ON THE ROAD: LEXUS ES 300H SE

Lexus has updated its ES sedan, which now includes three model grades, two of which are Hybrids. Some work has been done to improve the car’s elegant looks, update the interior and sharpen the driving experience a little bit. We drove it for a few days and came away liking it overall.

The Lexus brand is now 33 years old globally. Lexus prides itself for offering its clients a full complement of luxury, comfort and technology at prices that are relatively lower than the competition. For example, the baseline EX model features things like Bi-LED headlights, automatic headlight levelling, rain-sensing wipers and cornering lights among others. The sunroof and dual-zone climate control are also standard.

Our test car was the range-topping 300h SE with a Hybrid powertrain. It was fitted with all of the above and more, including keyless entry and lighting on approach, folding side mirrors, wireless charging, a cooling drinks box, electrically adjustable steering wheel, rear blinds and a new touch screen infotainment system with a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. Whereas competitors no longer offer in-car DVD players, Lexus has kept that tradition going. Thank goodness too. Under recent “load shedding” periods we were able to play some old favourite DVDs inside the car, and it felt like being at the cinema. One thing about this vehicle is the size of the boot, which is one of the reasons to buy this modern sedan.

This being a Hybrid means it carries both a petrol engine and an electric powertrain, with the two working in tandem for the best possible fuel consumption and drive experience. Said engine is a 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder type, and together the powertrain makes 160kW of power. Lexus reckons it will sprint from standstill to 100km/h in 8.9 seconds, reaching a top speed of 180km/h. Drive is through the front wheels, via a CVT transmission. Contrary to the monotone CVTs of the past, this one is pleasant and does not feel drone-like at all.

Where the ES 300h SE really excels is in fuel consumption. We covered just under 880km from a single tank, driving different roads, including suburbs, townships and the open freeway. That is brilliant, especially considering the amount of power, a Gross Vehicle Mass of over two tonnes, and the relatively small fuel tank at 50 litres.

Lexus has improved the ride quality of the ES, which is now slightly firmer under the Sport mode, but remains as comfortable in Normal or Eco modes. Throttle response is positive, while speed gains are strong and progressive. Right before you know it you are approaching boundaries in terms of speed limits.

The updated Lexus ES 300h SE sets the tone for Hybrid premium sedans in its class, demonstrating that while full-electric power is definitely the future, in countries like ours a Hybrid can still deliver lower C02 emissions while keeping up with Eskom’s moods. Simultaneously – as Lexuses do – it offers good comparative value.

Lexus ES 300h SE Price – R948 400

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