Business Plus

Hybrid’s Lex Appeal

The Lexus ES300h’s combinatio­n of luxury and technology is difficult to resist, writes Philip Nolan


For a very long time, Lexus was the only kid on the hybrid block in the premium segment of the car market. In recent times, though, its main rivals – BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar and Volvo – have embraced not just hybrid powertrain­s but also have developed a slew of full EVs. And, of course, there’s Tesla in the mix as well. On the EV front, Lexus is catching up at last, with the electric version of the UX, the UX 300e, already on sale here, and the forthcomin­g RZ 450e crossover due in December or in early 2023, its first model designed solely as an electric vehicle.

There are many who feel they’re not quite ready to embrace full electric cars, mostly because of range anxiety and purchase price, which is why hybrids have become so popular as we transition away from purely internal combustion engines. In the first quarter of this year, hybrids – including petrol electric, diesel electric, and plug-in versions of both – accounted for one-third of all sales, with full battery electric vehicles on 12.5%.

Perhaps as a reminder of its long experience in the hybrid space, Lexus now offers up to a ten-year or 160,000km warranty on the ES, which is a massive vote of confidence in the car.

Pricing starts at €54,640 for the entry-level Dynamic spec, rising to €64,460 for the Premium version. My test car, the F-Sport, sits in the middle. The standard spec includes the Lexus Safety System+, 18-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, 12.3-inch touchscree­n, heated driver and passenger front seats in leather upholstery, seven-inch digital instrument panel, blind spot monitor, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera, rear cross traffic alert, and keyless entry.

F-Sport upgrades the wheels to 19-inch alloys, and adds quad LED headlights with adaptive high beam, smooth leather seats with driver position memory, eight-inch instrument display, and adaptive variable suspension.

This model is a facelift of the previous ES, and most of the changes are cosmetic – or just practical. The grille has been finessed, there’s a new headlight cluster, new wheels, and two new body colours. The touchscree­n and instrument panel are a revised design, while some of the switches have been reposition­ed for ease of use.

There’s an improved braking system, with an enlarged foot pressure area, and revised rear suspension. On that Lexus Safety+ system, there’s enhanced pedestrian and cyclist detection with automatic braking, new emergency steering assist and improved lane keeping assist, and curve speed reduction on the cruise control to adapt to bends in the road.

As for handling, I’ve driven the ES 300h twice now, the first time last year on winding, hilly roads in Mallorca, and more recently for a week in Ireland. The only accusation you might level at it is that it feels just a little too well mannered. I’ve never been wild about continuous variable transmissi­on setups, but this is as good as it gets, with smooth transition­s as it aims for optimal performanc­e.

All in all, it’s a fine car, excellent value for the price, and with reasonable running costs for the 218 horsepower on offer. For comfort, though, as always, Lexus tips its cap to no one.

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