The all-new Lexus ES 300h juxtaposes an edgy and stunning exterior with a smooth and relaxing interior. How does it fare in the real world? We drove it hot out of the oven
If ever there was a book on car building, its cover would be something sharp and exciting to catch the eye of anyone’s field of vision it enters. Yet, if that book was sold today, the insides would be all about responsible and clean mobility. Never have I seen a car look so dramatically exciting, yet pack an interior that is completely relaxing, with a drivetrain to complement its intentions. The Lexus ES 300h is that car.
As the wraps came off in Beijing earlier this year, the new, seventh-generation Lexus ES arrived, making a statement in many minds with its bold new styling. It may be larger, but, in a bid to replace both the ES and GS, the new ES sports some thoroughly alluring styling reminiscent of the larger LS, with sharper lines like a fine pressed suit and a more pronounced sloping roof. More than anything, it’s the new spindle-grille that stands out — and not remotely in an unwelcome way. The parting of the air spearheaded by this number means it not just looks great, but is also functional. Flanked by those Bi-Beam three-eye LED headlamps with lightning-bolt style daytime light strips, the front end brings the ES into the future by one giant leap. The lines, too, are pronounced but not too bold. Yet, the ES appears lower and sportier. The lines flow rearwards well, swooping in waves to exude a certain elegance along the side profile. The sharp LED tail-lamp clusters have a distinct light signature.
Size-wise, the car is 65 millimetres longer and is now closer to five metres long. It’s built on the new GA-K (Global Architecture-K) platform for frontwheel-drive models. Lexus say that is just as strong and rigid as the GA-L that underpins the rear-wheel-drive LS which we drove this past March. The lower centre of gravity and stiffer reinforced construction make for a good base. Rigidity is one thing and capable suspension is another facet of the handling diamond. And Lexus have done their bit there, too.
A MacPherson Strut front and multi-link with trailing arm rear suspension are tuned for even better response. While the front set-up is from the previous car, there have been many changes made to improve upon it considerably. The angle of the strut has been changed to better align it with the load path from the lower control arm to improve ride comfort. Secondly, the altered
The ES 300h is a premium executive challenger that has the styling to stare down a BMW 5er, with space and comfort to rival the Mercedes E-Class
caster angle and trail help improve straight-line stability. The Dynamic Control Shocks in the rear set-up are new as well and respond to even the tiniest movements thanks to smart management of the oil in the dampers. The resultant ride height is a usable 152 millimetres; enough ground clearance for a car of this calibre. Partnering the smooth ride is another key element: sound deadening. Lexus have padded pretty much the entire underbody and paid special attention to potential spoilsports. For example, the aluminium wheel rims have been created with a resonator function and help disperse the high-frequency vibration from the air in the tyres by turning it into dissipating heat. That is also a first for Lexus, is what we’re told.
The plush interior is a complete contrast to the almost aggressive demeanour the exterior design lends the new ES. Key elements are, as expected, the materials used and their highquality finish. The artfully crafted Shimamoku wood trim that adorns the dashboard, console, doors, and steering wheel is available in a choice of two colours, with a Bamboo option available, too. The leather upholstery is also available in four colour themes. Our car had the “Rich Cream” treatment. The
climate control is three-zone and uses nano e negative-ion technology for maintaining optimum air quality, something much needed in many metros today. The centre console also houses the full-colour display and an input pad — which takes some getting used to. Connectivity is taken care of well, too. Then there’s the Mark Levinson premium audio system which packs a mix of 18 speakers, tweeters, and woofers with a decompresser that recreates almost live performance-like vibrant sound quality.
Get into the driver’s seat and there are 14 ways to adjust it, including power-adjustable support for your thighs and four-way lumbar. Comfortable indeed. The front passenger seat also gets a 12-way set-up, with the thigh-support omitted. Understandable, because the ES, more often than not, is going to be chauffeur-driven. The rear seat is where the comfort seems even more focused. The longer body has led to more room and the seat-backs now recline as well. The side windows, quarter glasses, and rear windscreen all have sun curtains and the centre arm-rest puts every control at your fingertips. The side of the front passenger seat has controls to move the seat-back or the whole seat forward to free up even more stretching space. The rear promises sleep-inducing comfort and the more time you spend in the car, the more evident its relaxation-boosting levels become. I had no intention of dozing off and was eager to hit the open highway.
The powertrain is in effect a further evolution of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system continually being refined by parent Toyota. The new Lexus ES 300h now has an equally new, fourth-generation Hybrid Drive System. Furthermore, the combustion engine, too, is not the same old unit. An all-new, 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, Atkinson-cycle petrol engine with dual injection has been developed. Although the displacement is identical, it now has a narrower bore and longer stroke for better high-speed combustion due to an optimized swirl pattern. As a result, the engine puts out 20 horses and 16 Nm more than its predecessor. That, paired to a new and more powerful electric motor that puts out a healthy 120 PS-equivalent and 202 Nm of torque, means there is no shortage of potential. The combined output is now 218 PS, with a higher peak torque to accompany that as well. The eCVT, or electronicallycontrolled continuously variable transmission, funnels the amassed power to the front wheels.
Heading out through morning traffic was a relief, the sensation amplified by the relaxing seating position. The ergonomics are spot on and even in Eco, the first of the three drive modes, the response is more than adequate and the car glides along in pure electric mode. The range is just about a kilometre and a half before the engine kicks in at idle speed to generate the
power needed to recharge the battery pack. Soon, I was doing 50 km/h and the heads-up display — which is quite huge and displays everything from the navigation and current audio track to the rev counter — showed just about 1,000 rpm. At 80 km/h, the engine was turning over at 1,500 rpm or so. Give it some foot and the new 2.5 four purrs louder.
The revs climb to just over 5,500 rpm as peak torque from the engine is passed and peak power is settling in. The ES 300h feels brisk, but at full chat, despite its extensive sound dampening including the use of active noise cancellation, the engine is quite audible, even with the eCVT doing its best to belt out the power. However, again, some chauffeur would probably lose their job if their foot got too heavy too soon. Put that to rest and, regardless, speed is a given. Lexus claim a 0-100 km/h run of 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 180 km/h. It’s unhurried, yes. That’s the best way to put it across. The hybrid driveline essentially means it’s intended to be efficient, and it is. Lexus claim an efficiency of over 22 km/l overall, the real-time economy display came close to supporting that figure. Pushing it hard, I saw 10.8 km/l. Feathering the throttle, with the engine half-burbling and e-motor working to help the 1.7-tonne ES cruise at a steady 80 km/h, I saw 30.4 km/l. The Auto Glide Control coasting function also helps conservation matters further.
Then there’s the equipment. The safety kit is substantial: 10 airbags, including two front knee airbags, and the credible braking nannies for drama-free, sure-footed braking. The motion-activated power-tailgate gives access to a 454-litre boot, enough for a family load of baggage for a weekend getaway or for a variety of sport equipment, whatever it may be. The rear centre seat-back opens up to accommodate even longer objects. Practicality is not something the ES is short on. Then there’s the price.
At around Rs 60 lakh, the ES 300h is a premium executive challenger that has the styling to stare down a BMW 5er, with space and comfort to rival the Mercedes E-Class. It all comes down to which seat you would be spending more time in. The Lexus ES 300h is modern design statement with old-school comfort that prioritizes the occupant’s surroundings above a quick sprint and stiff cornering. It’s an executive saloon with a capital E and S. There’s no diesel model and the petrol-hybrid is all there is. Again, if ever there was a brand standing as a hallmark to certain beliefs, it’s Lexus. The phrases “greater than the sum of its parts” and “not just on paper” are exactly what I’m on about. You need to spend time in one before it begins to make sense. It’s how they manage to be smooth while looking sharp.
( Above) Cabin is relaxing and uses a rich mix of materials ( Right) Mark Levinson audio and sculpted details ( Below) Lexus touch interface take a little getting used to
Lexus ES 300h Price: Rs 59.13 lakh (ex-showroom) Engine: 2,487 cc, in-line four, Atkinson-cycle, direct and port injection, petrol Max Power: 178 PS @ 5,700 rpm Max Torque: 221 Nm @ 3,600-5,200 rpm E-motor: Permanent magnet motor generator Max Output: 88 kW (120 PS), 202 Nm Battery Pack: 204-cell, 244.8-volt, NA kWh, Nickel-metal Hydride Net Peak Output: 160 kW (218 PS), 320 Nm (estimated) Suspension: MacPherson Strut front/multi-link rear Weight: 1,680 kg
( Above) Hybrid system pairs petrol engine and e-motor for 218 PS ( Left) Rear seat controls make for easy access; seats recline ( Below) Head-up display is extremely detailed ( Bottom) Drive-mode selector has three modes