Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota, was founded back in 1989 but only came to market with two vehicles at that time. The first vehicle, which began development six years prior to Lexus' launch, was the LS and it's still on sale today. The second vehicle to be available upon Lexus' initial launch was the ES and, like the LS, is also still available today. As a matter of fact, the ES is now in its sixth generation of production and has continuously been a strong seller for Lexus. For the 2012 model year, Lexus began offering a hybrid variant of the ES to customers promising both luxury and hearty fuel economy. A year later, the Lexus ES 300h lives on and after spending a week with it, we had a chance to see firsthand if the ES 300h delivers on that promise. Check out what we found.
Model and PriceOur 2013 Lexus ES 300h test car started at a modest $38,850, but that price escalated to $46,084 after various options and a delivery, processing, and handling fee were tacked on. The most expensive option, a navigation system with a backup camera, 8-in. infotainment screen, a single DVD/CD player, and XM radio, was included on our ES 300h tester and rang in at $2,625. The Luxury Package was the second most expensive feature included on the ES 300h at $1,370. A Blind Spot Monitoring system ($500), high intensity discharge headlights ($515), a power rear shade ($210), Parking Assist ($500), and a leather trimmed shift knob and steering wheel ($450) round out the options on our 2013 Lexus ES 300h.
Safety and Key FeaturesIn the event of an accident, the 2013 Lexus ES 300h deploys a slew of airbags including dual front, knee, front and rear seated mounted, and side curtain pillows. Other standard safety features include outboard seatbelt pretensioners, vehicle stability control, ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, energy managing crumple zones, and a tire pressure monitoring system. The 2013 Lexus ES 300h earned five stars across the board after being crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did not rate the hybrid ES for the 2013 model year.
Family Friendliness and UtilityWith almost four feet of rear legroom, unless you're Shaquille O'Neal, you'll have no issue stretching out in the back of the 2013 Lexus ES 300h, and since Shaq is pitching Buicks these days, it shouldn't be a problem. The rear doors open up wide making it easy for either children or adults to climb in and out. Installing a child's seat is simple with the wide rear doorways and the LATCH points, positioned at the base of the seat, which are easily accessible. Our 2013 Lexus ES 300h swallowed up a week's worth of groceries for a family of five in the trunk too with room to spare for a baby stroller.
Comfort and QualityIt's no LS, but the 2013 Lexus ES 300h does its best impression of its bigger sibling when cruising down the street. Both the front and rear seats provide enough space for you to sprawl out, no matter your body type. Up front, headroom is plentiful, with 37.5 inches of real estate available which is adequate for any full-grown adult. In the back, headroom dimensions are the exact same as the front seats, but we still found ourselves slumping to avoid brushing the headliner; go figure. Once you find that sweet spot in the rear seat though, the 2013 Lexus ES 300h is as comfortable as they come. The leather seats were comfortable, soft, and supportive but the interior plastics surrounding them were a little harder than we expected. It was especially noticeable on the door panels, lower dash, and center console.
How it DrivesPavement, asphalt, gravel, bridge grates; it doesn't matter, the 2013 Lexus ES 300h floats over everything. The four-wheel independent MacPherson strut suspension and gas pressurized shocks give the ES 300h a comfortable ride whether it's just you behind the wheel or you're transporting a car full of people and goods. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and high output electric drive motor work together to put out 200 horsepower, routing it through a continuously variable transmission to the front wheels. During its stay with us, we observed an average fuel economy of 35.6 mpg, not too shabby when compared to the 37.6 mpg actual owners have been observing. However, no matter how tamely we drove, we were unable to consistently replicate the EPA's official estimate of 40 mpg combined. A knob right next to your right knee cap offers three settings: Eco, Normal, and Sport. While both Eco and Normal mode were relatively similar in fuel economy, comfortable ride feel, and smooth acceleration, the Sport mode gave the ES 300h a small kick. When you select Sport mode, the 2013 Lexus ES 300h gains a tachometer where an Eco indicator once stood, and the continuously variable transmission simulates a conventional transmission in shift feel. We're not calling the ES fun in sport mode, but it's certainly more engaging than we'd have expected.
SummaryWith gas prices continuing to be unpredictable, hybrid, all-electric, and other alternatively fueled vehicles are getting longer looks by those perusing dealership lots. This is evident already by the hordes or Toyota Prii running around everywhere but what about those who want some luxury with their fuel economy? Here's where Toyota's posh arm, Lexus, comes into play. With the 2013 Lexus ES 300h, you don't get overwhelmed by anything in particularly, but everything as a whole works quietly and seamlessly together to create a comfortable, quiet, and fuel efficient ride. If you're looking for a vehicle that excels in the fuel economy department, delivers a comfortable ride, and upmarket feel, then the 2013 Lexus ES 300h should make your search a short one.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $46,084
EPA City: 40 mpg
EPA Highway: 39 mpg
EPA Combined: 40 mpg
Cargo Space: 15 grocery bags
Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Excellent
Estimated Combined Range: 688 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Excellent