On Tuesday I received a new Lexus to test; the ES series hybrid available since early 2012. It came in “Deep Sea Mica,” blue metallic paint and it was quite attractive. I’ve previously tested six Lexus cars and SUV’s, and this ES350 looks like it may end up being my favorite. Inside it was black perforated “Semi-Aniline” (a dying process) leather throughout, courtesy of the Ultra Luxury package included on the ES. This added $2,435 to the base price of the Lexus and included power memory heated/air conditioned front buckets, ambient lighting, bamboo trim, power tilt/telescope steering column, rear sunshades, and driver’s seat power cushion extender.
Additionally, the car had blind spot monitor ($500), lane departure alert ($965), navigation package ($2,625), power trunk lid ($400), parking assist ($500), rain-sensing wipers ($155), and heated leather and wood steering wheel ($450). Thus the base price and freight pushed the total M.S.R.P. to $47,944, about $10,000 less than the Lexus GS that I drove the first week of 2013. And this latest car has hybrid technology, although it’s a bit smaller than the GS.
Speaking of hybrid technology, the ES has an Atkinson-cycle, 2.5 liter, four cylinder gasoline engine at its heart, and two electric motor/generators to chip in power. An Englishman named Atkinson obtained an American patent on the Atkinson-cycle engine over 120 years ago, but the design wasn’t favored until recently because its efficient fuel consumption aspect was more than offset by its lack of torque. Well, electric motors provide instant torque, so in the hybrid automobile the Atkinson engine goes with an electric motor like peanut butter with jelly. And in the ES300h, the total package provides 200 horsepower and runs that through a continuously-variable automatic transmission. Reportedly, top speed is 112 mph and zero to sixty acceleration takes 8.1 seconds.
Size-wise, this ES is a luxo-Camry with 111” wheelbase and a 16-foot overall length. It’s heavier than such a Toyota, though, at 3,700 lbs. with its big battery. That battery restricts the trunk to 12.1 cubic feet, and on this ES the lid powers up and down. No restriction is evident in the back seat, however, with seating for three and a big armrest in the middle. Riding anywhere in the ES300h is a pleasure, and I felt the ride was among the best (of cars I have tested) while going along the Jackrabbit Trail here in Weld County on a ride to Johnstown. That road is pretty pock-marked and in need of repair, but provided little in the way of discomfort inside this car. Outside the car, styling is suitable for me with the exception of the painted door handles. The new (to Lexus) front-end styling is fine and so is the rear with the exhaust tips concealed, hybrid-style.
EPA ratings for the ES300h are 40-city and 39-highway – electric power allows drivers to save fuel in the city. My average, driving around Greeley all week, was 34.8 mpg. It’s hard to say how much driving is necessary to make a hybrid Lexus pay off; there are other factors involved in the calculations. I noticed at Lexus.com that the base prices are $2,750 apart, so with resale value and pride of ownership, this hybrid Lexus looks like a pretty good bet to me.