Quick Spin: 2020 Lexus ES 300h Ultra Luxury
2020 Lexus ES 300h Ultra Luxury
Class: Premium Midsize Car
Miles driven: 992
Fuel used: 22.0 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 44.5 mpg
|CG Report Card|
|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|
|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.|
|Engine Specs||215-hp 2.5L|
|Engine Type||4-cylinder hybrid|
|Drive Wheels||Front-wheel drive|
Driving mix: 50% city, 50% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 43/44/44 (city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $45,660 (not including $1025 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Driver-assistance package ($1900), wireless cellphone charger ($75), 18-inch alloy noise-reduction wheels ($950), head-up display ($500), Triple Beam LED headlamps ($1515), Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio Package ($2900), heated wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel w/ windshield wiper de-icer and fast-response heater ($480), door edge guards ($145), illuminated door sills ($400)
Price as tested: $55,550
The great: Pleasant, absorbent ride with decent handling composure; build quality; upscale cabin trimmings
The good: Excellent fuel economy for a midsize luxury car
The not so good: Fidgety Remote Touch infotainment control interface; rear seat backs don’t fold
More ES price and availability information
People who like Lexuses like the Lexus ES sedan. It is far and away the brand’s most popular non-SUV product line; 51,336 were sold in 2019, an increase of almost 3000 units from the year before, according to Automotive News.
We like the ES, too, having tagged it a Consumer Guide “Best Buy” in the premium-midsize class. Its comfort and value for the money is a winning combination, and it has the bonus of fielding a gas/electric hybrid version that is rated as being the most economical to run while being the least costly to buy within its tight circle of peers from Acura, BMW, Lincoln, and Volvo.
Better yet for hybrid fans, the ES 300h isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. When the somewhat larger seventh-generation ES bowed for 2019, it tripled its hybrid offerings, presenting them in base, Luxury, and Ultra Luxury trims. The same three are back for 2020 at starting prices (with delivery) from $42,835 to the $46,685 asked for the Ultra Luxury that CG tested.
Our run in the ’20 model reinforced impressions formed when we drove a 2019 Ultra Lux 300h because so little had changed from one year to the next. The earlier car was $600 cheaper, but it didn’t have the Android Auto smartphone compatibility that has been added as ES standard equipment for 2020.
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Another thing that went up was our test-drive fuel mileage. CGers got an underwhelming 36.1 mpg from the 2019 job with 70 percent of test miles in city-type driving. That was a good 7 mpg shy of the EPA estimates for the car in city driving. This year, though, with a 50-50 city and highway mix we collectively averaged 44.3 mpg—fractionally better than the feds’ highway projection for the 300h. Indeed, one of our editors approached 46 mpg for his turn.
The ES hybrids are powered by a 176-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with a fuel-efficient Atkinson-cycle valvetrain and an electric motor fed by a 1.6-kWh battery pack located beneath the rear seat. This pairing gives the 300h 215 system horsepower. It’s easily enough for safe and comfortable driving on any stretch of pavement that doesn’t involve a checkered flag or timing slip. Still, there is a “Sport” mode that spurs the car to (slightly) greater things with faster throttle response, as well as paddle shifters that allow drivers to get more out of the “steady-as-she-goes” automatic continuously variable transmission.
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Aside from the expected upgrades of materials and added comfort/convenience features that make the Ultra Luxury the ES hybrid’s leader, it also comes with front and rear performance dampers. There is a pleasing mix of handling and ride comfort, and dialing up Sport fosters a modestly crisper steering feel. All ESes are front-wheel-drive cars.
While all this is going on under the car, the cabin gives occupants a nice place to hang out on their journeys. Upholstery is perforated semi-aniline leather. Front seats are heated and ventilated, with a 14-way memory seat for the driver and 10-way power-adjustable seat for the front passenger. Genuine wood accents, ambient lighting, and carpeted floor mats dress things up, too. In traffic, the interior is pleasingly quiet. Leg- and headroom are commendable in either row, and there’s 3-adult room across the rear seat if the center rider can straddle the floor tunnel. Roof pillars pose minimal obstruction on driver vision. Trunk space comes to 16.7 cubic feet, but the rear seat backs in ESes do not fold to provide added cargo capacity.
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CGers are not big fans of Lexus’s Remote Touch infotainment control system, with its often-touchy touchpad on the console. Separate controls for the dual-zone automatic climate system consist of flipper levers for temperature and repetitive-push buttons for fan speed and mode. Android Auto joins Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa car-to-home and home-to-car communication as standard. Also included is the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 with low-light-pedestrian and daytime-bicyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning/assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. Among the extra-cost items added to the $55,550 test car were blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitors, wireless charging, Mark Levinson audio with navigation, and a 10.2-inch head-up display.
With few flaws and plenty of comfort, the Lexus ES is a great not-too-big luxury-car choice. The hybrid makes it a not-too-thirsty one to boot.
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