Toyota South African introduced a revised version of its mid-level Lexus saloon into the local market towards the very end of last year. We recently reacquainted ourselves with the Lexus ES300h SE.
Lexus knows how to build a good saloon car, of this we are sure. Since driving the very first Lexus models to land in South Africa many years ago, we have been continually impressed by the level of refinement and luxury offered by these saloons from Japan. Every time we slide behind the wheel of one of the Japanese automaker’s products we feel a sense of occasion.
Most readers may know that Lexus is the luxury vehicle arm of Toyota. Saloon cars from the parent company are not renowned for their particularly bold styling, which is not a bad decision from Toyota considering the wide target market across the globe. It seems that Lexus is where designers get to flex their creative muscles.
Recent models from Lexus have boasted bold styling and the ES range is no different. From the three-dimensional ‘spindle’ grille on the nose to the katana-slash headlamps and arching roofline, the new ES stands out from its rivals. Incidentally, those headlamps feature triple LED technology, as do the taillamps, and all-LED turn signals. The ES300h is set apart from its siblings by wearing turbine-style alloys, designed to reduce noise, and a spoiler on the boot.
Sliding into the cabin of the Lexus ES300h is an absolute treat for the senses. Soft-feel leather covers the comfy front chairs, which feature heating (much needed in a Cape winter) and cooling functions. The steering wheel also has a built-in heater. The cashew hue seats contrast the eye-catch metallic olive green exterior. Light-coloured, unsealed wood trim complements the leather, creating the sensation of being inside a Japanese day spa – quite relaxing.
Added to these luxuries are plenty of high-tech modern conveniences. Centre stage on the facia is taken by a new, high-resolution 12,3-inch widescreen display. The screen has been brought forward by more than 100 mm and now features touch-display functionality. There is also a haptic track-pad between the front seats for added convenience. Lexus designers have also left a raft if physical buttons on the lower part of the facia for quick access to commonly used functions.
The ES has long been known for its rear passenger comfort, and the new model maintains this standard while also featuring a sleeker, sloping exterior roof line. With its long wheelbase, there is plenty of room inside the Lexus ES’ cabin. Both front and rear seat passengers can stretch out, regardless of how much legroom they require.
Chockful of features
Lexus ES300h is chockful of features, from the heated/cooled electric seats to the sunroof, to privacy shades on the rear windows, wireless phone charger, radar-based cruise control, front and rear cameras, auto wiper and lights, satellite navigation, touchless entry, etc they are all standard fittings at this level. There are no options for a potential buyer to select on this derivative, save for the colour. On top of all that Lexus SA throws in seven-year/105 000 km warranty and full maintenance plan.
One highlight of the cabin experience was the 17-speaker Mark Levinson hifi. Regardless of your choice in music, this system is extremely pleasant on the ears. Warm vocal tones, crisp instrument reproduction and punchy bass notes made us spend a few extra minutes in the cabin after each drive to let the current song song finish.
On the road
From ‘start-up’ this hybrid ES does makes no noise, which is great. Setting sail always takes place under electric power. The 2,5-litre petrol engine kicks in when the battery pack starts to run low or you demand extra power via your right foot. Such is the relaxed nature of the ES300h that we spent almost all our time behind the wheel, in the slow lane. Low noise motoring really relaxes one while driving. Lexus quotes a quite optimistic 4,6 L/100 km fuel consumption figure, which will require a very light foot to match.
Although the ES300h has three driving models, Sport, Normal and Eco, we rarely swapped between them. We think that sport mode is a complete waste of time in a car such as this. With the swap from electric to petrol and combinations of electric and petrol power so seamless, it hardly bothered us to click over to the eco setting.
Even more impressive than the engine’s power delivery is the ride quality. All independent suspension and adaptive dampers ensure a ride that is soft and smooth. This car simple wafts along unfussed by the road conditions, and it does not enjoy being hustled. There are no sporting pretensions here, and target buyers will be all the more appreciative for it.
Our opening statement referred to the quality of Lexus saloons. The Lexus ES300h just underlines the impression we have of other models from the brand. It exemplifies the traits that make Lexus such a well-respected and well-supported brand on the world stage. It’s little wonder the ES is Lexus’ most popular sedan. More than 2,3 million units have been sold across the globe since introduction.
We suspect that the Lexus comparatively small market share in SA is due to brand loyalty. If people did their homework and tried out every model in this price range, then we suspect we’d see a lot more Lexuses… (Lexii? – Ed?) on our roads.
Model: Lexus ES300h SE
Price: R948 400
Engine: 2,5-litre inline four, hybrid drive system
Transmission: CVT, FWD
Max power: 160 kW
Max torque: n/a
Top speed: 180 km/h
0-100 km/h: 8,9 sec
Fuel consumption: 4,6 L/100 km