2019 Lexus ES 300h Ultra Luxury Review - Attempting to Make a Statement
2019 Lexus ES 300h
Automotive journalists have long labeled the Lexus ES, and especially the hybrid version, as “boring.”
Count me among that number.
To its credit, Lexus has worked to remedy that reputation. The current-gen ES is still no sex machine or thrilling sports ride, but it’s more engaging than before without sacrificing the isolating comfort Lexus is known for. A new F Sport model does provide a bit more pizzazz, but even the fuel-saving hybrid is less of a snooze-fest than before.
I got my hands on one in North Carolina earlier this year, just to get a sense of how much less yawn-inducing it is than before.
(Full disclosure: Sometimes a press loan can be arranged while traveling. Other than the loan itself, I received no special consideration from Lexus, and I paid for gas, parking, and car wash out of pocket. The press fleet did pick up the minimal toll charges.)
It starts with the styling. Love or hate the “spindle” grille Lexus is so fond of these days, at least the brand is trying to make a statement. Personally, my feelings toward this particular front end vary based on application, and it doesn’t work quite as well here as it does on other products in the lineup, such as the larger LS. The longish hood and short deck lead to a slightly out-of-proportion look.
Still, at least the new ES won’t get lost in the Eddie Bauer parking lot quite as easily.
Inside, the story is similar. It seems Lexus is taking a love-it-or-leave it tack these days. I found the sloping lines to work well, but the button layout is haphazard, the touchpad controller for the infotainment takes some getting used to, and the infotainment system itself feels a bit like an afterthought, tacked atop the dash as it is. Control stalks sprouting like wings from the instrument cluster are just as weird in this Lexus as they are in other products bearing the brand’s name.
Weird looks are one thing, how a car drives is another. And while previous ES’s suffered in this department, the newest iteration is an improvement, even in hybrid guise.
Sure, it’s no sport sedan. Put it in the sportiest drive mode, and it’s somewhat engaging when attacking an on-ramp, but fun-to-drive is low on the priority list. To Lexus’ credit, the ES hybrid’s steering system does feel connected to the road and well-weighted – the disconnected steering feel of previous-gen cars is long gone.
Sports sedan it may not be, but the ES serves much better as serene-yet-not-soft interstate cruiser.
Mating a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor for 215 system horsepower (176 from the gas engine, 39 from the motor) and 163 lb-ft of torque, the ES is no rocket, but the car accelerates adequately despite the relatively low torque figure.
As is the usual case with Lexus, the in-cabin materials mostly feel appropriately upscale for the price point and the seats were nice and comfortable for longer stints.
Hybrid buyers are usually shopping on fuel economy, of course, and the 2019 Lexus ES 350h checks in at 43 mpg city/45 mpg highway/44 mpg combined.
Luxury brands like Lexus promise plenty of standard features, and the ES 350h doesn’t disappoint. Dual-zone climate control, push button start, rear spoiler, moonroof, infotainment system, heated and cooled seats, hands-free trunk, and power rear sunshade are standard.
Options included blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, parking assist, 360-degree camera, rear pedestrian detection, navigation, Apple CarPlay, wireless cell-phone charge, premium audio, and heated steering wheel. All told, the sticker came to $54,405, including the $1,025 destination charge.
Lexus’ styling statement may fall a bit short for most, but the ES hybrid remains a solid sedan, and it has shed its boring roots. It’s no laugh riot, but it’s no snoozefest, either.
Executive transport for the middle manager is just fine when it’s smooth and stately. Those words fit the bill nicely when describing the ES.
[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]
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