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An Almost Great Car

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 12/8/2016 bobblock1

This is the best car I have owned; it is a delight to drive. I also tried the ES350, and although faster, the shifting annoyed me; I prefer the ES300h CVT transmission. The ES300h has 3 driving modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport, easily selected with a rotating dial on the center console. I usually drive in Normal mode. Eco mode has a bit less acceleration, but is fine to drive in. It supposedly gets better mileage, but I haven’t done a reasonable test to verify this. In Normal mode, my mileage varies with driving. Around town I’m getting about 34 mpg. On the freeway, I get 38. Sport mode makes a significant difference in handling. The car takes corners with much more confidence, and can be pushed into tight turns. It is not a sports car, but for a big sedan it corners very well. In Sport mode, the accelerator is much more responsive, quicker to react, with higher gearing. Still, maximum acceleration is limited to what the power plant can provide – 0-60 in under 8 seconds. The interior is luxurious, with all kinds of goodies to pamper you and keep you safe (I like the Blind Spot Monitor and Cross Traffic warning while backing up). Very satisfying to sit in. Now to my complaint, and it is a big one. A few years back, Lexus decided to go to a mouse-based interface to the Navigation screen instead of a touch screen. The interface is used for navigation, the radio and other media players, and the phone. I also own a 2008 RX400h, with the touch-screen interface. It works fine, and is easy to use. The mouse-based interface makes use of navigation, the radio, and the phone significantly more difficult. It requires you to look at the screen longer, and takes more concentration to position the mouse. During my first month or two driving this car, I found it very distracting to use, resulting in less attention paid to driving the car – dangerous. I’ve now figured out a safer way to use it, but the interface still takes more effort and clicks. Someone in Lexus user interface design is brain-dead. Phone Use:To make a call on my RX, I push a button on the steering wheel, speed dials appear on the screen, I touch the one I want, and the call goes through. On this car, it takes the steering wheel button, and then 2 carefully placed mouse clicks to place the call. Too risky while driving, so I use the voice recognition system. Voice recognition will dial anyone in my contacts list, but needs to understand me. It puts the entry on the screen and says the name. Then I say: “dial” to place the call. Workable if I know the correct names in my contact list. Radio:There are no longer physical push button presets – just the on/off-volume knob and the tuner knob. All presets are electronic on a Radio screen. The easiest way to reach the Radio screens is by pushing a physical Radio button on the dashboard just above the gear shift lever. Then you get 6 screens, 6 presets per screen, with a physical scroll button behind the shift lever or mouse clicked arrows on the screen to move between preset screens. You can scroll through the presets with a lever on the steering wheel or mouse-click them . Again, using the mouse while driving is tricky, but the scroll button works reasonably well, except that you must replace the Nav map with the Radio screen while doing this. If you want the map to stay on the screen, you need to stay with the Map screen and remember the order of your presets while using the lever. Navigation:You can set a destination while driving using voice recognition. The only one I’ve tried is Go Home. This works. You can also speak an address into the system with voice commands – not while driving: City, Street, then Number (speaking single digits). This is easier than mouse-clicking the address into the keyboard. My RX has 6 preset destinations I can get to with 2 touches while driving, and allows me to touch type an address onto the keyboard. The ES system is not as easy. Oddly, and annoyingly, there are no “Pause Guidance” and “Resume Guidance” voice commands. I use these or the touch equivalent on my other cars to get my Nav system to shut up when I don’t want to hear it during the journey (like when stopping for gas or lunch). I’m still learning, so there may be shortcuts I can use to simplify this interface, but it is inferior to what Lexus used to use and what Toyota still uses. I can’t explain why they have done this.

Average Rating : 4

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