2016 Lexus ES 300h hybrid review: Practicality with sparkling fuel economy

2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid

The 2016 Lexus ES 300h gas/electric hybrid sedan is a no-brainer for the average fuel/environmental-conscious owner. It’s fuel-stingy, roomy, smooth and upscale enough to cause neighbors to nod in approval.

Appearance changes are fairly modest to this mid-sized, front-drive sedan. It has a redesigned front fascia, with a “bolder” one-piece version of the Lexus oversized grille framed by satin chrome trim. There’s also new headlights and fog lights at the corners of the front to accentuate the car’s wide stance.

The $40,920 ES 300h also a discreet rear spoiler and a few “hybrid” exterior markings, but the new, sportier looking steering wheel lacks a power adjustment.

2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid

The only noteworthy change for the 2017 Lexus ES 300h is more standard, formerly optional safety technology from the Lexus Safety System, such as adaptive cruise control.

Of course, the highlight of the ES 300h is its Hybrid Drive system. It combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor to generate 200 total system horsepower. The car runs on electric motor or gas engine alone, or a combination of both, based on the driving situation.

An electronic continuously variable automatic transmission contributes to the ES 300h’s smooth operation. The driver can choose one of four transmission modes: Normal, Sport, Eco and EV. I found that Normal or Eco worked fine most of the time.

2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid

However, if you want some excitement, switch to Sport mode, which Lexus says is for such things as “precise handling on mountain roads.” It changes the gauge cluster lighting to a fiery red and replaces the Hybrid System Indicator, which encourages economy driving, with a tachometer. I must admit that this change at first took me by surprise.

Estimated fuel economy of the 3,660-pound car is 40 miles per gallon in the city and 39 on highways.  Only 87-octane gasoline is needed and there’s a 17.2-gallon fuel tank.

The ES 300h is lively, if not a barn burner. Lexus says the 0-60 mph time is 8.1 seconds, although my test car felt faster. It easily kept pace with fast freeway traffic. Safe 65-75 mph passing was a breeze.

Steering was precise, and handling was good, helped by high body rigidity, front/rear stabilizer bars, vehicle stability/traction control and 17-inch alloy wheels. An all-independent suspension with gas-pressurized shock absorbers helped provide a comfortable ride. Brakes stopped the car quickly, with a firm pedal.

2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid

There are plenty of cabin storage areas, and the trunk is large, although its wide opening is a little high.

The ES 300h is essentially a family car, so its safety systems start with 10 standard air bags and continue with a wide array of driver-assist technologies, which are standard or optional.

Standard are such items as anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and electronic brake force distribution and Smart Stop technology.

Optional is the Lexus Safety System. It combines a pre-collision system, lane-departure alert with steering assist and high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, which can warn a driver of a possible collision and initiate automatic braking with brake assist.

An optional Blind Spot Monitor with rear-cross-traffic alert helps detect vehicles in side blind spots and alerts a driver to oncoming rear cross traffic when backing out of a parking space. This option is definitely handy for drivers who use shopping center or restaurant parking lots.

Standard items in the ultra-quiet, upscale piano-black-trimmed interior with its added soft-touch materials include a push-button starter and automatic dual-zone climate control. There also are power front seats, one-touch open/close tilt-and-slide sunroof, power mirrors and a premium audio system with eight speakers.

2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid

Door open wide, and there’s comfortable room for four tall adults, although the large front console eats up a lot of room. Five adults fit, if the fifth doesn’t mind a stiff center backseat section best occupied by the large folding armrest with cupholders.

Small touches show Lexus carefully thought out the ES 300h. For instance, there’s anti-chip paint on lower body parts, smoothed airflow beneath the car for better driver control and fuel economy and a front suspension with opposite-wound coil springs to help enhance straight-line stability.

One of the most impressive things about my test ES 300h was that its fuel gauge needle hardly moved during several days of normal driving.

Buy itOn the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy It,
  • Lease It,
  • Rent It,
  • or Forget It,

The 2016 Lexus ES300h gets a Buy It!

Check out this related TFLcar video of the sportier side of the Lexus brand, the 2017 Lexus GS F: