Auto Review: Room, luxury and surprising efficiency
By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Nov. 28, 2012
These days there are not a whole lot of components of a new automobile that you can’t hand-pick to suit your lifestyle, while years ago most of your choices were primarily cosmetic in nature. Now you can pick between all kinds of body styles, equipment levels, drive systems and electronic enhancements. Most interesting of all, we’re now seeing a time where we have more choices than ever before in terms of how we want to power our vehicles with everything from gas and diesel engines and to hybrids and even all-electric propulsion systems.
In the case of Toyota’s upscale Lexus division, they are expanding the availability of gas/electric hybrid models by, for the first time, offering this frugal powertrain in their popular ES sedan. Based on the Camry platform, the four-door ES sedan is the Lexus version of affordable luxury with generous room, the latest in electronic wizardry and a reputation for excellent build quality and reliability. The new 2013 300h takes all these attributes and introduces exemplary fuel economy thanks to the company’s tried-and-true Hybrid Drive system.
The all-new 300h is a luxury midsize sedan that (like so many in the class these days) has interior room bordering on full-size specification. The body structure is stiffer, the steering quicker, and numerous other suspension changes are found across the board on the ES models, and this includes the hybrid version. The front-drive chassis is powered by a 2.5-Liter Atkinson Cycle Inline Four, mated to an electric motor that’s juiced by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total system output is 200 horsepower, and a mode selector lets the driver pick from EV (electric vehicle), Normal, Eco and Sport settings. I kept our test subject in the Normal mode most of the time, and acceleration was smooth, with 60 mph arriving in just under 9 seconds. The transitions from full electric, gas and electric and gas engine-only operation have become smoother than ever, showing all of Toyota’s extensive experience with hybrid powertrains continues to improve the breed. Handling and ride quality are a near ideal mix of control and comfort for a luxury sedan such as this, making the driving experience as painless or engaging as you desire.
Inside the ES300h is an impressive place to spend hours on the road, for the workmanship and choice of materials (including bamboo wood trim) are top-notch. Both front seat room and comfort are excellent, and the rear seats provide a similar measure of expansive space and pampered luxury. As electronic interfaces are becoming more and more commonplace, this Lexus had their optional Enform System that uses the Navigation interface and includes a variety of apps and ties into your smart phone for enhanced in-car capability. The cabin is quiet at speed, and even with the battery pack incorporated into the trunk, there’s 12.1 cubic feet of luggage space.
The 2013 Lexus ES300h is EPA rated 40 MPG city/39 highway and we experienced an impressive 42 MPG in a week of mixed driving. With options, our MSRP came to $46,070. www.lexus.com