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REVIEW
From Edmunds.com
2016 Lexus  ES Picture
PROS
  • Efficient hybrid powertrain
  • Comfortable ride and composed handling
  • Luxurious and well-built interior
  • Generous rear legroom
CONS
  • Electronics interface can be complicated and distracting to use

Now that hybrid cars are fairly commonplace, it might surprise you to learn that the 2016 Lexus ES 300h is one of only a handful of entry-level luxury hybrid sedans on the market. In keeping with the general idea behind hybrids (Let's save fuel!), the ES 300h emphasizes good gas mileage over pure power. But it also takes its mission as an entry-level luxury sedan very seriously and offers all the space and comfort you'll find in its V6-powered ES 350 sibling.

The 2016 Lexus ES 300h luxury hybrid sedan is comfort-oriented, with loads of luxury features.

Roomy for its class, the Lexus ES 300h is a relaxing place to spend time, and passengers seated in the back have plenty of space to stretch their legs. There are also the premium-level appointments, impressive build quality you'd expect from a Lexus and a smooth and tranquil ride quality. Of course, what makes the ES 300h truly desirable is its outstanding fuel economy. Its four-cylinder hybrid powertrain helps this sedan achieve an EPA combined rating of 40 mpg, and pulls this off while offering acceptably quick acceleration and handling that's on par with that of the ES 350.

Lexus hasn't made many changes this year, but the 2016 ES 300h's updated front-end styling stands out, and its newly optional bi-LED headlights are an upgrade over the low-beam-only xenon headlights offered previously. The company has also added a couple extra buttons to the Remote Touch controller (included with the optional navigation system) in an effort to improve ease of use. Inspired by a computer mouse, the rather clumsy Remote Touch interface is one of the few knocks against the Lexus ES 300h. If in-car connectivity is a priority, you'll want to try it out thoroughly during your test-drive.

Apart from that caveat, the 2016 Lexus ES 300h offers a pretty complete package. One of the few alternatives is the 2016 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. It isn't quite as refined or roomy as the ES 300h, but it is less expensive and posts similar fuel economy. Another way to go would be to buy a loaded version of the Toyota Avalon Hybrid, which is mechanically similar to the ES 300h and equipped with a more conventional (and easier to use) touchscreen electronics interface. Likewise, you might want to look at the Honda Accord Hybrid, as it's a well-appointed car in its own right and returns even better fuel economy. If you don't need quite as much space, the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid should be an interesting option to consider. For shoppers seeking a truly roomy car with premium accommodations and big fuel economy numbers, though, the Lexus ES 300h remains a compelling choice for 2016.

WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016

The 2016 Lexus ES 350 gets improved sound deadening in the cabin, a number of minor interior tweaks, a new grille and various other exterior styling updates. Bi-LED headlights are a new option, and a new safety package features a mildly revised version of the Lexus pre-collision system with pedestrian-detection capability.

2016 Lexus  ES Picture

TRIMS & EQUIPMENT

The 2016 Lexus ES 300h is the hybrid version of the five-seat Lexus ES 350 midsize luxury sedan, which is reviewed separately.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights (low-beam setting only), LED taillights, running lights and foglights, a sunroof, heated mirrors with memory function, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, a trio of driver-selectable drive modes (Eco/Normal, EV only and Sport), dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats (with two-way lumbar adjustment), perforated premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, Lexus Enform Remote (allows for smartphone control of certain vehicle functions) and Lexus Safety Connect emergency communications. Also standard is the Display Audio interface (includes a 7-inch touchscreen and multipurpose control knob), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free (iPhone voice control integration), and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB audio interface.

Luxury and comfort are practically Lexus trademarks, and the ES 300h's cabin doesn't skimp on either.

There are many individual options and packages available, but their availability varies by the region in which you live. Also note that many items and packages must be purchased in combination with one another.

The Navigation package includes a larger 8-inch display screen, the mouselike Remote Touch electronics interface, a navigation system, voice controls, traffic reporting, enhanced Bluetooth connectivity and the Enform suite of smartphone-connected apps and concierge services. A 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system with DVD-audio capability can be added as well. The Safety System+ package includes adaptive cruise control, a frontal collision warning system (the Lexus pre-collision system), a lane departure warning system with steering assist and automatic high-beam headlight control.

The Premium package adds a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver memory functions and several wood trim choices. The Luxury package includes all the Premium items, plus wood trim for the center console, leather upholstery and heated and ventilated front seats. The Ultra Luxury package includes items from both the Premium and Luxury packages, plus a driver seat cushion extender, passenger seat memory functions, manual rear side sunshades and ambient lighting.

Stand-alone options include upgraded bi-LED headlights, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing windshield wipers and many of the items from the above packages.

The ES 300h's LED taillights have a more defined "L" shape for the 2016 model year.

2016 Lexus  ES Picture

INTERIOR & SAFETY

The 2016 Lexus ES 300h's cabin presents a modern, stylish environment. The optional interior trim of sustainably grown bamboo is an especially attractive touch. The richness of the materials depends on whether you opt for one of the luxury packages, but in typical Lexus fashion, everything is put together with care regardless of how the ES is equipped.

The climate controls are simple to use, but the audio system is a little more complicated due to the sheer number of available media types. This is true whether you get the standard Display Audio touchscreen/multipurpose knob controller or the upgrade Lexus Remote Touch system included with the Navigation package. The latter is a mouselike device that controls a cursor on a large centrally located screen. Although interacting with this interface is very similar to using a computer mouse, the ultra-sensitive nature of the controller can make it clumsy and distracting to use while driving. For 2016, Lexus has added "Enter" buttons to each side of the mouse in the hope of making it easier to operate, but we haven't yet tested this revised setup. Bottom line: If tech features are important to you, we recommend playing around with Remote Touch before you take an ES 300h home.

Lexus has added "Enter" buttons to the sides of the Remote Touch controller in the 2016 ES 300h.

Six-footers will be quite content in the ES 300h's front seats. Rear-seat legroom is impressive as well, although taller occupants may find the seat to be positioned a little low. The rear-mounted battery pack cuts trunk capacity to 12.1 cubic feet (versus 15.2 cubic feet in the ES 350), and the rear seats do not fold.

Since the ES 300h is more full-size than midsize in dimensions, its backseat is very spacious and accommodating.

Standard on the 2016 Lexus ES 300h are antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Also standard are a rearview camera and Lexus Safety Connect with automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle location and an emergency assist button.

The Lexus Safety System+ option bundles the pre-collision system, lane departure warnings (with steering assist to help keep the car centered in its lane), adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlight control. The pre-collision system is a fairly basic frontal collision warning system, though it does have the ability to apply the brakes automatically in a potential collision situation and, for 2016, it's able to detect pedestrians in addition to other vehicles.

Other optional safety equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, and a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alerts.

In Edmunds brake testing, an ES 300h stopped from 60 mph in 129 feet, which is longer than average for an entry-level luxury sedan.

In government crash testing, the Lexus ES 300h received five out of five stars for overall safety, and for its protection in frontal- and side-impact crashes. The Lexus ES 350, on which the ES 300h is based, received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal offset, side-impact and roof strength tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Its seat and head restraint design was also rated Good for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

2016 Lexus  ES Picture

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING

The front-wheel-drive 2016 Lexus ES 300h features a hybrid powertrain consisting of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that together send 200 horsepower to the front wheels.

In Edmunds testing, an ES 300h went from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, and though this isn't quick for a conventional entry-level luxury sedan, it's pretty good for a hybrid. The EPA's estimated fuel economy is an excellent 40 mpg combined (40 city/39 highway). We got 40 mpg during Edmunds testing.

The 2016 Lexus ES 300h delivers a refined driving experience bolstered by its hybrid powertrain's quiet, all-electric operation at lower speeds. While the hybrid ES is noticeably less quick than the V6-equipped ES 350, most buyers will find its acceleration fully acceptable in normal driving situations and an acceptable trade-off for the hybrid's improved fuel economy.

Brake pedal feel is also impressively normal for a hybrid. You'll be hard-pressed to detect the transitions between the hybrid system's regenerative braking (which helps recharge the hybrid's battery pack) and application of the conventional brakes. At highway speeds, the cabin remains remarkably silent and is largely devoid of wind or road noise. Bumps and ruts in the road are well absorbed by the suspension, but don't expect complete isolation from road imperfections: The ES hybrid is tuned to deliver a balance between out-and-out comfort and handling precision.

VERDICT

The 2016 Lexus ES 300h brings stellar fuel efficiency to the entry-level luxury sedan segment. Great fuel economy and Lexus pampering: It's a win-win situation.

Copyright Edmunds.com, Inc. All rights reserved. First published on www.edmunds.com and reprinted with permission. Edmunds and the Edmunds.com car logo are registered trademarks of Edmunds.com, Inc.
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