction alloy wheels ($950); 10.2-inch head-up display ($500); wireless device charging ($75)
Price as tested: $52,890
The great: Ride quality, build quality, cabin comfort
The good: Economical for a midsize luxury car, even if our cold-weather fuel-economy numbers fell short of EPA estimates
The not so good: Finicky touchpad infotainment interface, rear seat backs don’t fold
When Lexus came to grips with a redesign for its popular ES premium-midsize sedans for 2019, its reach was as expansive as its grasp was firm. There is the much-discussed more-rigid platform with a couple extra inches of wheelbase, and the equally noted addition of an enlivened F Sport version. But Lexus did not ignore the ES’s hybrid.
The new ES 300h comes with a fourth-generation hybrid system that generates a bit more horsepower while upping projected fuel economy. Plus, a reconfigured electric-motor battery has been relocated in the chassis, freeing up more trunk space and changing weight distribution to enhance driving dynamics.
Not only that, but the hybrid now offers a trio of models—previously there was one basic car that could be upgraded with a couple of option packages. Steps up from the base 300h are the Luxury and Ultra Luxury. Consumer Guide editors got the chance to try out a top-level Ultra, which starts at $46,085 with delivery.
Buyers who pop for an ES 300h Ultra Luxury get a lateral performance damper for improved ride. External features run to a decklid spoiler, hands-free trunklid, and acoustic glass in the windshield and front doors. Drivers stay informed via a 7-inch thin-film-transistor vehicle-info cluster. Ambient lighting beams from the instrument panel and doors, and interior door handles are illuminated for quick location. Cabin pampering is effected through a “Climate Concierge,” moonroof, memory seat for the driver, and a power rear-window shade and manual rear-door shades. To be on the safe side, Lexus throws in its Safety System+ 2.0 suite with low-light-pedestrian and daytime-bicyclist detection (both new), adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning/assist, and automatic high-beam headlights.
There’s more for those who need it. High-profile options include things like adaptive triple-beam LED headlights, 10.2-inch-wide full-color head-up display, Mark Levinson Pure Play premium sound system with navigation, and blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine in the 2019 ES hybrids is a new 176-horsepower Atkinson-cycle powerplant. When working in unison with the electric motor, the 300h taps into 215 system horsepower, an increase of 15 from the 2018 model. It’s a smooth and extremely capable powertrain, but just not exciting—that CVT, you know. Clicking into “Sport” mode prompts a slight uptick in engine responsiveness, and paddle shifters permit drivers to make what they can of the transmission. However, there’s nothing really wrong with the “Normal” mode in probably 80 percent of driving situations, so we wonder how often that little dial pointing out the side of the instrument cluster will be twisted to Sport.
Lexus places a lot of stock in the projected fuel economy of the ES 300h, which the EPA rates at 43 mpg in city driving, 45 mpg in highway use, and 44 mpg combined. That’s enough to make it the most parsimonious non-plug-in vehicle in the luxury class, the manufacturer claims. This driver scored 39.05 mpg after covering 175.8 miles in CG’s test car, 52 percent of which was in highway-type operation.
The 1.6-kWh battery pack for the electric motor is redesigned to be smaller and lighter, which allowed engineers to relocate it from the back wall of the trunk to beneath the rear seat. That improved front/rear weight distribution and lowered the car’s center of gravity. The upshot is a pleasing balance of handling and ride comfort, with a tightened-up sense of steering effort in Sport. As with engine performance, this effect is more about polish than excitement.
Passengers will find themselves in attractive, classy surroundings when they settle into the Ultra Luxury model. (There’s also a gas-engine ES 350 at this trim level.) Perforated-leather seats provide excellent comfort and support. Wood accents are applied to the dash, doors, covered bin at the head of the console, and inner rim of the steering wheel. “Smoky”-toned metal moldings are in evidence.
Beyond that, the hybrids share the core elements that make up the latest generation of the ES. The new instrument panel accommodates a big 12.3-inch display screen for infotainment features that are managed by a touchpad on the console. (It’s a slight improvement over the previous central controller but still something of a distraction to use.) Controls for the automatic climate system are separate. While easy to reach, they consist of flipper levers for temperature and repetitive- push buttons for fan speed and mode. Decent cabin storage comes from pockets in all doors, a useful glove box, a console box, a pullout tray at the left of the steering column, twin covered cup holders in the console, pouches on the backs of the front seats, and cup holders in the retractable rear armrest.
Leg- and headroom in both rows are notably good for the class, even with a redesign that has lowered the ES’s roof by a little bit. Three adults can fit across the rear seat if the center rider can straddle the floor tunnel. Fairly thin roof pillars impose minimal obstruction on driver vision.
Thanks to the relocation of the hybrid battery, the 300h now has the same amount of trunk space that its gas-only brethren claim—16.7 cubic feet. The rear seat backs in ESes do not fold—unlike many cars in the class—but there is a central pass-through in the rear seat.
In its quest to improve the ES for 2019, Lexus certainly did not ignore the hybrid version. Neither should shoppers who value fuel economy as highly as they do luxurious surroundings.
2019 Lexus ES 300h