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Review: 2013 Lexus ES300h


Usually we consider a mish-mash to be a bad thing. If something has a bit of this, a smidge of that, and a pinch of something else it must be lacking overall, or one big discombobulated mess.

With the Lexus ES300h you can take that fractured thinking and toss it out the window.  The designers weren’t laser-focused on just building a comfortable, luxurious ride, or a snazzy, eye-catching beauty, or a fuel-stingy/high-mileage hybrid. They did it all, and scored big in each area.

 



The ES300h replaced the HS 250h. While most car reviews pin the mileage stats onto the tail-end of the report, it makes sense to pull the information forward when you’re dealing with an eco-friendly machine like this. City driving - which is where hybrids make the most sense - delivers an EPA-estimated 40 mpg. That’s not tops in the hybrid world, but remember the whole package we talked about earlier.

I’m happy to see Lexus ignore the trend to make hybrids stand out with some futuristic-looking gimmick; the exterior of the ES300h carries the brand’s usual grace and style. It doesn’t need to scream “Hey, I’m saving fuel over here!” (Granted, they did place a “hybrid” plate on the side, but at least the car doesn’t look like it belongs in the Jetsons.)

Slide behind the wheel and you instantly feel the love. The ES envelops you in comfort, with a mixture of leather, chrome, and wood. On some models you can opt for bamboo, which is cool. An analog clock breaks up the otherwise-contemporary feel, and adds another touch of class.

The controls are logical and mostly intuitive. One exception is the mouse-like contraption (called Lexus Remote Touch)  that comes with both the Display Audio and Navigation options. I’m not a fan of any of these in any car, whether it’s the Lexus Remote Touch or BMW’s iDrive. They’re a pain, and a needless over-complication.

There’s plenty of legroom in the back, and - as an option - you can get rear passenger sunshades, also a nice touch. No, the trunk isn’t cavernous, but it’s more than a suitable size.

The ride is up to traditional Lexus standards, which means it’s remarkable. For years I’ve touted the company’s ability to produce a consistently great driving feel in their vehicles. The steering is unlike any other, and, through hybrid technology and overall dynamic engineering, the drive is soothingly quiet.

Power for the ES300h comes from a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine, teamed with an electric motor. In other hybrids I’ve experienced tortoise-like starts from red lights, but not here. Zero to sixty times aren’t impressive, but nobody buys a hybrid with drag-racing on their minds. The Lexus gives you more than enough oomph off the line.

You’ll find hybrids with better mileage stats, and you’ll see sports cars with more sizzle. What the Lexus ES300h delivers, however, is a combination of luxury, excellent fuel economy, and one of the smoothest rides on the road. It’s a winning set.

Reviewed by Dom Testa. Car provided by the manufacturer.

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09/07/2013 2:59PM
Review: 2013 Lexus ES300h
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