2019 Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury quick review

Lexus' hybrid-powered mid-size luxury sedan resists the rise of the plush SUV

Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury

What is it?

The latest generation of Lexus’ BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class rival, that’s more spacious than its predecessor and has foregone its V6 engine in favour of the brand’s fourth-generation hybrid powertrain.

Lexus ES 300h

How much is the Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury?

The Lexus ES 300h comes in two variants including the entry-level ES 300h Luxury that retails for $59,888, and the Sports Luxury that adds a heap of desirable equipment for $74,888.

Standard kit in both includes adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, dual-zone climate control, 10 airbags, cornering lamps, LED headlights and tail-lights, 12.3-inch infotainment screen, satellite navigation, head-up display, 10-way power-adjustable heated front seats, keyless smart entry, wireless phone charging, and moonroof.

The additional $15k for the Sports Luxury spec brings bigger 18-inch alloy wheels compared to the Luxury’s 17s, advanced LED headlights, blind-spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert, heated and ventilated front seats with additional power settings, heated steering wheel and a Mark Levinson 17-speaker premium audio in place of the standard 10-speaker Pioneer system.

Lexus ES 300h

There’s more for rear-seat passengers too, including tri-zone climate control which allows them to set their own temperature, plus power-operated sunshade and seat recliners.

The Lexus ES 300h is covered by a four-year/100,000km warranty.

Who is it for?

The ES 300h Sports Luxury offers a traditional option of a comfortable upmarket sedan for those still not ready to embrace plush SUVs. It’s very much pitched at the more mature driver, but its advanced safety tech, hybrid powertrain and contemporary Japanese take on luxury gives it broad appeal, as does the price tag that brings decent change from similarly equipped European rivals.

Is the ES 300h Sports Luxury easy to live with?

Don’t let the mid-size-sedan tag fool you. The Lexus ES is very spacious, with a 2870mm wheelbase that’s 45mm longer than its Toyota Camry cousin on which it’s based, and 34mm longer than the Holden Commodore that’s considered a large sedan.  

Lexus ES 300h

The black interior in our test car looked a little plain at first glance, but once seated it's possible to appreciate its quality feel, and ergonomic design qualities that make the most of the available space. 

There's up to 1022mm of rear legroom and plenty of headroom even for taller bodies. Rear-seat comfort further is enhanced by high-quality leather upholstery, reclining backrests and controls for climate control, sunshade and even the sound system, however, as in most cars, the centre seat is best used for shorter journeys.

Compared with the second row, the front seats are even better. The driver’s seat in particular is a great place to be, with 14 power adjustments help achieve an optimal driving position, and the large centre console providing a snug cockpit feel.

Lexus ES 300h

Most of the switches are well positioned. The one downside is Lexus’ persistence with the toggle controller for the multimedia screen -  surely Lexus has seen the BMW’s excellent rotary iDrive controller by now!  

The big 12.3-inch multi-media screen is also let down by dated graphics and poor user experience particularly when it comes to choosing a navigation destination or syncing your phone via Bluetooth. On the plus side, the 17-speaker Mark Levinson is excellent, with the sound quality aided by minimal noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) levels.

Lexus ES 300h

The boot space measures 454 litres, which is a little less than the Camry due to a more advanced multi-link suspension set up just aft of the rear seats, but the trade-off is a more composed ride on the road.

For all that space and comfort the ES 300h is a cheap to run, with an official combined fuel economy rating of just 4.5L/100km, which keeps the fuel budget down even with its preference for premium unleaded petrol.  

How well does the ES 300h Sports Luxury drive?

Unlike some luxury hybrids that harness the electric motors’ instant torque to enhance performance, the front-wheel-drive’s ES 300h petrol-electric powertrain is all about efficiency resulting in a lazy 8.9-second 0-100km/h sprint time.

Lexus ES 300h

Does this matter? Not really. This Lexus ES is all about comfort and elegance. That said, it’s feels a lot more dynamic than its bland V6 predecessor and any lack of oomph is compensated by the smoothness of the hybrid powertrain, especially when driving off in all-electric mode at speeds up to 50km/h.

The engine can feel a little thrashy at higher revs in Sport and Sport+ modes, which is why this is one of the few cars I prefer to just leave in Comfort mode, which results in more gradual and smoother gear changes through the CVT automatic gearbox.

Lexus es 300h

The light electric-power steering and supple ride are also designed for a relaxed cruise rather than attacking apexes on mountain passes. It does feel composed through bends, however, with its new GA-K platform 30 percent stiffer than the previous model’s.

The multilink rear suspension is all new too, with redesigned arms and shock absorbers that shrug off most road imperfections with minimal secondary bounce.

Drive the ES 300h as intended and you’ll be rewarded with a quiet and limousine-comfortable ride.

Lexus ES 300h Sport Luxury

The Verdict

The Lexus ES 300h isn’t quite in the same league as the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E Class in terms of overall refinement and performance mainly because it’s not really trying to be.

Where it does compete incredibly well is value, with this Sport Luxury range-topper costing $15,000 less than the entry-level Germans even with its longer standard features list.

This is a great gap-filler between top-spec mainstream and European luxury sedans that ticks all the safety and comfort boxes and brings its own unique take on what a luxury car should be.

The front-wheel-drive hybrid powertrain won’t take your breath away, but it feels sophisticated and rewards you with a polished drive and city-car fuel economy. And, unlike other hybrids (we’re looking at you, Prius), the ES isn’t defined by its petrol-electric powertrain, with Lexus doing very well to tone down any associated gimmickry.


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