I was curious to see what I felt about the Lexus ES300 Hybrid when it arrived in my driveway. The exterior and interior were similar to the regular ES300 aside for a few hybrid badges. My schedule got hectic and I didn’t take any pictures, and the weather wasn’t cooperating with me; I’ll attach some spec photos after the article. The exterior distinction lends itself well to the car in a way: the hybrid system blends in as seamlessly into the driving experience as the car does into the non-hybrid car landscape.
Toyota has been in the business of hybrid vehicles longer than anyone and it shows. Aside from the typical hybrid brake pedal feel due to regenerative braking, the car feels like a totally normal car. This car is not a “hybrid” like a Pruis- a slightly sluggish ecomobile with “hybrid” looks. Instead it is a very high functioning luxury car that happens to get fantastically good mileage. I managed 44mpg as my best, with an average around 34mpg during highway driving. The car is delightfully quiet, fairly responsive, and a lot more fun to drive than one would initially think. As for performance, put the hybrid stereotypes aside- this thing is peppy. In an instrumented test against a 2012 Nissan Altima (my go-to for good economy car performance), the Lexus Hybrid made the dash to 60 over half a second faster than the Altima in the same conditions. With 200 total system horsepower and a 2.5 liter Atkinson cycle engine, this hybrid trumps the assumption that electrically-augmented vehicles need to be slower than their gas counterparts. All in all, the powertrain of this vehicle impresses with its smoothness and seamless integration. If you aren’t paying attention, you won’t notice this is a hybrid. It is extremely impressive and really marks a milestone in the maturity of hybrid integration.
The interior is quite nice, with quality materials around, a stitched leather dash, heated and cooled seats, and a good entertainment system. The car has amazingly good rear legroom- 5 can fit with ease. While I didn’t love the overall experience with the mouse based “remote touch” input system, the steering wheel controls and dash buttons allow the user to bypass the system if they like. The stereo by Mark Levinson is very good, and the connectivity works without a hitch. Bluetooth streaming, contact syncing, and voice command all work rather well without any hiccups.
Overall, the Lexus ES300 Hybrid is a delightful car to drive and would be a good choice to own. It gets great gas mileage, is very comfortable and easy to drive, and you really cannot tell it is a hybrid at all. The gas mileage in the city is pretty amazing for a car this roomy and comfortable, and the highway mileage is good as well. Lexus did a great job with this one: the hybrid that feels and acts like a normal car, while getting all of the gas sipping benefits. If you’re getting one, do the car justice and get a vibrant color, it deserves to stand out!