The least costly Lexus one can buy in India is the ES 300h. The luxury sedan costs Rs 55.27 lakh ex-showroom Delhi. That’s not exactly what one would call least costly by most standards. But then the ES 300h is a CBU. It is subject to customs duties and taxes. Sharing a good deal with the Toyota Camry ironically, the ES 300h is a hybrid. Reflecting upon the fact that Toyota is strong in hybrid technology, the ES 300h does not look like the Camry however. Whatever the commonalities, they are hidden under completely different styled and trimmed bodies.
The ES 300h thus flaunts the striking looks of the Lexus family. Elegant and sporty, the appearance oozes a strong character. It is aptly reflected in the oversize grille, which is common to all Lexus automobiles. Also distinctive are the sharp cut headlights, the arrowhead LED daytime running lights, and the angular fog lamps.
Not as dramatic looking as the RX4 450h, the ES 300h manages a good balance between a striking and a sporty appearance. This is partly to do with the good proportions. Measuring 4.9m in length, the ES 300h flaunts a C-pillar that helps the roof to nicely blend with the tail section, which includes wraparound LED lamps. The boot looks large enough to hold a good amount of luggage and the ES 300h comes with a full-size spare wheel.
Get inside the car, and the amount of noise that filters in is hardly any. The driver is treated to an arrangement where the steering rises and the seat rolls backward to provide easy access. The two get back to their pre-set position once the ignition switches on. The dashboard looks attractive. Split horizontally into display areas, the dash includes an instrument cluster and a centre screen. Having a layered look to it, the dash, characterised by a sweeping section on the top-centre, highlights a classic touch in the form of an analogue clock.
The quality of the interior is impressive. What strikes is the power window and electric mirror adjustment switches. They look like they are from the Camry. For a car that costs in the region of BMW 5-Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class, such bits keep the interior from looking as luxurious as those of the European luxury cars.
The infotainment system screen is not sensitive to touch. It has to be operated via a central controller located near the gear shift. The controller works like a computer mouse and takes time getting used to. Missing out on Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a functional satellite navigation, the infotainment system has a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. Featuring 10 airbags, sunroof, electrically adjusted front memory seats, cooled front seats, mirrors, electric rear sunblind, three-zone climate control and a reverse camera, the ES 300h is a comfortable car to be in.
The front seats with perforated leather are large and comfy. Rear seat too is comfortable with good amount of leg room. The 160bhp, 2.5-litre petrol engine has a 105kW electric motor for company. The motor draws power from a 245-volt nickel hydride battery pack located behind the rear seats. The combined power of the two is 205bhp. Capable of running purely in electric mode if the battery has adequate charge, the car makes for silent progress almost. It moves away from standstill with the help of the motors for a few kilometres.
Capable of 0 to 100kmph in 8.5seconds, the ES 300h accelerates briskly. Progress at any speed is achieved without a sweat. Three driving modes — Eco, Normal and Sport — help to tweak the driving experience. The ES 300h is however not a sports machine. A relaxed driving style is what makes the car shine. When driving aggressively, the CVT transmission of the car has the engine sounding strained. The car however responds well to manual shifts, which are done by using the gear shift. Handling is good and the ride quality is superior. The steering exerts good feedback. It is not the most sharp, but feels better connected.
The tyres display good grip and provide confidence in corners. On a variety of surfaces, the ride is simply absorbent and quiet. At low speeds, there is a certain firm edge to the ride but not unpleasant. Claimed to average 17.8kmpl as per ARAI, the ES 300h is expensive when compared to the European luxury cars in the same price bracket. What buyers could however look at is the high level of reliability and a striking appearance.