A big thanks to Lexus New Zealand and Lexus Wellington located at 54 Kent Terrace, Mt Victoria, Wellington for helping to organise a brand new Lexus ES300H for our Road Tested Review. Lexus_ES300h-9

First Impressions

I knew before even seeing this car that this would be a different beast to the IS 350 F Sport I road tested a few months ago, but I did not expect it to be so different. The main difference, which is not immediately apparent, is that the $80,995 Lexus ES300H is a Hybrid. This combines a small engine in the front with an electric motor and battery cells in the back. Thankfully it looked just like a normal car, something that many manufacturers’ eco warrior models fail to do. I can’t say that I would be the ideal target market for this car, but was keen to see what it had to offer and planned to approach this with as much of an unbiased view as my petrolhead roots could muster. Lexus_ES300h-4

The Test Drive

Starting this car is a strange and unfamiliar experience, something you could vaguely link to a car that has broken down. Once you press the power button you quickly realise nothing audible happens. But upon looking at the dash the ES300H confirms it’s ready to go, and after releasing the footbrake, away we rolled without a sound, running purely on battery power. For someone not used to this it can at first seem very odd, however I was amazed at how quickly I got accustomed to it. Not long after setting off or when some additional uphill torque is needed the engine will seamlessly kick in and provide what you’re looking for. The dark arts of its continuously variable transmission make any change between battery power and engine power, or both together, completely unnoticeable. The only real indication you have is from the center console hybrid mode display. This almost hypnotic visual power transfer shows you how much technology is seamlessly working and going audibly unnoticed as you drive around. From pure battery power to a combination of both together, charging the battery by either coasting under engine power or from regenerative braking. It was kind of hard not to be impressed by it all when you compare it to what now seemed like an archaic single engine platform. Lexus_ES300h-15

Driving the ES300H was just like any other midsize car, and if not for the Hybrid badges on it, I don’t think many would even know it was a hybrid. It’s quiet and smooth even at speed on the motorway. You can hear the engine, but only just. The majority of this is thanks to the aerodynamics, which have reduced wind noise so much that you sometimes don’t think you are moving very fast at all. Everything about this car is targeting comfort, the handling and ride was what you would expect from any of the base model German offerings. The performance is a different story. Combining a 2.5 L inline four cylinder engine and a 151 kw electric motor does not result in any eye-watering performance, but for a car of its size it does deliver mind blowing efficiency. Over the week I had this car I covered around 500km, and got around 6.7 L per 100km. This in itself is pretty good, as it mixed a balanced amount of city and motorway driving. The other factors that make this so impressive is that I still had over half a tank of petrol left. I personally felt that the “range until empty” dash reading told you the entire story. When picking up the ES it had displayed 850km range, and after travelling the 500 or so kilometres it still displayed that I had around 550 km range left. I dont need to show you any fancy graphs to highlight the fact these figures were not making any sense. Perhaps it only takes into account the petrol remaining for the engine and not the additional power gained from the hybrid system. Either way I felt I could have easily gotten another five or six hundred more kilometres out of it before considering stopping to refuel. Based on my typical weekly travel this car could potentially save me around 50% of what I pay for petrol a year. And thats a serious bit of coin based on today’s crazy petrol prices, something the Germans have yet to seriously offer. Lexus_ES300h-24

The eco dial on the dash was quite interesting, showing in normal mode, when you are using the battery, the engine or both instead of the standard rpm dial I was accustomed to seeing. At first I thought this was a bit of a useless silly feature, but after the test I was not so sure. My driving style changed quite a bit during the few days I had it, and I think it’s unknowingly due to this not-so-silly dial. On the first day I just saw this as a dial that told me how inefficient my driving had and I had, due to its insults, decided I was not going to pay much attention to it and just drive how I normally do. Over the next few days I found myself checking this just as much as I check the speedo, and found that I was starting to drive in a somewhat more efficient manner, easing on the throttle allowing the electric motors to use the batteries’ stored power, and with this I could see the battery level being used a lot more than the first day or two. I was starting to see what this car was all about as I continued to get more and more out of it. Lexus_ES300h-25

The ES did have a sports mode, something which in my opinion is a generous title for a button in this car. As far as I could work out only two things happen when you switch to this mode. The most noticeable is the engine drops a gear and gives you a lot more rpm like most sports mode buttons, but this was a lot more noticeable due to the size of the engine and the typical high-revving 4 cylinder sound it produced, something which should not come from a car this size if you’re talking about sportiness. The second thing is that the Eco dial switches to a normal RPM dial. I will admit it did give you a bit more power, but nothing that anyone should write home about.Lexus_ES300h-17

From the outside it doesn’t seem like a very big car but once you get in you instantly know this is quite a big car. It’s not often I have to adjust the seat forward to get into the right position, however it was a position that I found hard to find. It took me a while to figure out why. I played with the seat positions and angles and nothing felt right. And then it hit me, the adjustment range in and out of the dash for the steering wheel was not very far. So if you are of the taller breed like I am, you might find that you have to pull the seat closer than you would like just so the ten and two positions are correct. And to fit you find your knees going left and right of the bottom of the steering wheel. It wasn’t short by a lot, but it was just enough to notice and I felt it wasn’t the most relaxing position to be sitting in. The seats themselves did make up for this as they were very comfy, they did not remind me so much of a car seat, but more that of a comfy new leather sofa.Lexus_ES300h-16

The rest of the interior was a collection of mixed emotions for me, as it felt like quite a step backwards from the previous updated IS interior. Just little things mind you, like the gear stick, which for tall people due to the position I had to sit in was pushed against my leg no thanks to the the dogleg configuration and angled stick. If this had been similar to the IS it would have been a lot nicer to look at and use. There was a nice array of soft touch materials and leather steering wheel, but there were a few hard clunky plastic parts around the doors and parts of the dash, something you would expect to see in a much cheaper vehicle than a Lexus. The back seat had an amazing amount of space, space which I have not seen the likes of from what Lexus call a mid-sized car, without any effect on the 490 Litre boot space.Lexus_ES300h-6

What it’s up against.

I found it somewhat difficult to place this car in the market. I generally rank vehicles by two main categories. The first one being the manufacturer’s classification, hatch, coupe, mid size or large etc.. And the second one by price, as the consumer should know what else they can get for a similar price. I do also look at other aspect and any new innovations too, and this is where things started to get muddy. If I was to go on price alone, the ES sits in between the german base models and their first upgraded model. The problem with this was that the ES is way bigger than these cars, and should be volumetrically be classed with the German full size sedans. But if I did that they would all sit a good 20k or 30k above the Lexus. Where this car trumps the rest of the list is in the efficiency. Some other brands say they do similar litres per 100km, but none of them take into account the added range you get from an additional battery cell and electric motor. This gives it quite an edge if that is at the top of your features list.Lexus_ES300h-23

Brand / Model



Fuel L/100km

Luggage Capacity

Price Highest to Lowest

BMW 535i

3.0L Turbo Inline 6

225 Kw / 400 Nm

7.7 L

520 Litres


Audi A6

3.0 L TDI Quattro

150 Kw / 450 Nm

5.7 L

530 Litres


Mercedes E250

2.0 L Turbo Inline 4

155 Kw / 350 Nm

6.4 L

540 Litres


Mercedes C250 CDI

2.2 L TDI Inline 4

150 Kw / 500 Nm

6.8 L

480 Litres


BMW 328i

2.0 L Turbo Inline 4

180kw / 350 Nm

6.3 L

480 Litres


Lexus ES300H

2.5 L Inline 4, 118kW, 213 Nm, Hybrid

151 kw / 400 Nm

5.5L / 100km

490 Litres


Audi A4 S-Line

2.0 L TDI Inline 4

130 Kw / 380 Nm


480 Litres


Audi A4

2.0 L TDI Inline 4

130 Kw / 380 Nm


480 Litres


Jaguar XF SE

2.0 L Inline 4

177kw / 400 Nm


540 Litres


Holden Caprice

3.6 L V6

180 Kw / 320 Nm


535 Litres


BMW 320D

2.0 L TDI Inline 4

135 Kw / 380 Nm


480 Litres


Mercedes C200 CDI

2.2 L TDI Inline 4

100 Kw / 300 Nm


480 Litres


Volvo S60 D4

2.0 L Inline 4 Tubro

133 Kw / 400Kw


380 Litres


VW CC Diesel

2.0 L Inline 4

130 Kw / 380Kw

5.2 L

452 Litres



Pros and Cons



  • A very quiet car inside, around town and on the motorway.

  • Ridiculously efficient for its size, due to hybrid power systems.

  • Full size vehicle for mid sized price.
  • Very comfortable cabin.

  • Eco dash gauge does effect and help you drive more efficiently.

  • Good sized boot.

  • Lacks the sharp looks that other new Lexus models have.

  • Steering wheel has very limited adjustment, makes it hard for taller people to get comfortable.

  • Interior still had some cheap plastic bits dotted around which cheapens the feel.

  • Gear Stick belongs in a very old car.

  • Key Fob felt like it was from a cheaper car.


What do we think ?

This car was a bit of an eye opener, but it didn’t change my life or make me want to buy it. It’s definitely the sort of car for people who are not that fussed on how it looks, see it as more of an A to B machine, and are more interested in saving money at the pump. The impressive hybrid system can’t be faulted. It did its job so well that it might as well not have even been there, and the resulting figures are nothing to scoff at. You could save yourself a lot of money if you’re after a decent sized car but don’t want the petrol bill that usually comes with it. This efficiency is why it got the mark it did, without its hybrid system this car would be viewed in a completely different light.


Rating – Chevron rating 4 out of 5

Lexus ES300H

Vehicle Type

Front Engine, FWD, Hybrid, 4 Door Luxury Sedan

Starting Price

$ 80.995 NZD

Tested Price

$ 80.995 NZD


2.5 L Inline 4, 118kW, 213 Nm

Hybrid System

Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor 151kw


Continuously Variable Transmission

0 – 100 kph

8.5 seconds

Kerb Weight

1630 kg

Length x Width x Height

4900 x 1897 x 1450 mm

Cargo Capacity

490 Litres

Fuel Tank

65 litres


Urban – 6.2 L/100km

Motorway – 5.0 L/100km

Combined – 5.5 L/100km, 130 g/km CO2

ANCAP Safety Ratings

Yet to be tested


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John Galvin (JSG)
It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.


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