Offering outstanding gas mileage, a striking design, exquisite luxury and a quiet ride, the 2016 Lexus ES 300h is one of six hybrid models offered by Toyota’s luxury brand. This sedan is one of the most efficient models in its class, delivering better fuel economy than similar diesel-powered German sedans.
Lexus waited until the ES line reached its sixth generation to introduce a hybrid variant. The 2016 Lexus ES 300h is almost identical to the ES 350, with the one key difference being its frugal hybrid drivetrain.
The ES Hybrid comes in just one trim level, but offers several package upgrades for further customization. This front-wheel drive sedan seats five and does so without compromise, offering one of the roomiest back seats available.
For 2016, the ES Hybrid receives small changes to its front and rear fascias. Bi-LED headlights are now optional and a new safety package brings in driver assistance features. Rounding out the updates is improved sound deadening employed to keep the car’s cabin whisper quiet.
The Lexus ES Hybrid offers a face you’re either going to love or hate. There is little ambivalence expressed by those who review its appearance, which is distinguished by a bold front fascia and an oversized, hourglass grille.
That grille dominates and is hemmed in by wraparound headlamp assemblies that are accented with L-shaped LED daytime running lights. At the base of the grille are large pockets with chrome edging placing an exclamation mark on the fog lamps.
From front to rear, this sedan has an appearance of always being in motion. A flowing roofline, a rising beltline, upper character lines and rocker-panel sculpting lend to the ES Hybrid’s sporty flair. Machine-finished, 17-inch alloy wheels are standard. From the rear, a lip spoiler, massive combination lamps and reflectors are present. Overall, the look is as bold as it is elegant.
The Lexus brand is known for offering exquisite interiors that utilize superb design and high-quality materials. In this respect, the ES 300h does not disappoint. The model’s Ultra Luxury package raises the level of opulence even further.
Adding this package brings in genuine bamboo wood trim and upgrades the leatherette (NuLuxe) seats to authentic leather. Ambient lighting, manual door sunshades and a power rear sunshade provide an extra measure of luxury, cosseting passengers in one of the quietest interiors in the segment.
The ES Hybrid seats five, providing plush power-operated front seats with available heating and cooling features. The rear seat offers sofa-like comfort, providing room for three along with generous legroom.
The hybrid’s instrument panel features a two-analog display. The left display replaces the customary tachometer with a readout that includes charge, eco and power settings. The right display is the speedometer. At the far corners of the panel are half-moon shaped gauges for oil pressure and fuel. In the center of it all is a digital readout supplying the remainder of the driver-information details.
From top to bottom, the center stack is neatly ordered with the color display on top, located within an alcove fashioned inside the dashboard. Beneath that is an analog clock followed by knobs, switches and dials to operate the audio and climate control systems. At the base of the console are the drive controller, the transmission shifter and a mouselike controller. A pair of covered cup holders is present, and an armrest doubles as a deep storage compartment.
All models are equipped with a power-operated slide-and-tilt moonroof. You also get heated side mirrors, puddle-lamp illumination, assist grips at each door, front seatback pockets and in-door storage pockets.
Trunk space measures 12.1 cubic feet down from the 15.2 cubic feet offered in the ES 350. Blame that difference on the sedan’s hybrid battery pack, located immediately behind the rear seat. The battery pack’s presence also prevents the rear seat from folding. Despite the loss in storage space, there is suitable room for groceries or luggage for your weekend getaway. All models come with a spare tire and a first-aid kit.
The 2016 Lexus ES 300h does not have the performance chops of the ES 350. Still, fuel economy is impressive at an EPA-estimated 40/39 mpg city/highway.
A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces 156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. Also at work is an electric motor. During hard acceleration, the engine and electric motor combine to push out 200 horsepower, providing ample power when you need it. Lexus estimates a 0-to-60 mph time of 8.1 seconds, which is a second slower than the time logged by the ES 350.
The ES Hybrid delivers confident handling, a soft ride and firm braking. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) sends power to the front wheels. You can also choose your drive mode — Eco/Normal, EV or Sport — and the car’s steering feel adjusts accordingly. Choose the EV mode for low-speed jaunts, such as navigating a crowded parking lot.
The Lexus marque is synonymous with a number of things, including luxury, quality, reliability and a quiet ride. Technology is also one of the brand’s strengths, and this is reflected in the ES Hybrid’s lineup of amenities.
The standard Display Audio system includes a 7-inch screen, auxiliary and USB inputs, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a CD player. This eight-speaker system includes HD Radio and satellite radio.
Our test model featured the Navigation System with Mark Levinson Audio package that includes 15 speakers. This package increases screen size to 8 inches and adds Lexus Enform, a connectivity suite composed of apps, automatic collision notification and remote access via a smartphone.
The Lexus infotainment system worked as advertised. We chose not to use voice command, instead opting for the remote touch navigation controller. This mouselike device is easy to use, although it does take some practice. Because any infotainment system can cause driver distraction, it’s best to familiarize yourself with this interface before taking to the road.
The Lexus ES 300h shares everything with the ES 350, including its excellent safety scores. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2016 ES 350 a Top Safety Pick+ award, which is IIHS’ highest endorsement. Not only did the ES excel in all five crashworthiness categories, but the sedan also received a Superior rating for its optional front crash prevention system, which is designed for crash avoidance and mitigation.
Securing the safest possible model means opting for the $1,015 Lexus Safety System package, which brings in a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and lane departure alert with steering assist. Separately, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert completes the available safety upgrades. You can also opt for a self-parking feature known as intuitive parking assist if you dread parallel parking.
Fully loaded with safety features, our test model maintained a safe distance between cars during highway driving with the adaptive cruise control system activated. Automatic braking kicked in during high-traffic situations, bringing this sedan to a full stop when necessary. Semi-autonomous driving is here, and when appropriately equipped, the ES 300h delivers.
The 2016 Lexus ES 300h offers just one trim level, but you may choose among several package upgrades to customize your sedan, including Premium, Luxury, Ultra Luxury, Lexus Enform, Navigation and Navigation System with Mark Levinson Audio packages.
Our test model added just over $9,000 in options, bringing the sedan’s final price to $51,164, including the destination charge. That’s more than you’ll pay for a top-end Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, and Lincoln does not charge a premium for its hybrid model. The ES Hybrid also presents an alternative to the Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec, which delivers 42 mpg on the highway, but far lower estimates in city driving.
Opting for the Lexus ES 300h over the ES 350 means trading performance for much better fuel economy. The hybrid also adds nearly $3,000 to the base price, which is an investment difficult to recover when fuel prices are low.
The Ultra Luxury package offers solid value and adds panache. The Navigation System with Mark Levinson Audio package completes the upgrades, delivering a well-equipped luxury sedan with excellent fuel economy.