2019 Lexus ES 300h Luxury new car reviews

The ES, a Lexus staple since Day 1 some 30 years ago, is new for 2019. Big changes? It’s longer, lower and wider than before. A 3.5-liter V6 engine comes standard.

And, yes, there’s still a hybrid option, which is what we tested. “An all-new 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gas engine (A25A-FXS) running on the Atkinson cycle is coupled with a smaller, more power dense electric motor and an all-new hybrid transaxle,” says the press materials.

Some more tech talk from the release: “The hybrid control system is now designed to deliver a more linear acceleration feel by aligning engine speed more closely with vehicle speed to reduce the rubber band feel commonly associated with hybrid systems. Engaging the Sport drive mode further enhances acceleration by boosting torque at lower speeds while paddle shifters can be used to move through six simulated gears for more precise control.”

Our test car had the Luxury package. It adds 10-way power front seats, wood interior trim and leather seating.

Other staff views

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin

Way back in 1989 the Lexus brand was launched. Quickly Toyota’s premium brand made the rest of the world take notice, and soon BMW, Mercedes and even Cadillac upped their games to keep up. The LS 400 was a world-beater, and the automotive press gushed about its refinement, value and performance.

Nearly forgotten in all the excitement was Lexus’s entry-level model, the ES250. Based on the Camry platform, the ES quietly took its place as the mid-size cloud-mobile.

Lexus wasn’t aiming for the sporting crowd with this one–the latter IS models would climb that mountain. The ES was designed for the buyer who wanted as much insulation between themselves and the driving experience as possible. Think of a Camry topped with whipped cream, and you get the picture.

Almost 30 years later the formula for the ES remains the same. Take a loaded Camry, load it up some more and, voila, instant near-luxury car.

Along with the Camry, this new Lexus looks mean–angry actually. Don’t be fooled, this ES exhibits the same cushy demeanor as its forebears.

Nearly all automobiles are rapid these days, and on this scale the ES300h doesn’t disappoint. No, you won’t win drag races against Corvettes, but the 300h has plenty of power for its lot in life. Lexus’s hybrid system works seamlessly, and this is generally a very pleasant machine to operate.

It’s also a great long-distance cruiser, as we recently found out after driving to Road Atlanta and back. The seats are supportive and very comfortable, the interior materials feel and look good, and of course this Lexus has all the electronic doo-dads that anyone could hope for. Too many doo-dads if you ask me–as the dash and steering wheel are a hard to read clutter of tiny buttons. I’m sure we’d learn all the ES’s electronic tricks if we owned one, but the tech is unintuitive and frustrating upon first use.

As nice as it is, the ES 300h isn’t very engaging. It will make good time if you insist, but it would much rather float along at moderate speeds. It has a “Sport” mode which stiffens the car up and changes the throttle mapping for a more aggressive toe-in, but it doesn’t seem happy rushing.

There are plenty of quality sedans on the market these days, some which even are fun to drive. The ES 300h doesn’t play in that game. It’s happy to be a very good car, for non-car people.

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Over the years, I haven’t been the biggest fan of the ES line. The steering–and, to be honest–the entire car just always felt light. Yeah, I know it’s a Camry underneath, but it just felt so wimpy that I have been more attracted to the brand’s rear-drive offerings.

But this ES changes that. The steering feels nicely weighted: It’s a confident handshake vs. a wet noodle. The ride is still soft but connected at the same time.

Toyota’s latest hybrid drive delivers as promised as well. It simply feels like a “normal” drivetrain, whatever that means these days. There’s no excuses made.

While calling it my favorite ES sounds like damned praised, I was impressed with this one. If you have someone looking for an upmarket mid-sized sedan–hybrid or not–recommend that they take this one for a test drive.

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mtn MegaDork
12/20/18 7:54 p.m.

You have piqued my curiosity: what is it about the ES that qualifies it as a classic?

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Digital Experience Director
1/7/19 2:32 p.m.

Nothing, but the E28-chassis BMW 5 series was new once, too. We'll be highlighting new cars here that are more appropriate for the average Classic Motorsports reader, or that we think could be future classics.


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