QUICK DRIVE: Lexus ES300h Limited

Where the Lexus ES350 is the powerhouse of the newly re-introduced ES range, the ES300h is its smoother, quieter and far more economical hybrid brother. And, we have to say, probably more in keeping with the wonderfully serene – and traditionally Lexus – atmosphere created by the company’s newest mid-size luxo-machine.

As we mentioned in our Road Test of the ES350, the new ES range is far more in the vein of the luxury LS than its more sporting-focussed siblings either side of it in the Lexus range; the IS and GS.

And that makes it probably the most traditionally “Lexus-like” of all the current Lexii this side of the big LS.

Our test ES300h was far more reserved than the bright red paint/white leather of our ES350 test car and was, in our opinion, far better for it. Some cars just suit subtlety better and the ES is one of those cars.

As both our ES test cars were Limited specification, the only real difference was the powertrain. Where the ES350 scores Toyota’s ever-impressive 204kW 3.5-litre V8 hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission, the ES300h gets a hybrid electric powertrain made up of a 2.5-litre Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor with a combined output of 151kW, hooked up to a continuously variable transmission.

This not only helps the ES drastically in a fuel consumption sense (5.5L/100km versus the 350’s 9.5) it also makes the ES300h even smoother and quieter. Damn near silent in many situations.

While it is down on power, the performance from the hybrid unit is more than acceptable, with the ES300h scampering to the legal limit in 8.5 seconds, compared to the 350’s 7.4 second time. The only time it really becomes noticeable that you have a CVT hiding in shame under the car is when you need to use the full travel of the throttle pedal and you are greeted with the usual desperate CVT-induced groan from the engine. Still, this is infrequent and short-lived, so hardly a deal-breaker.

Even smoother and quieter than its more powerful sibling, the ES300h is pretty much the next best thing to a more-than-twice-the-price LS in terms of serenely comfortable motoring.

Price: $94,995

Engine: 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder petrol/electric hybrid

Power/torque: 151kW/n/a

Transmission: Continuously variable

0-100km/h: 8.5 seconds

Fuel consumption: 5.5L/100km

CO2 emissions: 130g/km

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