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  • 2017 Lexus ES 300h

    Posted on September 20th, 2017 ninarussin

    Entry luxury sedan gets new standard safety technology

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    The ES 300 and ES 300h are the entry luxury members of the Lexus sedan family that also includes the sporty GS and high luxury LS series. Because the ES is approximately the same size as the Toyota Camry, some folks assume that the Lexus is a dressed-up version of Toyota’s best-selling passenger car.

    While both vehicles share the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, continuously-variable automatic transmission and similar hybrid componentry, they have very distinct personalities. The Lexus has a two-inch longer wheelbase for more second-row passenger space. Suspension layouts and tire and wheel packages for the two cars are also different.

    For 2017, Lexus adds some important active safety technology as standard equipment to the ES 300h as part of Lexus Safety System +, that was an option for 2016. It includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure assist and intelligent high-beam headlamps.

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    Base price for the ES 300h is $41,820 excluding the $975 destination charge. Options on the test car include blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, LED headlamps, Mark Levinson premium audio system with navigation and Lexus Enform, power trunk, interior trim package including wood accents, driver and passenger seat memory, heated and ventilated front seats, power rear sunshades, ambient lighting and power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a heated steering wheel.

    Final MSRP is $49,775.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2017 Lexus 300h

    2017 Lexus 300h

    This week I put the ES 300h through its paces in Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as along the Bush Highway that runs north-to-south through the foothills of the Superstition Mountains east of town.

    Although it can’t quite match the agile steering response of the rear-wheel drive GS, the front-wheel drive ES 300h is a solid performer, with 8.1-second zero-to-sixty acceleration and a firm but accommodating suspension.

    The Hybrid Synergy Drive system remains an industry standard for its invisibility to the driver and long-term reliability. The system employs two electric motors, one up front and the second driving the rear axle, with a nickel-metal hydride battery pack located between the rear seats and trunk.

    Because its curb weight is 111-pounds higher than the gasoline model, zero-to-sixty acceleration is about a second slower. Buyers also lose about three cubic feet of cargo space due to the battery pack location.

    2017 Lexus 300h

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    On the flip side, hybrid owners enjoy significant gains in terms of fuel economy: 40 miles-per-gallon on average as compared to 24 for the ES 350. For drivers who spend most of their time in stop-and-go traffic the advantage is even greater, since hybrids provide maximum fuel economy in city driving. EPA estimated city mileage for the ES 300h is 40 mpg, versus 21 for the ES 350.

    Front-to-rear weight balance is also slightly better for the hybrid, with 41 percent of vehicle weight in the back versus 39 percent for the gasoline car: this due to the battery pack and the fact that the ES 350 has a larger, heavier engine. This, together with the motor-driven rear axle gives the hybrid sedan slightly better cornering, at least in this writer’s opinion.

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    Visibility around the sedan perimeter is good. Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots, making it easier and safer to weave through dense, rush-hour traffic. The standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse, eliminating blind spots around the rear pillars and beneath the rear glass.

    Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior so both rows of passengers can converse on the highway or enjoy the exceptional sound quality of the Mark Levinson audio system.

    Spacious interior

    Lexus ES 300h Interior

    Lexus ES 300h Interior

    The ES sedan’s quiet, spacious interior is ideal for long commutes and extended road trips. For carpools on the Monday-to-Friday drive-to-work, second-row passengers should find ample head, hip and legroom. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear view out the front with plenty of lower lumbar support.

    Standard keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob in the pre-dawn hours or after dark. Memory settings make it easier for multiple family members to share the driving.

    The Lexus navigation system is easy to program. Drivers can save addresses for future reference or points of interest. Lexus Enform enables the driver to call an off-site answering service to get turn-by-turn directions downloaded into the vehicle. I’ve found it extremely helpful in situations when it is inconvenient or unsafe to pull off the road in-order-to program the navigation system.

    Both the dual-zone climate control and infotainment settings are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. Standard convenience features include Siri Eyes-Free, satellite radio and Bluetooth interface. The navigation package adds, real-time traffic and weather updates, traffic detour previews, voice recognition and speed limits.

    Although the hybrid sedan’s trunk has plenty of room for the weekly groceries and luggage, it’s less ideal for buyers who want to carry large gear on a regular basis. Cyclists would need to add a hitch-mounted rack or consider one of the Lexus hybrid crossovers.

    Standard safety

    The Lexus 300h comes with front, side, side curtain, driver and front passenger knee airbags, daytime running lamps, Lexus Safety System +, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, daytime running lamps and tire pressure monitoring. The Lexus 300h received a five-star federal crash test rating from NHTSA.

    Lexus builds the 300h at its assembly plant in Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan.

    Like: A stylish luxury sedan with intuitive hybrid system that adds exceptional fuel economy.

    Dislike: Small trunk makes the sedan less suitable for buyers who carry large cargo. Expensive option packages add considerable cost over the base sticker price.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: 300h
    Year: 2017
    Base price: $41,820
    As tested: $49,775
    Horsepower: 156 HP @ 5700 rpm (gasoline engine). 200 net horsepower.
    Torque: 156 lbs.-ft. @ 4500 rpm (gasoline engine)
    Zero-to-sixty: 8.1 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 40/39 mpg city/highway

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