Sometimes it takes money to save (gas) money
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TThe bold metallic blue Lexus ES 300h hybrid delivered to my driveway had a sport-sedan stance in black 19-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tires. The look called out a swaggering F Sport attitude. And this from a gasoline-electric hybrid? It surely was not an expected presentation by this elite luxury brand.
The midsize ES sedan, now in its seventh generation, has been the mature choice for luxurious style — and the more of its luxe, the better. Of the 11 nameplates in the Lexus lineup, the ES ranks fourth in sales, behind three SUVs, the midsize RX, large LX, and compact NX.
And seven of those 11 nameplates are available as a hybrid, including a new plug-in NX SUV hybrid.
The Lexus ES 300h hybrid is a sugar cube of civil obedience. It is elegant, efficient, and somewhat expected of polite company. But the new-for-2022 F Sport package rocks the teacup, which Lexus hopes will tempt younger buyers.
Once a platform partner with the Toyota Camry, the ES was moved to the Toyota Avalon architecture in 2012. That separation for the ES added a longer wheelbase (now at 113 inches) and 3.8 inches in length. The cabin is a bit wider and lower, both by 0.4 inch.
The Camry and Avalon also are available in hybrid powertrains, and both have liberally shared interior elements.
With a complete redesign expected for 2025, the 2022 Lexus ES was given a light exterior refresh with a few new exterior and interior colors. However, more significant updates were made to the multimedia system, touchscreen controls, and touchpad. In addition, safety and performance features were enhanced. And while Lexus has offered its F Sport package throughout the lineup, the ES 300h F Sport is new for 2022.
Among the exterior updates are a new mesh-pattern grille and redesigned bi-LED headlights. But the F Sport gets its own mesh grille treatment with a dark border. And the rear suspension was tightened with a new brace for torsional rigidity.
The ES brake system was tweaked on both gas and hybrid models. The brake pedal shape was enlarged for foot stability. On gas-engine models, the brake system master cylinder and booster were refined for more linear brake pedal feel and response. And the hybrid’s regenerative and hydraulic brake system was improved for pedal feel when the brake pedal is released.
Lexus ES Multimedia Updates
The standard 8.0-inch and optional 12.3-inch color multimedia displays were moved forward 4.3-inches and have touchscreen functionality. And the remote touchpad on the shift console was recalibrated for a less touchy response.
Additional interior updates for 2022 include a streamlined instrument panel design to make it easier for the front passenger to adjust cabin functions.
The improved interior technologies are so much easier to use now, though it might not seem so at first look. A lot of information is displayed on the two touchscreens, plus the upper and lower tiers of controls on the center console stack.
The presentation is almost information overload. But tiers of switches and buttons are very handy to make cabin adjustments without using the touchpad or the touchscreen.
The ES is available in eight trim levels with three powertrain choices:
- 203-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine;
- 302-hp 3.5 liter V-6;
- 215-hp, 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder and lithium-ion battery pack.
All-wheel-drive is available in the entry ES 250 AWD. Gas-powered models have an eight-speed automatic transmission and the hybrid trims have a continuously variable automatic.
Starting prices range from $42,950 for the ES 250 AWD with the 2.5-liter engine and V-6npowered ES 350. The ES 300h starts at $44,050 or $47,600 for ES 300h F Sport. Pricing includes the freight charge from Georgetown, Ky.
The ES 300h F Sport tester was $52,260 with nine options, including $595 for the Ultrasonic Blue 2.0 paint. (View standard equipment and option details in the specs chart at the end of this story.)
Lexus ES starting prices are comparable to the BMW 330e and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. But the BMW is a plug-in hybrid and Mercedes doesn’t offer a C-Class hybrid.
Check current ES hybrid pricing and incentives here.
Basic vehicle warranty coverage is for 4-years/50,000-miles bumper to bumper and 6-years/70,000-miles for the powertrain. The hybrid components are covered for 8-years/100,000-miles, including the hybrid battery voltage sensor, power management control module, and inverter with converter. The Lexus hybrid battery warranty coverage is for 10-years/150,000-miles.
While the ES is richly appointed in areas seen and touched, there are some Toyota-grade plastics with some rough edges in the lower areas.
Those initial observations will fade as the Lexus ES finds its high-fidelity groove in your daily life.
The styling stance of the ES is more sport sedan than family car. Front headroom of 37.5 inches with the moonroof could be limiting to some big-and-tall drivers. But the structure provides clear sightlines at the side mirrors and over the shoulder.
The F Sport front seats are bolstered but not so much as to complicate comfortable entry and exit. And their design has long road-trip support and comfort.
The F Sport influence is contemporary, with no wood trim anywhere. The headliner and roof pillars are black, and the three-spoke steering wheel has a solid fit in hand. Hadori-style satin-metallic trim wraps from the top of the doors across the span of the instrument panel. And the slash of white NuLuxe (leatherlike) in the door panels is unusual but attractive.
The sun visors seem oddly short and are not always effective, but they do slide. And another oddity is a single-disc CD player in the audio system.
There are a few small item storage areas, a small door panel stash space, and a locking glove box.
Cup holders on the shift console have two levels for tall or grande beverages. There is another cup holder and a phone slot just ahead of the shifter, with a module with two charging USBs and a 12-volt plug.
Maximum back-seat legroom of 39.3 inches is long unless Daddy Long Legs is in the driver’s seat. But the seats are quite comfortable if a little short on thigh support for tall adults. A wide, padded fold-down armrest has two deep cup holders. There is usable door-panel storage and a pair of charging USBs, and a 12-volt plug.
The back seat does not fold, but there is a ski pass-through.
Trunk space of 13.9 cubic feet is wide with a comfortable liftover for heavy luggage. The trunk has a kick-activated sensor and a power lid closer.
The gasoline-electric powertrain integrates a 176-hp Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor, and a 39-hp, 29.1 kW lithium-ion battery pack. With total system power of 215-hp, Lexus cites 0-60 mph acceleration in 8.1 seconds.
The eCVT helps give quick uptake of acceleration away from the light. But passing power is thin at highway speeds. However, the transmission has almost no lag as the CVT builds power.
Official fuel economy ratings are 43 mpg city, 44 highway, and 44 mpg combined, on 87 octane fuel. However, my week of driving did not come close to the official ratings. I averaged around 35 mpg in around-town driving and up to 37.3 mpg on a 129-mile highway run.
For comparison, the ES 250 AWD (2.5-liter) has mileage ratings of 25/34/28 mpg. The ES 350 V-6 is rated 22/32/26 mpg, followed by the ES 350 F Sport nonhybrid at 22/31/25 mpg.
The F Sport-tuned suspension is taut, sometimes with a jolt, but never harsh. It is far different from the ultraluxe ride of the other ES models.
Four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes have generously sized 12-inch ventilated front rotors and 11.1-inch solid rear rotors. This year’s refinement to the regen braking system has taken away some of the on-off response to the pedal. But there is still that push-through point that can cause hesitation when nosing into a parking stall or the home garage.
The tester was upfitted with 19-inch Michelin Primacy MXM4 235/40 all-season tires. Other grades of the ES have 17- or 18-inch tires. A good feature of this tire design is how the outer lip of the tire extends about a half-inch beyond the alloy. That’s is a bit of protection from curb rash.
The grand-touring Michelins complement the ride with their smooth rolling and low tire noise.
Lexus has been a leader in providing advanced technology safety features, and it continues the evolution for 2022.
The pre-collision system’s camera and millimeter-wave radar elements have a broader response range. The system also integrates Frontal Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Detection, and Bicyclist Detection.
The Lexus Safety System+2.5 has added Intersection Turning Assist and Emergency Steering Assist to the Pre-Collision System. Under certain conditions, the system can recognize an oncoming vehicle or a pedestrian when making turns. The system also will activate PCS functions if needed. In addition, the new Emergency Steering Assist is designed to help prevent lane departure during an evasive steering maneuver.
All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control can be activated above 30 mph. It is designed for vehicle-to-vehicle distance controls down to 0 mph and can resume from a stop.
Also new is Curve Speed Reduction, which can automatically reduce vehicle speed, if needed, through certain types of curves.
Those advanced technologies with dynamic cruise control create a reliable Level 2 semi-autonomous driver-assist mode. Lane centering is well calibrated and I experienced no drifting across the white lines or Botts dots, which can be common in other such systems. This system is like a 360-degree view to help the driver avoid an unintended meeting with another driver in heavy commuting traffic.
The styling stance of the ES is more sport sedan than family car. But the F Sport package adds no horsepower, only cosmetic upgrades. Depending on the model, the package can add $3,550 to $4,650 to the ES MSRP. But visually engaging elements in the package are strong separators from the luxury image of the ES line.
There are no fatal flaws in the design and engineering of the Lexus ES. It is a welcoming car that conforms to the hustle of the owner’s lifestyle.
Life is complicated; cars shouldn’t be. And the Lexus ES 300h F Sport is easy to live with.
Body style: midsize, 5-seat, front-wheel-drive sedan
Engine: 176-hp, direct and port injection 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder w/auto stop-start at idle; 163 lb.-ft. torque from 3,600-5,200 rpm
Hybrid system: Permanent magnet electric motor with 39-hp, 29.1 kW lithium-ion battery pack; 244.8 volts, 204 cells
Total system power: 215-hp
0-60 mph acceleration: 8.1 seconds
Fuel economy: 43/44/44 city/hwy/combined; 87 octane
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 13.2 gallons
Cargo space: 13.9 cubic feet
Front head/leg room: 37.5*/42.4 inches *w/moonroof
Rear head/leg room: 37.8/39.2 inches
Length/wheelbase: 195.9/113 inches
Curb weight: 3,682 pounds
Turning circle: 38.8 feet
Standard equipment includes: smart-key locking and push-button ignition (SmartAccess), perforated NuLuxe upholstery and trim, navigation system with all-speed radar cruise control,12.3-inch touchscreen with Amazon Alexa and Android Auto compatibility, Lexus Enform Wi-Fi with free 4GM 3-month trial, 10-way power front seats, 8-inch color multi-information gauge display, 10-inch color head-up display, single-disc CD player, wireless phone charging, dual-zone automatic climate control with interior air filters and smog sensor, voice command with Bluetooth and USB smartphone connectivity, power rear sunshade, intuitive parking assist, power trunk lid with kick sensor, triple-beam LED headlights
F Sport equipment: bolstered heated and ventilated front seats, Hadori aluminum trim and pedals, heated and leather-trimmed steering wheel with windshield de-icer and fast-response interior heater, black headliner, suspension tuning with performance dampers front and rear,19-inch gloss-black alloy wheels and 235/40 all-season tires, unique front bumper and grille
Safety features include: 10 air bags, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, intelligent high beams, road-sign assist
Base price: $46,525, including $1,075 freight charge; price as tested $52,260
Options on test vehicle: Intuitive Parking Assist $565
- Head-Up Display $500
- Triple Beam Headlamps $1,215
- Power Rear Sunshade $210
- Navigation Package $1,820
- Power Trunk $550
- Heated F SPORT Steering Wheel + Deicer $180
- Key Card $100
- Premium Ultrasonic Blue 2.0 metallic paint $595
Where assembled: Georgetown, Ky.
Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles basic bumper to bumper; 6-years/70,000-miles powertrain; 8-years/100,000-miles hybrid components (including hybrid battery voltage sensor, power management control module, and inverter with converter; the Lexus hybrid battery warranty coverage is for 10-years/150,000-miles)Read more