Lexus ES 300h Takumi

Lexus ES300h, dynamic
Lexus ES300h, front quarter
Lexus ES300h, rear profile
Lexus ES300h, front
Lexus ES300h, interior, rear
Lexus ES300h, boot
Lexus ES300h, interior

IT MAY be a relative newcomer to the United Kingdom but the ES saloon was actually one of two models which heralded the arrival of Lexus as Toyota's luxury arm in 1989.

More than three decades later it is the brand's best-selling non-SUV model worldwide, with more than 2.3 million shifted to date, and finally reached these shores last year in its seventh generation guise.

Going up against German giants Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz as well as Jaguar, the Japanese newcomer has a battle on its hands - but it's certainly off to a good start if standing out from the crowd is what you're after.

With curves, creases and angles aplenty including rakish headlights and a bold interpretation of Lexus' ‘spindle' grille there is no danger of the ES shrinking into the background in the golf club car park.

While the busy close-up detailing may be regarded as an acquired taste by some, viewed from a distance this motor cuts an undeniably sleek and sporty figure with its sloping roofline and rising haunches, emphasised by a boot spoiler.

The Lexus also sets itself apart from its rivals by being available, in Europe at least, only with a self-charging hybrid powertrain paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission.

A 2.5-litre petrol engine is combined with an electric motor to deliver a maximum 215bhp, which will shift the ES from standstill to 62mph in a snip under nine seconds and on to a top speed of 112mph.

That's not necessarily explosive acceleration in this class and, indeed, the ES is not the most responsive when a sharp injection of pace is needed. Nor does it have quite the dynamic abilities of some of its German rivals or a Jaguar - even when you select sport mode.

It is, however, incredibly smooth and refined, able to pootle around for short distances in town on electric power only and waft passengers along serenely at cruising speeds thanks to a sophisticated suspension which deals well with lumps and bumps in the road.

Being behind the wheel won't set your pulse racing but it certainly won't be giving you any stress either. This is a straightforward, well-mannered, even relaxing car to drive, focused on comfortable and languid progress.

Cabin quality complements this rather leisurely character with a wealth of high-quality, soft touch materials creating a suitably upmarket travelling environment. There are some scratchy surfaces if you look hard but not sufficient to detract from the premium feel.

The sloping roofline means headroom will be a little tight, especially in the back, for anyone over six feet tall but the ES's length affords some generous rear leg room, while interior storage provision is decent and, at 454 litres, the boot should be able to cater for most needs.

Where the ES scores very highly though, is in the impressive equipment levels offered across its three trim levels - ES, F Sport and range-topping Takumi.

Even the entry model gets a sunroof, heated and power adjustable front seats, a power adjustable steering column, satnav, digital radio, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, automatic emergency braking, active cruise control and lane keep assist.

Our flagship car also benefited from a powered boot, heated and power-reclining rear seats, head-up display, wireless phone charging, a 360-degree surround view monitor, leather upholstery, adaptive high-beam LED headlights, a powered rear sunshade, an upgraded sound system and a 12.3 inch display screen instead of the eight-inch one on other models.

Slightly taking the shine off all of the high-tech toys, though, is Lexus' insistence on using a touchpad controller to access many functions rather than a touchscreen or rotary dial. The pad is overly sensitive, difficult to use on the move and really seems like one gimmick too far.

FAST FACTS

Lexus ES 300h Takumi

Price:£45,655

Mechanical:215bhp, 2,487cc, 4cyl petrol electric hybrid system driving front wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 112mph

0-62mph:8.9 seconds

Combined MPG:53.5

Insurance Group: 38

C02 emissions:103g/km

Bik rating:24%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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