An open-road, long-haul cruise in a luxury sedan is a driving devotee’s joy. But making the trip efficiently can be perplexing. Lexus realized the dilemma a decade ago and debuted hybrid models, including the current seventh generation of its ES series.
The 2020 Lexus ES 300h, largely a holdover from the 2019 model, is among only a few luxury sedans combining upscale comfort with economic travel. It’s rated at 43 miles per gallon in city driving and 44 mpg on the highway. They’re segment-best ratings.
Lexus also decided variety is important. As a midsize, five-passenger sedan, the ES 300h is available in Base, Luxury and Ultra Luxury models. All trims are equipped with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine matched with an electric motor and producing 215 horsepower. The sedan advances via a continuously variable transmission and is available only with front-wheel drive.
Standard safety tech includes forward collision mitigation, lane-keeping assist and lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and parking sensors.
But the equipment and options offered in the more expensive options boost the ES 300h into a hard-to-resist level of satisfaction.
Leather upholstery, additional seat adjustments, heated and ventilated seats, wooden interior trim, ambient interior lighting and noise-reduct side windows are among the Luxury trim package features. Upgraded leather seats, a hands-free trunk release and an advance suspension are Ultra Luxury trim highlights.
If luxury cruising is important, do it full-tilt with the Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package. It’s not only an integrated sound system, but the stereo is among the industry’s best.
Top-line options also include 18-inch wheels, 12.3-inch horizontally-placed screen, blind-spot monitoring, a surround-view camera system and a wireless phone-charging pad. With all options and taxes included, the ES 300h costs $53,530.
Unlike some hybrids with limited trunk space because of the placement of the battery pack, Lexus positions the battery under the rear seats. The result: the trunk space is the same as the non-hybrid ES 350 sedan.
A quiet, smooth ride is a luxury sedan must-have trait. The ES 300h is church-mouse quiet and has steady acceleration. The hybrid isn’t quick, but it also seems faster than its 8.1-second performance in the 0-60 miles per hour test. Steering and maneuverability help define the car’s road poise.
The ES 300h is handsome inside and outside. It’s likely the best example of how much the design of hybrid sedans have improved. A sloping roofline gives the ES 330h a sports car confident. Interior materials, the wood and aluminum trim to the various interior color hues and soft leather solidify the hybrid’s position in the luxury segment.
A few items need improvement. The touchpad, located on the center console, controls the navigation system functions, in-car applications and media sources. The touchpad works efficiently, but its location can provide another reason for distracted driving. Also, the rear seats don’t fold.<\
Lastly, will Lexus ever dispatch its futuristic-designed front grille stolen off a Mad Max movie set? It looks remarkably similar to the mouth of a grouper.