The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.
The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.

Rarefied freezing air in a luxury sedan

POLAR air was blasting across South Australia. Gale forces whipped topsoil skyward across the Murraylands, yet as the trees bent under the pressure, family life proved serene in the Lexus ES.

The five-seater sedan remained planted despite the conditions while maintaining the marque's renowned luxury standard.

Relaunched last September, the seventh generation ES is available exclusively as a hybrid and starts just shy of $60,000 before on-road costs. It's a proven combination of petrol and electric power - Lexus and its parent company Toyota have been champions of hybrid technology - and the perfect alternative for those not quite ready to dive deep into the world of full electrification.

Sedans have lost their buying lustre in recent times, but with a family of four and more than 1000km to travel, the ES proved it can more than compete with an SUV for space and luxury.

The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.
The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.

VALUE

The Sports Luxury costs an extra $15k, which leaves nothing on the specification shelf.

Lexus embarrasses German rivals with its uncomplicated feature inclusions, gear such as a head-up display, 12.3-inch colour screen, satnav, digital radio, wireless phone charger and a sunroof.

Upgrades for the Sports Luxury include three-zone aircon, power boot lid with kick sensor, heated steering wheel and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo. The rear seats are also heated and can recline.

Warranty coverage is slightly longer in term than some prestige rivals at four years, but distance is restricted to 100,000km. Lexus doesn't have service packages or capped prices on maintenance, but you do get a free loan car when it's under the mechanic's microscope.

The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.
The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.

SAFETY

Five-star safety was awarded with a swag of technology which protects those inside the car and vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists - radar sensitivity increases at night to further protect the latter.

There are 10 airbags, radar cruise control to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front, blind spot monitor to stop the driver from cutting others off and parking sensors at both ends. Road-sign assist constantly monitors changes in speed zones and when using cruise control, the driver can simply hold the button up or down to match the limit.

The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.
The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.

COMFORT

Trademark Lexus plushness comes in spades. Unless you're in one of the V8-powered sports cars, you can bank on a Lexus being impressively quiet.

This seventh-generation ES has progressed another rung with an ultra-smooth ride, and even the Sports Luxury's 18-inch alloy wheels have a hollow rim to reduce noise.

Space is akin to an old-school Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon. Five people can be housed in comfort, yet four are best suited with each corner availed generous head, leg and knee room. Those in the front have electric seat adjustment, for the driver it has 14-way capability ... just 12-way for the passenger.

Cabin materials look and feel like high quality, and there are two cupholders within the main console but no bottle holders in the doors.

The constant bugbear for Lexus is the mouse-style remote touch pad which is used to navigate the primary controls - radio, satnav and various vehicle information. Cumbersome and difficult to operate on the move, it needs further refinement for more seamless operation.

With the hybrid battery stored under the rear seat, the ES boasts a generous boot which was able to handle two large and two small suitcases, as well as a couple of backpacks.

The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.
The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.

DRIVING

This iteration has grown in every direction, 60mm longer, 45mm wider, 5mm lower, and its wheelbase is 50mm longer. The new architecture offers increased rigidity and along with suspension changes makes the ES more adept in the bends.

Power from the four-cylinder hybrid system remains subdued, and even with sport mode engaged it will sprint from standstill to 100km/h in less than nine seconds.

That's not going to have the ES on the quarter mile start line, but this car is all about comfort and ease of driving - both aspects are well covered.

Light steering makes city and rural sojourns effortless.

The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.
The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.

The 'bull horns' on top of the instrument binnacle enable changes drive modes. Compared to normal, 'sport' quickens throttle responses and changes the transmission shift program and 'eco' does the opposite.

Among the benefits of the Lexus hybrid system is electrification without complication.

No plug-ins, no recharging. It all happens without any driver intervention with charge going back into the battery.

Components in the ES are lighter and improved, and Lexus has claimed 16.4 per cent fuel improvements over the outgoing model.

Official average fuel consumption figures are an impressive 4.6 litres for every 100km, although with a fair amount of long highway drives we achieved six litres.

That's still impressively thrifty, but hybrids typically do their best work in metropolitan areas where there is regular stop-start activity.

The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.
The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.

HEAD SAYS

Outstanding levels of luxury and space for the whole family with running costs that dwarf premium rivals.

HEART SAYS

The ES looks and feels expensive with grand tourer performance.

The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.
The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.

ALTERNATIVES

MERCEDES-BENZ E200 FROM $92,600

Packed with good tech, classy finishes inside and out. Sharp, responsive performance and even manages to deliver a slight rasp to its exhaust note. Price is higher, motivated by a 2.0-litre 4-cyl , 145kW/320Nm.

GENESIS G70 2.0T SPORT FROM $63,300

New arrival on the prestige scene from parent company Hyundai. Smaller in stature but closer in price, powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 179kW/353Nm.

The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.
The Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury.

AT A GLANCE

LEXUS ES300H SPORTS LUXURY

PRICE $74,888 plus on-roads (premium)

WARRANTY/SERVICE 4yr 100,000km w'ty, no capped price (not great)

ENGINE 2.5L 4-cyl hybrid 160kW/221Nm (calm)

SAFETY 5-star, AEB, pedestrian and cyclist detection, radar cruise, head-up display, road sign assist (very good)

THIRST 4.6 litres/ 100km (6 on test)

SPARE Space-saver (expected)

BOOT 454 litres (good)


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