Price: $38,850 ($44,524 as tested)
Engine: 2.5-liter inline-4 w/ two electric motors
Transmission: CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)
Power: 200 hp
Lexus has thrown their hat into the entry-level hybrid market with the 2013 Lexus ES300h. While hybrids are becoming more and more common nowadays, it is rare to find a luxurious hybrid at a good price with an even better MPG rating. This is exactly what the ES300h does, and it does so with grace and good looks.
The outside of the ES300h is almost identical to the standard ES300, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many hybrids go out of their way to make sure everyone knows that they have an electric pulse, but is that really necessary? The ES300h allows you to cruise fashionably around town with little impact on your wallet. Even on the inside, the luxury styling continues. Exquisite trim is laid throughout the interior, while a technology-based center console steals the show. The controls were laid out very symmetrically, which was not only eye-pleasing, but also made finding the right knob for each feature easier.
A common problem with many hybrids and their electric engines is the space that is sacrificed for battery space. Fortunately, Lexus engineers designed the ES300h so that the batteries did not take up precious cabin space. The only decrease in space you will see on this car is found in the trunk, which has 12.1 cubic feet of storage.
Creating the electric power for the hybrid powertrain are two electric motors, which Lexus calls MG1 and MG2. Working as an engine-driven power source for the batteries and the starter for the gas engine when the engine shuts down in Eco-mode at stoplights is MG1. MG2 is utilized for electric propulsion and regenerative braking. Working with these electric engines is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine that provides 156hp. Lexus says that the combined power output between the gas engine and electric motors is 200hp. Fuel economy for this engine is rated at 40mpg in the city and 39mph on the highway.
When driving the ES300h, you will be allowed to select between three different driving modes: Normal, Eco, EV and Sport. The Normal mode will do exactly what you think, letting the car’s computer handle everything efficiently. In Eco mode, you will notice a change in the climate control and power. While the saved gas was welcome, this mode was not used frequently. Our favorite mode was by far the Sport mode. While hybrids are rarely regarded as “sporty”, the ES300h provides a great amount of punch in Sport mode. Don’t expect gas savings in Sport mode. If you do happen to find yourself running on empty, you can switch over to EV mode, which runs the car only on electric. This will allow you to travel up to 25 mph for half of a mile. Groundbreaking? No, but its the thought that counts.
The 2013 Lexus ES300h is a perfect example of a hybrid done right. It not only allows you to travel with little impact on your wallet and tank, but also looks as luxurious as any Lexus should. The only downside may be the base price which is $38,850, a reasonable number for a Lexus, but a bit steep for someone looking for a nature-friendly vehicle.