Lexus ES 300h — Luxury that saves at the pump

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(October 9, 2022) Neighbors down the street asked to sit in our 2022 Lexus ES 300h press vehicle after doing a slow walk-around. They have been Toyota Avalon owners for the past decade, but knowing that Toyota is discontinuing the sedan, they were looking for a suitable replacement within the Toyota family. From the sound of their conversation it seems the Lexus ES is their first — if not their only — choice.

So Toyota taketh away and Lexus giveth back. For this retired couple who still desire a good-sized sedan —  a crossover SUV is not on their shopping list — the ES seems to be the perfect choice. And as much as Lexus wants to skew ownership to a lower age, vehicles such as the ES — even in F-Sport guise — are magnets for empty nesters and retired folks.

Indeed, the ES (Executive Sedan in last-century parlance), has been around since the inception of the Lexus brand in 1989. It debuted at the North American International Auto Show in January 1989, and was the only front-drive car in the Lexus lineup for sometime, originally built on the Toyota Camry platform. It has grown into a roomy four-passenger luxury vehicle, now built on the larger Avalon platform.

The current ES is a very comfortable mid-sized sedan with an impressive upscale interior and a handsome exterior, part of the seventh generation introduced in 2019. There have been  incremental updates along the way and for 2022 the ES gets new infotainment and safety features, a racy-looking F-Sport package, and a retuned suspension.

The Lexus ES family is comprised of three models: ES 250, ES 300h, and ES 350. Each model looks basically the same, with the big difference in powertrains.

The ES 250 comes with  2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This is the only ES with all-wheel drive and may appeal to buyers in cold weather climates who need the help of AWD during the winter months. It also offers good gas mileage measured at 25 mpg city, 34 highway and 28 combined.

The ES 350 is the most popular model and comes in front-wheel drive with 3.6-liter V-6 making 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. It is also the fastest ES with a recorded time of 6 seconds from 0-to-60. Both the ES 250 and 350 come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

If gas mileage is paramount in your life and you feel you need at least a modicum of electrification, the ES can be purchased as a hybrid — the ES 300h. Gas mileage is definitely better measured at 43 mpg city, 44 highway and 44 combined. What you sacrifice with the hybrid is performance. It's powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and two electric motors making 215 combined horsepower resulting in rather slow times for a luxury car with 0-to-60 measured in mid-8-second territory.

The ES 300h, which is the subject of this review, comes in four trim levels — 300h, F Sport, Luxury and Ultra starting at $43,255. Our top line Ultra test vehicle carried a base price of $52,405 and an as tested price of $54,450 with a couple of options including a $1,080 Navigation/Mark Levinson audio package, which brings the 12.3-inch color multimedia display and a 17-speaker 1,800-watt sound system. It's worth the cost and your ears will be pleased with the outstanding audio presentation.

With its stylish dash and high-quality materials, the ES cabin creates a welcoming environment for passengers. Rear-seat legroom is generous, even for taller passengers. The cabin remains quiet and restful, even when the ES is being driven at highway speeds. All models provide 14 cubic feet of room in the trunk giving the ES more cargo space than many rivals. Unfortunately, the rear seatback does not fold down preventing the loading of long-sized items.

There are now 8.0-inch and 12.3-inch touchscreens replacing the non-touchscreen displays in older models. We found that the addition of the touch interface makes the ES infotainment system much less frustrating to operate, but on the larger screen some of the icons are hard to reach from the driver's seat. And because there is no "home" button on the screen, the maddening touchpad on the center console still has to be used for some functions. The 2022 ES now provides both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.

We found the 300h handled surprising well staying composed in the corners with decent body control. But the steering has a light, numb fuel found in many hybrids. We discovered that using the Sport mode livened up the sedan — and that's where we lived over most of the 280 miles we drove. The biggest disappointment was with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that lacked shift points and droned ever louder under hard acceleration, not the kind of "noise" you expect from a luxury vehicle.

The bottom line — the ES 300h offers excellent gas mileage and an overall luxury experience for a very good price. Avalon owners should be happy with the ES as the Toyota departs the scene.

2022 Lexus ES 300h


Base price: $43,255; as driven, $54,450
Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and 2 electric motors
Horsepower: 215 combined
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: continuously variable (CVT)
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 113 inches
Length: 195.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,682 pounds
Turning circle: 38.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 14 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.3 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 43 city, 44 highway, 44 combined
Also consider: Toyota Avalon hybrid, Mercedes-Benz E-Class hybrid, BMW 5-Series hybrid

The Good
• Quiet, handsome cabin
• Outstanding fuel economy
• Stylish exterior design

The Bad
• Outdated touchpad needs to go

The Ugly

• Slow acceleration by luxury standards