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New Lexus ES 300h hybrid India review

Motor Trend India logo Motor Trend India 22-09-2018 Somnath Chatterjee
a car parked on the side of a road: IMG 7454 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 7454

This is a chapter of the evolution of Lexus into a force to be reckoned with and designers were given freedom to create new silhouettes. So we headed to the power corridors of New Delhi to acquaint ourselves with this sharp and edgy luxury sedan. The new gen ES, which is longer, lower, and wider than before, has styling which is bolder, following the lead of the LC (sold worldwide) and LS. LED taillights wrap around the cab and contribute to the wider, more planted stance punctuated by chrome exhaust tips. Lexus design chief Koichi Suga describes it as the most aggressive change for ES to date. He points to the side profile with its low hoodline and long shoulder line designed to address the criticism that the previous generation was boring.

a car parked on the side of a road: IMG 7330 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 7330

The ES 300h has a different hybrid system from the one in the LS. The fourth-generation hybrid system has a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder direct-injection engine that runs on the Atkinson cycle and comes paired to an electric motor and a new, shorter transaxle. The nickel-metal hydride battery moves from the trunk to under the back seat. Lexus says the system generates 215 hp and gets 22.3 kmpl mileage- making it the most efficient luxury vehicle without a plug- and in India. The new system and CVT in the hybrid do a better job of avoiding the rubber-band feel when the engine is revving up but not moving forward. Acceleration feels more natural, and a three-layer inner dash silencer squelches any whine. Slip the car into Sport mode to boost torque at lower speeds, and use the paddles to make the gearing choices yourself.

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a car parked on the side of a vehicle: IMG 7579 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 7579

Engineers also did a good job making the brakes feel natural. A new Auto Glide Control system puts the hybrid in coast mode for a smoother deceleration when you let your foot off the accelerator. It removes some of the braking angst that the extra drag of regenerative brakes can cause. Also the front-drive ES' steering has been changed so that on turn-in there's a moment when it almost feels like you're driving a rear-drive car. The new platform allowed the ES to extend the wheelbase 2.0 inches and total length by 2.6 inches for increased rear legroom, which is a key attribute for India. The car is also 1.8 inches wider. It rides on 18 inch wheels- which also has noise reducing tech installed.

a man driving a car: IMG 7521 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 7521

The car has an aluminum hood and front bumpers to shave weight. But with additional technology and sound-absorbing material covering 93 percent of the floor pan, the overall weight of the top trim level is about 35 pounds heavier than the outgoing model. Hit a big bump, and the car soaks it up admirably. Despite bigger wheels, the ride not at all harsh and its beautifully pliant plus the silence of the motor and even more with all the effort put into making this quieter- it is one of the most relaxing luxury cars. The electric power steering, now mounted on the steering rack, was a joy to drive. It was responsive without being too heavy or flighty.

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Designers went for a cool and elegant cockpit centered around the driver, much like the LS. There are LED lights throughout the cabin. As you expect. Guided by human centered design principles you have a console mounted climate and audio controls along with adjustable and heated semi-aniline seats, and the 17 speaker Mark Levinson Pure Play system. The ES offers two shades of Shimamoku wood trim (black, brown), as well as light-colored Bamboo. The mark of Takumi craftsmanship is evident in the new ES, in the soft padding of the instrument panel, where each stitch is embedded into materials for a 3-D effect.

a screen shot of a computer: IMG 7570 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 7570

The ES now has a larger 12.3-inch screen. The wireless charger works for both Apple and Android phones plus there is reclining rear seats, ventilated and heated seats, sunroof, rear seat controls etc. A 10.2-inch head-up display screen offers a lot of real estate to display speed, fuel level, shifts, navigation, speed limits, and warnings when you stray out of the lane. Lexus says the entire cockpit was designed to make it easier to see and reach all controls with minimal effort and reduced eye movement. And although the profile is more coupe like, rear-passenger headroom is increased by positioning the seats lower. The rear seats themselves are super comfy with being perfect for chauffeur driven. It also has more cargo room, and a hands-free trunk—it opens with a kick of your foot—is available.

a car parked on the side of a road: IMG 7408 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 7408

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The ES 300h overall impressed me with its myriad of talents. It is a huge leap forward from the earlier one in every department be it design, features, luxury or even dynamics. Yet the core Lexus values of comfort, hybrid, refinement and reliability/ service stemming from its Toyota roots makes this a real tempting car. Plus Lexus has priced it rather attractively at Rs 59.3 lakh- at this price considering the equipment and looks, it's a bargain somewhat. Buy it for its sharp styling which will make you stand out of the crowd, the hybrid use-ability (greener and more efficient), the comfort and features. Lexus has got this one oh so right and it is easily the best Lexus to buy plus pretty much a very good choice in the crowded luxury sedan market.

a car driving down a street: IMG 7553 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 7553

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