By on August 19, 2019

2019 Lexus ES 300h

2019 Lexus ES 300h

2.5-liter four-cylinder and hybrid battery (215 system, 176 engine horsepower @ 5,700 rpm; 163 lb-ft @ 3,600-5,200 rpm)

Continuously-variable automatic, front-wheel drive

43 city / 45 highway / 44 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

5.5 city, 5.2 highway, 5.3 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $44,960 (U.S) / $61,500 (Canada)

As Tested: $54,405 (U.S.) / $234,995 (Canada)

Prices include $1,025 destination charge in the United States and $3,075 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

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.

2019 Lexus ES 300h

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.

2019 Lexus ES 300h

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.

2019 Lexus ES 300h

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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22 Comments on “2019 Lexus ES 300h Ultra Luxury Review – Attempting to Make a Statement...”


  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Wonder how much space the batteries take up in the trunk. I recall on previous Toyota sedans that were pressed into hybrid duty (not named Prius) that a large chunk of the trunk was taken, and the opening became a mail slot to move luggage through.

    Until Lexus tones down the Predator grille, and I recently used that mouse-like driven infotainment system and found it distracting to the point of dangerous, I think Lexus still has some work to do. They have been living on their reputation of quality cars, which is a reputation that a lot of car makers would kill for, but they just have those glaring problems staring at them in the face. I’ve asked those who are looking at cars in that segment, and for those who like Lexus, but won’t buy one, all say that it is because they can’t get over that awful front.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      As noted in the review, the mouse-like control (which I guess technically was more of a joystick than a mouse, but I know what you mean) has been replaced by a touch pad. This is an example of needing to be careful of what you wish for, as the touch pad is worse.

      – – –

      “without sacrificing the isolating comfort Lexus is known for.” Not with this model specifically, but I’ve read comments in Lexus forums within the past few years complaining about the newer models’ suspension/wheel/tire set-ups. This does, of course, parallel the market in general. Sound deadening has remained a brand strength.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The best powertrain for these (short of an all-electric one) would be the one from the RX450h. Four-cylinder noise, no matter how muted, doesn’t quite fit the character of the car.

    Also, if you are in the market for any non-F Lexus to begin with, you’ll *always* do better by picking the “Luxury” or “Ultra Luxury” package, as on this car, than the F Sport package. Lexus Luxury Packages bring you a higher grade of leather, among other extra features that vary by model, and they always make the car feel a good deal more special.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “Sure, it’s no sport sedan…Sports sedan it may not be,”

    This isn’t a specific dig at you but can we review cars for what they are not what they are not? This is nice quite car designed to relax you on the way home from the office. To that end – did it have full range cruise control? How well did it work inching its way through traffic? If you need to dial into a conference call on your way home how’s the bluetooth sound quality? What’s the interior sound level vs. the competition?

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      I hate to complain about something I get for free, but a lot of reviews on TTAC these days are just phoned in. The site is increasingly a news aggregator combined with some USA-today level reviews

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Fair criticism. I sometimes get caught up in the idea that we’re all enthusiasts here who want cars that are “sporty.”

      I rarely use cruise control, but the Bluetooth was as good as any other.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I’m still not in favor of Bangled “challenging” styling, but the spindle grill works better here than it does on the GX or LX. The little CUV may be the worst, with a spindle that looks incomplete.

    The touchpad may not be good, but I’m loving the buttons and knobs grouped by function on the dash. How often do you have to use the stupid why-tech that lesser cars offer no alternative to?

  • avatar
    cprescott

    I am so tired of the excuse for Japanese vehicles that were once considered “boring” have to now invoke vomit-inducing ugliness as a replacement. There is nothing luxurious about this rolling heap of barf. The grill is hideous. The sides look like a softened Toyoduh. The interior is a disaster of shapes and concepts. This is not a hint of talent or style here.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Ask someone versed in manufacturing, how little talent it takes to reliably, consistently and efficiently build front ends like the ones Lexus are currently doing….. While looks will always be in the eyes of beholders, if you’re going to charge above-commodity-prices for a product, cars, which have been commoditized since the 90s, there are less talented ways of doing so, than styling them in ways peddlers of cheaper warez simply cannot reliably successfully replicate at production scale.

  • avatar
    loner

    Count me among the few who like the external styling, but maybe the car looks better when seen through my rose-colored Lexus fanboy goggles.

    That dashboard, though. It lacks balance or a cohesive design theme. I think it’s hard on the eyes.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    You could change about a dozen words in this review and it’d be the same one that’s been written about both the ES and the Avalon for about the last 15 years.

    For my money, when you combine the increased edginess and angularity of the new Camry with the visible downgrade of interior materials on the dash and console of the ES, it robs the Lexus of what little visual distinction it had over the Camry before. Like the Maxima, this is getting to be a harder and harder sale, although the superior quality and brand equity of Lexus will lead to a somewhat more profitable outcome in the short run.

  • avatar
    alfaromeo

    234K in Canadian dollars, really?!

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I like the styling, it just sucks for those people that live in states that require front license plates.

    I’ve owned two Lexus ES, I love the cars. Not everyone needs a “sports sedan” some people actually want a luxury car. Ask Cadillac how they’ve doing trying to be BMW.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I actually like this new design at least outside. Haven’t been inside.

    But I’ll freely admit that I used to be in the “boring looking boring to drive I hate Lexus” camp. Then I drove a last gen car. Which had its issues, certainly.

    But you start up that butter smooth V6. You pull out on the road and it accelerates well with little noise or fanfare. You set your auto climate control. You relax in the nice soft seats. You hit potholes or expansion joints and the car just eats them.

    It had been a very long time since I’d been in a car where it takes some stress out of your world.

    So, I get this car. I like the new style. It seems the interior is a step up over the last car. If they keep the engine and ride characteristics of the old car, it can’t get much better IMHO. Won’t break, good resale, good dealer experience. They’ll sell plenty.

    With that said Lexus entertainment interface is GOD AWFUL. Touchpad or mouse thing, both are atrocious. That ignores the unintuitive menus etc. Toyota does so much well but they’re worse than any other system from any other automaker that I’ve experienced. Knock off BMW or Audi or copy Sync with a bit crisper graphics or something. It’s almost bad enough you would consider another car just to avoid living with this Lexus system.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Same old ugly, boring, fancy Camry it has ever been.

  • avatar
    AdamOfAus

    I think the infotainment integration is fine. Those ugly troll horns above the cluster look horrible though.


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