Lexus ES 300h

Premium Hybrid

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

LEXUS has been targeting the likes of BMW for around three decades now, pushing ever harder to get a bigger slice of the executive sector.

And if BMW has been the main challenge, then both Mercedes and Audi are equally within the Japanese giant's sights.

Possibly Lexus's biggest chance of scoring direct hit is with the ES 300h, launched last year, as a head-on rival to the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6.

With impressive refinement and imposing styling, it offers big car drivers an opportunity to transition into electric power with a minimum of hassle ...ie it's a petrol hybrid which is self-charging, so no worries about range and no need to plug in.

Morphed into the ES, from the GS last year, Lexus's best selling model combines the traditional shape of a four door, five-seat prestige saloon with bang up-to-date technology and leads its rivals in terms of emissions and economy if not in outright performance.

So it holds strong appeal among company car users for its tax benefits thanks to ultra-low CO2 levels.

Its 2.5-litre, four-pot engine is backed up by two electric motors pushing out a reasonable 215bhp - enough to give it a sub-nine second sprint time to 62mph and a modest 112mph maximum.

More impressive that the stats is the smooth way the power is delivered. Ample torque means there's a creamy surge of acceleration through the rev range. Only at high revs is there a hint of harshness.

The CVT automatic gearbox, with manufactured steps to simulate gear changes, works much better than most similar systems and together with steering wheel paddles should satisfy most drivers.

Various drive modes, including sport and eco, can be selected via a knob to the left of the binnacle. By choosing ‘sport' reactions are sharpened and the steering weights up agreeably.

Special mention of the latest suspension which is a huge improvement over that of the old GS. No wallowing around bends, very little vertical movement and a near perfect ride over most surfaces puts it in the same league as BMW and Mercedes. It also ranks as one of the quietest running saloons, no matter what the price.

Even driven hard, the ES returned more than 40mpg which is impressive for such a large car.

The cabin is solid, well made and spacious with a general air of quality. I was less happy with the touchscreen and the entertainment system which is fiddly and not particularly easy to operate. Plenty of room for passengers front and back with bags of legroom.

Rear headroom is marginally sacrificed by the sleek, sloping roofline. The conventional rear boot holds 454 litres of luggage - a tad less than most rivals.

The version driven here was fitted with the £3,500 Premium Pack which means it comes with electric sliding, glass sunroof, dual zone climate control, 18-inch alloys, rear spoiler and various electronic safety systems including pre-collision and traffic sign recognition.

FAST FACTS

Lexus ES 300h Premium Hybrid

Price: £38,700

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

Max Speed: 112mph

0-62mph: 8.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 53.5

Insurance Group: 33

C02 emissions: 103g/km

Bik rating: 26%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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