It is hard to believe that the Lexus ES saloon has been around for over 30 years. Launched alongside the first LS flagship in 1989, here in Europe we didn’t get the ES model until the seventh generation model came in 2018.
Aimed squarely at the likes of the Audi A6 and BMW 5-series, the Lexus offers a really handsome alternative to these cars. It comes to Ireland exclusively as a hybrid, in this case a 218hp 2.5-litre petrol. This might make it seem like a gas-guzzler, but it is actually anything but, managing up to 960km on a fill of the 50-litre fuel tank.
For 2022 there are gentle revisions to the styling of the ES300H, most noticeable at the front, where the imposing grille has been to the surgeons for a mid-life tweak. There are fewer vertical bars, which makes the grille look less busy. There are also changes to the headlights; there are new alloy wheels. Your opinion on a car’s design is really subjective, but this is a really handsome car and the perfect antidote to the somewhat bland ubiquity of SUVs. A lower-slung saloon doesn’t have the high and mighty feel of the SUV, but it will always handle better and if you value that, this is where this car starts to gain gold stars.
But before you jump inside, the Lexus ES300H offers something that little bit different to the slightly more generic German fare. There is a nice mix of tech and tradition, because not only do you have a 12.3” touchscreen, but there is also a plethora of buttons for the climate control and a sort of mouse/trackpad that helps you navigate the menus. It is like Lexus have given you the choice of every possible way to interact with the menus. There is of course Apple CarPlay and Android auto, which is quickly becoming the default infotainment setting in many cars, and here, when you do use it, the glorious widescreen really comes into its own. Google Maps, Spotify, Audible and the like, are displayed in as rich a way as I’ve seen in any car of late. There are other nice mixes throughout, from the traditional clock next to the aforementioned touchscreen to piano black interior with metallic details.
Hit the start button and the ES300H whirls gently to life like Macbook, with the same sort of serenity and ingenuity. Serenity really sums up this car, as it is whisper quiet. Obviously with a petrol engine on board (a 2.5-litre petrol using the Atkinson Cycle – designed to provide efficiency at the expense of power density) it can’t be as quiet as an electric vehicle (EV), but it will generally start in EV mode and flicks between the two power delivery methods in town quite often. CO2 emissions are low, just 124g/km, thanks to the combination of the petrol engine with a nickel-metal hydride battery. This powers the electric motor and stores electricity generated by driving and braking. Lexus claims that this car can return up to 5.2 l/100km under the right conditions. Despite its fuel-sipping tendencies, it is no slouch, managing the 0-100km/h sprint in just 8.9 seconds.
Safety has improved too in the ES – which is equipped with an improved version of the Lexus Safety System + package of active safety and driver assist features including a much improved pre-collision system. There is also emergency steering assist, which helps you avoid a pedestrian very close to you or on your lane.
What perhaps is most surprising about the ES is the price. At €51,595 it is really excellent value when you compare it to pretty mundane SUVs from other brands that are of a similar price, and it compared incredibly well to more traditional rivals from BMW and Audi, when it comes to value. For this you get the Dynamic grade, which really wants for nothing, coming with smart 18” alloy wheels, a sunroof, the 12.3” touchscreen, electrically adjustable driver and passenger electric seats, reverse camera, and Smart Entry. You can opt for a higher spec F Sport and Premium version, but the Dynamic version has more than enough to satisfy most buyers. If you want something a little left-field, then the ES300H is a super alternative to the more mainstream choices and it feels like a very grown up and astute choice.
LEXUS ES300H DYNAMIC
Engine: 2.5-litre petrol hybrid
0-100km/h: 8.9 seconds
Top Speed: 180km/h
Colour: Sonic titanium
Drive: Front-wheel drive
C02 (WLTP): 124g/km
Price: €53,140 (including €1,545 for metallic paint)
Starting Price: €51,595/ €409 per month