Bowen's Report Card
2022 Lexus ES300h Sport Luxury Review
- Sleek looks
- Safety Tech
- Frugal hybrid
- Better competition
- Poor multimedia controls
THE BOWEN SCORE
“There’s now a general sense of reversing out of the nursing home driveway, rather than crashing through the front gate”
For much of my life I’ve looked at a Lexus and thought, “That brand produces the equivalent of a hand-knitted, comfy cardigan that my great, great grandma Vera used to give me on a regular basis”. Sadly they were rarely worn. That’s not to say they weren’t excellent quality, practical, comforting and valuable to me as a person. It’s just that they weren’t exactly in vogue with people my age.
That’s been the case for Lexus since day one. However, in recent times the brand has dared to show some flair, with gaping grilles, sharp and edgy pressed metal and a general sense of reversing out of the nursing home driveway, rather than crashing through the front gate. I’ve just spent a week in the ES 300h Luxury Sport, a largish luxury hybrid sedan.
The ES 300h is powered by the popular four-cylinder 2.5L hybrid engine. It produces 131kW @ 5700rpm and 221Nm @ 3600rpm-5200rpm. When combined with the hybrid motor, power peaks at 160kW while the electric motor generator alone produces a max of 202Nm.
Power is sent via a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) to the front-wheels, which is typical for just about all hybrids.
Behind the leather clad steering wheel are paddle shifters, which attempt to emulate traditional automatic shifts in five different steps. I’m tipping they will mostly gather dust.
There are various drive modes including Sport, which certainly does sharpen things up a little. The car doesn’t have adaptive dampers, but I found it to be a one size fits all and reasonably dynamic setup.
Acceleration is relatively brisk. It’s not exactly an excitement machine. Very few hybrids matched to a CVT are.
I found it to be capable through the twisty stuff within reason, with a very refined, yet reasonably well-planted stance. It’s also a long way from being simply a luxury Camry. In fact, it’s much bigger, more like the old Toyota Avalon of years gone by.
There’s an analogue clock which adds some class up front, plus a new 12.3-inch touchscreen. It’s now 112mm closer to the driver, which is tops because the old cat and mouse game cursor touchpad thingo in the middle is still a nightmare to control. It feels a little more precise than previous versions, although ultimately it is still is capable of inducing a full scale nervous breakdown.
For me anyway.
I can’t say that the screen is well presented in terms of graphics. It still has that old school Toyota look, with graphics that are rather chunky, unpleasant and bland. There is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto though, which is well presented and compensates for the lack of flair.
There are a lot of buttons, many brands are doing away with that via screens and haptic touch buttons, this is where the latest ES 300h does start to feel a little bit like the cardigan I spoke about at the start of the article.
Basically the dashboard overall is disappointing. Even though much of it is digital there’s still an analog feel to it.
Lexus claim the ES “builds on the provocative elegance design theme of the seventh-generation luxury medium sedan”. Fair enough I guess, it’s pretty flash to look at. The intricate front grille may be a tad over the top for some, I tend to like it. The car also has a squat stance too, the bonnet is now 16mm lower giving the ES a lower shoulder line and broader look from all angles.
The cabin trim is quite attractive, I’m not sure I’d go for the hazel coloured seats combined with what Lexus call Sumi black ornamentation via the Luxury Enhancement Pack. There are black and cream options too.
There’s a sunroof, not of the panoramic type but that’s fine with me.
The headlights are a real highlight, so to speak. Much like the Audi LED Matrix technology, Lexus use individual LED lights or chips to switch on and off when the adaptive or auto high-beam system is activated.
This automatically distributes very bright shards of light where you need them, while avoiding the vehicle in front or those approaching.
It’s like magic.
Lexus call it BadeScan, the brand says the system is now even more precise, stating – “Illuminated and shaded areas are controlled in 0.1-degree increments (previously 1.0-degree), almost halving the width of the shaded area to just 3.5 metres at a distance of 50 metres (from 5.0 metres)”.
Basically it gives you levels of daylight brightness, even in the event of a full blown moon eclipse.
The ES 300h Sport Luxury has speed sign recognition, handy for Lexus drivers who want to keep all of their demerit points for their entire life. There’s huge head up display, which is not overly spectacular or detailed. But hey, it’s still there.
The Lexus Safety System comes fully loaded with all the latest active and passive safety features and a shitload of acronyms.
- Intersection Turn Assist with pedestrian and oncoming vehicle detection
- Emergency Steering Assist and a curve speed reduction for the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC).
- Pre-Collision System (PCS)
- Intersection Turn Assist
- Pre-collision braking with day/night vehicle ahead and pedestrian detection,
- Daytime cyclist and oncoming vehicle detection.
- Emergency Steering Assist
- Lexus Connected Services, including SOS call, automated collision notification and stolen vehicle tracking.
- Parking support brake (PKSB) with obstacle and vehicle detection,
- Blind-spot monitor (BSM)
- Lane tracing assist
- Road sign assist (RSA
- Tyre pressure warning monitor.
- 10 airbags
- Pop-up bonnet
- Reversing camera
- Hill-start assist control and clearance sonar.
- F Sport and Sports Luxury grades further gain a panoramic view camera and PKSB with pedestrian detection.
The cabin is very closeted, shielding you from much of the outside world. It mutes noises like road noise with aplomb and lacks any creaks or squeaks in the cabin. Toyota and Lexus certainly know how to put together a car, there’s little doubt about that.
Put simply, in terms of comfort I feel like I’m sitting in a very well equipped piece of motoring craftsmanship.
It has heated and cooled seats, tri-zone air conditioning that can also be adjusted in the rear via a seperate control panel in the centre armrest.
Those in the back also have the benefit of sun blinds to shield them from the sun and other humans who may look at them.
For some thumping tunes a fantastic Mark Levinson sound system is installed. One that includes 17-speakers, including 8 x 9-inch woofers in the doors and a 26.5cm subwoofer.
Value For Money
The ES 300h Sports Luxury is the range topper. It’s priced from $78,180, although you can enter the ES field via the ES 250 Luxury from $61,620. Fuel economy is excellent for what is a largish hybrid sedan at 4.8L/100km, I achieved 6.6L/100km over seven days.
Lexus offer a five-year / unlimited kilometre warranty. The hybrid battery is covered for five years / unlimited as well. Plus, you can add an extra five Christmases with unlimited kms as well if you stick to an annual Hybrid/EV system health check after the first five years.
What I Love
What I love. Hmm. I like that old cardigan analogy that I mentioned at the start. That is, what was once daggy is now trendy – a bit.
Bowen’s Report Card
I could nitpick all day when it comes to the updated ES 300h, mainly because the vast field of superior competitors. If you don’t want to shop around and you’ve owned a Lexus you entire life, you’ll be pretty happy I think with the 2022 updated ES 300h Luxury Sport. It’s not the greatest effort nor is it a debacle. The Lexus ES 300h Luxury Sport is marginally above average. So I’m prepared to give it a 78 out of 100.