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2013 Lexus ES300h Hybrid Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Featured, Hybrid, Lexus, Test Drives

The business of combining luxury, exceptional fuel economy numbers and suitable performance in a functional hybrid package is no easy feat. Lexus, however, has formulated the perfect balance of what a luxury hybrid should offer for the consumer in the all-new 2013 Lexus ES300h Hybrid.

The relentless pursuit of perfection has paid off well when it comes to offering a hybrid that meshes so well into the mainstream mid-sized luxury sedan market with the new 2013 Lexus ES300h. All-new for the 2013 model year, the Lexus ES receives the newfound trademark design language with the spindle Lexus grill up front. The new hybrid ES, dubbed the ES300h, is put in the mix of the V6-powered ES350 (268 horsepower – 21 mpg city 31 mpg highway) to offer uncompromised fuel efficiency without sacrificing the relaxed but pristine driving dynamics of its more powerful sibling.

The all-new 2013 Lexus ES gets a new design carrying the new signature spindle grill found throughout the new line of Lexus vehicles. The larger dimensions of the new ES open it up to receive larger seating areas and more of a broader demeanor visually on the road. The only thing signifying the new ES300h as a hybrid apart from the ES350 is its rear passenger door ‘Hybrid’ badges, the ES300h emblem on the trunk lid, and the blue-accented Lexus emblems on the front and rear.

The new 2013 Lexus ES300h is powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and electric motor, which together produce 200 horsepower. Power is fed through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to the front wheels. The new Lexus ES300h is able to make a dash from 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds (about 1 second slower than ES350), which is pretty decent for a hybrid vehicle but slightly underwhelming for a midsized luxury sedan. However, the Lexus ES300h is far from a push-over when power is demanded, even when in Eco mode.

Lexus carries over their drive select mode dial into the 2013 ES300h with Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. Interestingly enough, the Eco mode can be a desirable setting as it does not limit throttle response to the level of the vehicle falling flat at mid-range gas pedal positions. Eco mode does an excellent job to automatically sort out driving conditions to optimize fuel economy without sapping too much response and feedback from the driver. Sport mode, also utilizing the traditional hybrid features such as regenerative braking and auto start/stop, spices things up a bit by adding weight to the steering wheel, advancing the throttle response, and by default, illuminating the gauge cluster with a red accent while activating an rpm tachometer in place of the Eco metering. The Sport mode can be customized in a menu set to display the Eco meter and turn off the red colored cluster illumination.

Transitions between the engine and electric motor are virtually seamless and barely noticeable. Everything about the hybrid powertrain is smooth and well-adapted to mostly any driving style. At idle, the Lexus ES300h is nearly silent even when the 4-cylinder engine is still running. The faint hum of the electric motor, mostly noticeable during deceleration, is one of the very few audible giveaways of the ES300h being a hybrid.

In the traditional sense of Toyota and Lexus hybrids, the all-new ES300h utilizes advanced control systems to activate the electric motor running solely off of battery power when proper conditions present themselves. At times I found my Lexus ES300h test vehicle humming along at 40 mph on battery power only. In mostly Eco mode the ES300h, much like the Prius hybrid, can run on battery power at speeds below 45 mph provided you are barely accelerating. The EV mode, a mode designed to keep the vehicle using the electric motor up to 27 mph, is more of a novelty that can easily be defeated if the gas pedal is pressed too fast or too much acceleration for the motor to handle is recognized by the ECU. Around town the ES300h really shines on fuel consumption figures. I saw times where I was averaging about 45 mpg while roaming around the downtown streets of St. Augustine. Many times I was maximizing my fuel economy by only using the electric motor provided I was cautions of my gas pedal position. While the stated EPA fuel consumption estimates are 40 mpg city and 39 highway, travelling at interstate speeds and above can drastically reduce fuel economy. At times traveling 5 or even 10 mph above the stated interstate speed limit, the ES300h would reduce itself to about 33 mpg. Although, keeping a steady and reasonable highway speed, you will see realistic mpg numbers around 37 and 38 mpg.

The level of refinement in the all-new 2013 Lexus ES300h is nothing short of what you would expect in a Lexus. Fit and finish is top notch while the suspension is perfectly dampened to soak up large bumps and imperfections in the road. On the enthusiastic side of things, the Lexus ES300h is still civilized and graces out of serious lateral maneuvers with a loud howl of the 17-inch low-rolling-resistance tires. I have to say, the new Lexus ES300h, despite being a mid-sized luxury hybrid, does not promote driving crazy in any way. However, the new ES300h can still handle its own among its mid-sized brethren.

In true Lexus form, the new 2013 ES300h has a quiet cabin isolating most road and wind noises. Though, the buzzing sound of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine winding up when power is needed, comes through the firewall into the cabin as an unusual trait for a Lexus. The only take away from the new ES300h being anything un-Lexus-like is the buzz and slight drone sound from the engine bay when the upper rpm range is reached. Having a CVT transmission makes matters slightly worse under full throttle in keeping the 4-cylinder engine hovering near its 6000 rpm power sweet spot. Aside from the 4-cylinder engine noise, the ES300h is pure luxury.

Inside of the cabin the new Lexus ES300h has well-appointed and soft leather seating areas. The entire cabin, virtually identical to the V6-powered ES350, makes the best use of plastics, soft touch buttons, accent dashboard stitching and bamboo wood trim to treat passengers to a quant taste of luxury. The use of a traditional automatic transmission shifter is a wise choice that goes a long way for those who may be new to the hybrid genre of cars -instead of the Prius’ gated hodgepodge hybrid and iRobot shifter.

The seating areas of the new ES300h are larger than ever for the ES line. No longer just a dressed up Toyota Avalon or Camry, the new ES makes its sportier mark even stronger as a more refined and luxurious entry-level Lexus, even in hybrid form.

A long list of standard safety equipment graces the new Lexus ES300h starting with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, front knee airbags, Lexus Safety Connect w/automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle location and an emergency assist button. In addition to the safety blanket, the new ES300h hybrid gets standard 17-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights, fog lights, LED day-time-running lights, sunroof, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats w/ power lumbar adjustment, “NuLuxe” premium vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Lexus Safety Connect emergency communications, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

My 2013 Lexus ES300h was optioned out with a navigation system upgrade including hard-drive based GPS navigation system, backup camera, 8-inch VGA LCD screen, Lexus Enform with App Suite, Lexus Insider, voice command, in-dash DVD/CD player, HD Radio and SiriusXM Radio w/ NavTraffic. The Premium Package on my ES300h test vehicle included memory for driver’s seat, outside mirrors and power telescoping steering wheel, bamboo wood trim, and remote keyless entry-linked memory. Additional options included HID headlights, heated front seats, leather-trimmed and wood steering wheel, cargo net and trunk mat. The total as-tested price for my 2013 Lexus ES300h hybrid came to $44,524 including a $895 destination and handling charge. A base Lexus ES300h hybrid starts at just $38,850, which is about a $2,750 premium over its E350 V6-powered sibling.

Copyright: 2012


  • Price: Base ES300h $38,850.00 / As-Tested $44,524.00
  • Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder (156 horsepower) with two hybrid electric motors for total output of 200 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm / 199 lb.ft. of torque
  • Wheelbase: 111 in.
  • Overall length: 192.7 in.
  • Overall width: 71.7 in.
  • Overall height: 57.1 in.
  • Track: f/r-62.6/62 in.
  • Headroom: f/r-37.7/37.5 in. with glass sunroof
  • Legroom: f/r-41.9/40 in.
  • EPA cargo volume: 12.1 cu.ft.
  • Curb weight: 3,660 lbs.
  • Fuel tank: 17.2 gallons
  • Turning radius: 18.7 ft.
  • 0-60 mph: 8.1 seconds
  • EPA fuel economy: 40 mpg/city 39 mpg/highway
  • Range: 688 miles city / 670.8 miles highway

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