I had the chance to test drive the new Lexus ES300H and shhhh, I found it very quiet. So quiet in fact that I’m embarrassed to say that once I pushed the start button and nothing seemed to happen I ended up starting it again – damn hybrid cars always catch me out.
On ignition it’s only the electric motors that start so it silently waits the accelerator to be pressed and even then (at very low speeds) it’s still battery power that moves you. But don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s all double A power, under its sculpted bonnet this mid-sized sedan has a 2.5litre heart that produces 151kW of power and 270Nm of torque (especially when you add in its 2 high output electric motors). It will get you off the mark and up to 100 in 8.5 seconds – not record breaking but still; not exactly shabby for quite a big vehicle. The ES doesn’t roar but it you are up into ticket issuing speeds with ease and grace.
The ES300H has all the refinements that have become signature Lexus, hand stitched Leather throughout, chrome accents etc but as you take your position in the driver’s seat the first thing that hits you is the Highly polished and I mean HIGHLY polished Shimamoku steering wheel with leather inlays. A bit of research will tell you that Shimamoku is a mixture of alternating layers of dark and light wood veneers layered and shaped in a 67 step manufacturing process and takes around 38 days, so it’s already had a lot of care and attention way before you get to lay your grubby mits on it.
The instrument display panel has Optitron Meters, they are bright and highly visible in all weather and light conditions, it’s a small point but it’s these little details that separate the Lexus from the pack. Although the infotainment screen is slap bang in the middle the rest of the dash is completely non symmetrical, it’s more a case of sloping angles and overlays that at first glance appears busy, however as you get comfortable in the driver’s seat it all starts to make sense – it flows. I realize how odd and ‘Feng Shui’ that sounds but it’s true, as you look across from behind the wheel and over towards the passenger side, from the dials to the door the energy seems to flow out past the analogue clock, along the Shimamoku trim and out of the cars electric windows – it is very Zen. Oh and as if to complete the wellness feeling Nanoe ions fill the cabin; bringing with them fresh air and kindness to your hair and skin.
While I’m on the subject of wellbeing and good karma it’s probably a good time to bring up the E300H’s fuel economy – 5.5L/100k’s – and it’s really noticeable. I picked up car with a full tank and the needle was fixed up at the top of the scale. I ran my usual errands of office to home and then made an airport run – the needle didn’t move. I started to wonder if I’d found a fault in this well constructed car. Finally (after some additional and possibly unnecessary treks) the fuel needle began to move southwards – phew?
Lexus have put together a sedan that is spacious, luxurious, intelligent (by way of its great infotainment/Nav system and safety features) and economical. Although its sleek body and modern lines won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, their designers have made it ultimately very aerodynamic and its hybrid configuration is great for wallet and Earth environments.
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