Lexus ES 300h: ‘Executive Sedan’ or ‘Easy-going & Silent’?

Gatecrashing the party of the German trio (the 5 Series, E-Class & A6) who are the mainstays of the segment, the ES offers luxury car buyers something that the others don’t: a distinctive hybrid powertrain, an eye-catching design & luxury that’s focused on comfort + longevity rather than outright flamboyance, all the while still managing to undercut its competition on the pricing front.


  • Comfortable seats
  • Hybrid powertrain
  • Well insulated cabin, low NVH levels


  • Not for driving enthusiasts
  • Less equipment on offer as compared to rivals
  • Sales & service network is limited

It might not be as dynamically sound as the 5 Series or even have the opulence of the E-Class, but the ES sure does turn heads wherever it wafts to in its lavishness. It’s also Lexus’ best-selling model in India; let’s find out today why that is.

Everything about the way that the ES 300h drives seems to say: ‘Chill out, calm down & take it easy.’ But wait, there’s 1 aspect that’s absolutely not about serenity on this luxo-barge & that’s the way it looks, especially the oversized spindle grille at the front.

It’s powered by a 2.5 litre 4-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine based on the Atkinson cycle producing 178 HP & 221 N-m while working in combination with a permanent magnet electric motor on the front axle which produces 120 HP & 202 N-m, getting its power from a 1.6kWh nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery in the boot. However, the powertrain doesn’t operate as a combined unit, so you’re left with a combined 218 HP instead of a theoretical maximum possible of 298 HP & 423 N-m. These figures might seem mid-range on this class of car especially considering it’s packaged with an electronic continuously variable transmission, but real-world performance doesn’t exactly seem lacking.

The ES starts up in complete silence as a pure electric vehicle & offers an electric-only mode but has no EV range listed as it is said to operate only up to speeds of 50kmph & at part throttle openings. While we found the powertrain to switch to the IC-engine at anything over a dab on the throttle, we did also see the motor provide assistance at up to highway speeds, but only with a very light touch on the throttle.

The e-CVT mated to this powertrain does a fine job and when you drive in an unhurried manner, you will really appreciate it for its smoothness. Yes, drive aggressively & you can hear it whine a little & the paddle shifters seem to be a bit artificial at their job. Overall, it doesn’t offer an engaging or entertaining driving experience & lacks the fun factor that its German counterparts offer.

Moving on, the steering feels perfectly weighted in any of the drive modes, with the surprise being the tight 5.9m turning radius which is far shorter than anything else in the segment. Driving the big ES around is a breeze with great visibility despite its length & everything from lane changes to hitting apexes is handled with great confidence & predictability. However, there is a fair amount of lean when you’re hustling the ES to keep you from pushing too hard.

We’re happy to report that its ride quality is well judged for our Indian road conditions & that’s despite the tall 18-inch alloys. The suspension cushions you from the worst of shocks & coupled with bucketloads of sound-deadening materials + insulation; it makes for a hushed, relaxed & comfortable drive experience.

The car deals with undulating road surfaces with a relaxed, comfortable demeanour at city speeds. Despite being softly sprung, the vertical motions are kept well in check and even at highway speeds, the undulations are taken in with supple composure. Since it’s a low-slung car, the large and abrupt speed breakers need to be taken with caution and we’d surely avoid pothole-infested patches of the road.

The biggest talking point on the inside is the large 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s angled towards the driver for easier reach & convenience. Touch sensitivity’s good, the display’s crisp & very easy to use. Those who prefer using physical buttons will be happy to find shortcut buttons, steering controls & also a trackpad controller. In-built navigation, Android Auto & Apple Carplay are on offer too.

Open-pore walnut trims on the dashboard, door pads, steering & on the other bits add to the sense of occasion on the inside. Among other things, the analogue clock looks exquisite and the superbly cushioned leather seats feel extremely comfortable & luxurious, both at the front & at the rear.

There’s a long feature list which includes a sunroof, 3-zone climate control, electric boot lid, powered seats with memory function, electric steering wheel adjust, wireless charger, heads-up display, rear parking camera, ambient lighting, sunshades for the rear doors + rear windshield & the ability for the rear seat passengers to control the infotainment & climate controls, quite authoritarian I say! Lest we forget, there’s also a brilliant sounding 17-speaker Mark Levinson music system. As for safety, there are 10 airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX, TPMS & stability control as standard.

The ES has its own unique character, being more than the sum of its parts & not just a Toyota Camry in fancy-pants with an expensive top hat.

So, if you’re in the market for an excellent left-field option in the luxury sedan segment, the Lexus ES 300h is your best bet. You get bragging rights on several fronts, from the way it looks outside & feels inside, to the superb refinement, its supple ride quality & the icing on the cake being the mileage it offers, comparable to small entry-level hatchbacks, which satieties the average Indian mindset of “Kitna deti he?”. You’ll also be able to hold the (slightly higher) moral high ground at the same time as you’re driving around in a relatively eco-friendly hybrid.

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Tanmay Kulkarni
Tanmay Kulkarni

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