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2019 Lexus ES 300H First Drive: A Nice Blend of Tech and Efficiency

by Danny Zepeda | November 11, 2018November 11, 2018 8:30 am PST

When Lexus reached out offering the opportunity to drive the 2019 Lexus ES 300H, I hesitated because we tend to lean toward more sporty vehicles. The ES line isn’t known for its sporty nature. In fact, it’s mostly associated with an older, more subdued demographic.

However, Lexus overhauled the design, especially the interior, with inclusions like CarPlay that promise to provide a new experience. I ultimately decided to give the ES 300H a show and I’m glad I did, because I came away remarkably impressed.

A few years ago, Lexus realized their cars weren’t appealing to drivers anymore, especially younger ones, and it decided to modernize the design language. Creases became sharper, the headlights turned meaner and the overall design is now more pleasing to the eye. The move produced the polarizing spindle grille, which I happen to be a fan of, so I like the new Lexus design.

That striking characteristic has made its way to the ES and it contributes to the rebirth of the line, most notably the ES 300H, which has no business being this sporty.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about the engine responsible for the ES 300H’s fantastic mileage. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter in-line 4-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing that produces 215 horsepower, a modest bump up from the 200 horsepower of last year’s model.

The sheer power of the engine won’t blow you away but it provides plenty of pep to speed through empty highways. But its exceptional quality is its fuel efficiency. Lexus says the ES 300H will get 43 city and 45 highway miles per gallon. On a full tank of gas, the engine has a range of over 540 miles, meaning it can take you just about anywhere short of a long road trip without refueling.

To put it to the the test, I planned out a mini road trip with my wife that had me taking the Interstate 405 north out of Orange County up to Santa Clarita. From there, we made our way to the Malibu coast where we stopped by Zuma Beach and found a nice trail to hike. After that, we made our day down to Santa Monica, before heading back to the OC.

In total, we travelled 199.8 miles and to my surprise, we only consumed a quarter of the tank. It goes without saying but this engine is super fuel efficient.

During the road trip, I got really familiar with the interior of the ES 300H. Like past Lexus vehicles, it is very upscale with a lot of leather and wood trims that enhance the level of luxury. The 10-way power seats are comfortable and completely adjustable to any angle.

Lexus achieved something special with the car’s cabin by making it radio silent. That’s a bit of an exaggeration on my part, but driving the car provides a very serene experience where you don’t hear unwanted noise from the road or a loud, clicking engine. To make this possible, Lexus used a Hybrid Acoustic system that consists of sound dampening and noise cancelling technology.

Where Lexus is truly proud of the ES 300H is with all of the tech additions. The digital instrument cluster returns as does the gigantic 12.3-inch display that delivers information in a very succinct manner. Not much changed with either of their functions. The digital instrument cluster is still the center circle with the speedometer and tachometer that changes themes when you switch from Eco to Sport modes. It’s flanked on the left by a square display that shows driving information such as range, compass and other details. The 12.3-inch display is the medium through which Lexus’ multimedia system comes to life.

What is new is that Lexus now supports Apple CarPlay, and it works wonderfully with the extra wide display. I’ve never been a fan of Lexus’ infotainment system and CarPlay erases that by delivering the services that I value most, including Overcast, Spotify, and Google Maps.

About the only downside is that you control it through Lexus’ weird trackpad that is not as precise as regular touch controls, but it does offer solid feedback through a satisfying haptic vibration. It ended up growing on me the more I drove the car.

One of the more impressive tech features is the wireless charger underneath the armrest. It’s completely overkill but it’s still great to have in a luxury car. Lexus is following the lead set by other car manufacturers and that’s very much appreciated because I’m a big fan of wireless charging.

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The ES 300H comes equipped with all the elements of Lexus’s Safety System including Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Tracing Assist and Lane Departure Alert with Auto Steering. Each works solid but not any better than the competition like Tesla. I mostly utilized the lane keep assist, which did a great job of making sure I stayed within the lane.

At a base price of $41,310 that can get as high as $50,020 with all the bells and whistles, the Lexus ES 300H gets kind of pricey for what it is—an uber comfortable hybrid that has a nice touch of luxury and tech.

That being said, I know it has a market with customers who value comfort over sportiness. Lucky for them, the ES 300H offers a lot of the former and fair amount of the latter.

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Danny Zepeda

Born and raised in Southern California, Danny grew up on a steady diet Pixar, Star Wars and Steven Spielberg movies. Unbeknownst to him, this was...

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