2015 Lexus ES 300h: Redefines luxury, hybrid marriage

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The sixth generation of the Lexus ES series was unveiled at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. The upscale best-selling sedan for the first time included the ES 300h or hybrid edition.

For 2015, the ES 300h remains largely the same as last year’s model, with a few exceptions. The upholstery quality has been improved and there are also a half-dozen technology upgrades, including a standard touchscreen display audio tech interface.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

The ES 300h includes a hybrid powertrain that matches a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with an electric motor powered by a battery pack that combined generates 200 horsepower.

Like all Lexus vehicles, the ES 3o0h ideally defines what makes the upscale carmaker. It’s a quality-crafted sedan, plush in many areas — design to comfort — and it delivers what’s expected. It’s an entry-level luxury sedan with a host of standard features, all well-made and all well-positioned in the four-door cruiser.

My weekly driver also had nearly as many optional features, a high-end Mark Levinson sound system to Bamboo trim interior to ambient lighting. It all added up to more than $8,000 in extras, and it helped make the ES 300h far removed from the notion that a hybrid buyer needs to compromise for better gas mileage.

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The 2015 Lexus ES 300h is about refinement. It provided a quiet ride at all speeds and driving scenarios. At low speeds, the engine operated in all-electric mode. When advancing at higher speeds, the transition to hybrid mode was seamless. The ES 300h doesn’t accelerate as quickly as the non-hybrid edition, but it’s fast enough for those opting for a sedan and just not expecting a sports car.

Most noticeable is what you don’t notice — noise. Bumps in the road? The high-end McPherson suspension takes cares of any issues. There’s no wind rush or noticeable engine noises.

In addition to the $2,695 audio and infotainment costs, the Ultra Luxury Package added close to another $2,500. It featured: the aforementioned bamboo trim, driver and passenger memory seats, heated and ventilated front seats, and a bamboo and leather-trimmed heat steering wheel.

Since it’s a Lexus, the extra charges seemed worth it, particularly since it further helped give the often-maligned hybrid segment an improved image.

Likes:

Spacious, well-appointed, high overall quality cabin.
Great gas mileage.
Quiet ride at any speed.

Dislikes:

Average acceleration.
Infotainment system difficult to learn.
Soft braking.
Expensive optional packages.

Facts & Figures: 2015 Lexus ES 300h

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.8 seconds.
Airbags: 8.
Fuel economy: 40 mpg (city), 39 mpg (highway), 40 mpg (combined).
Horsepower: 200 (combined).
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $40,430.00.
Manufacturer’s Website: www.lexus.com.
Price As Tested: $49,505.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

“While not as engaging to drive as a BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 or Cadillac CTS, the Lexus ES has a reputation for reliability, comfort and a strong resale value that continues to resonate.” — Kelley Blue Book.

“With its 2015 ES 300h, Lexus adds fuel-sipping hybrid technology to its plush entry-level luxury sedan. Great fuel economy and Lexus pampering? It’s a win-win situation.” — Edmunds.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“Lexus makes superior automobiles and the 2015 Lexus ES 300h maintains the upscale brand’s reputation. But with its extra packages, the price approaches $50,000 and that warrants a long pause — and maybe a deal breaker.”

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