2017 Lexus ES 300h Review
Edmunds expert review
No longer the early-adopter novelty product from a decade ago, hybrid cars are now ubiquitous on American roads. With few exceptions, most hybrids are of the hatchback or family sedan cloth, with only a handful of entry-level luxury sedans such as the 2017 Lexus ES 300h offered for sale. As a hybrid, the ES 300h prioritizes fuel efficiency over power, but it takes its luxury sedan responsibilities seriously, offering all the space and comfort you'll find in the V6-powered ES 350.
Roomy for its class, the Lexus ES 300h is a relaxing place to spend time, with its exquisite interior trim and fit and finish, tranquil ride quality, and a large backseat. What makes this Lexus truly desirable, of course, is outstanding fuel economy. The four-cylinder hybrid powertrain helps the ES 300h achieve an EPA-estimated 40 mpg combined while offering brisk (enough) acceleration. You can still get better fuel economy from, say, a Toyota Prius, but as generously sized luxury sedans go, the 300h is at the top of its class.
One of our few gripes with the ES 300h is its Remote Touch interface. The idea is interesting — use a computer mouselike pad to control infotainment functions — but the reality is that it's just not easy to use while you're driving. If in-car connectivity is a priority, you'll want to give it a thorough inspection during a test drive. The ES 300h's ride quality is also a little disappointing — it's not as smooth as you might expect for a Lexus — but this is more of a quibble than a major drawback.
Overall, the 2017 Lexus ES 300h is a pretty complete package. It's also one of just a few hybrid luxury sedans available. One alternative is the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. It isn't quite as refined or roomy as the Lexus, but it does offer similar fuel efficiency and costs less. You could also check out a fully loaded Toyota Avalon Hybrid, which is mechanically similar to the ES 300h and comes with a more conventional touchscreen tech interface. Or if the idea of a plug-in hybrid appeals to you, take a look at the BMW 330e hybrid. Still, for a truly roomy car with a premium interior and impressive fuel economy, you're not going to find a better choice than the Lexus ES 300h.
Standard on the 2017 Lexus ES 300h are antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, front knee airbags, a forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking,and lane departure intervention. Also standard are a rearview camera and Lexus Safety Connect with automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle location and an emergency assistance button.
Other optional safety equipment includes front and rear parking sensors and a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert.
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 a top five-star rating for overall safety, with four stars for total front-impact safety and five stars for total side-impact safety.
The Lexus ES 350, on which the ES 300h is based, received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest rating of Good for its performance in the front-impact, side-impact, roof strength and head restraint/seat (whiplash protection) tests. It also earned a top Superior score for the effectiveness of its forward collision mitigation system.
What's new for 2017
Trim levels & features
The 2017 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 wheels, LED lighting (headlights, taillights, running lights and foglights), automatic high beams, a sunroof, heated mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, adaptive cruise control and a host of active driver aids (see Safety section). Also standard are dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats, simulated leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, Lexus Enform Remote (allows for smartphone control of some vehicle functions) and Lexus Safety Connect emergency communications.
On the tech front the ES 300h comes with a 7-inch touchscreen and multipurpose control knob, Bluetooth 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.
Various individual options and packages are available, depending on the region in which you live. Also 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 interface, a navigation system, voice controls, enhanced Bluetooth connectivity and the Enform suite of smartphone-connected aps and concierge services. A 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system can be added as well.
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 leather upholstery and heated and ventilated front seats. The Ultra Luxury package includes items from both the Premium and Luxury package, plus a driver seat-cushion extender, passenger-seat memory functions, a power rear window shade, manual rear side sunshades and ambient lighting.
Notable stand-alone options include upgraded headlights, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear parking sensors.
The front-wheel-drive 2017 Lexus ES 300h combines 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 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds. That's not quick for a conventional entry-level luxury sedan, but it's pretty good for a hybrid. EPA-estimated fuel economy is an excellent 40 mpg combined (40 city/39 highway), an estimate we managed to match during Edmunds testing.
The 2017 Lexus ES 300h delivers a refined driving experience bolstered by the powertrain's quiet, all-electric operation at low speeds. While the hybrid ES is slower than the V6-equipped ES 350, its acceleration in normal traffic should be enough for most buyers, especially those who understand the trade-off for improved fuel economy.
The regenerative braking system in many hybrids, which helps convert brake heat into battery energy, can feel unnatural and stiff compared to traditional brakes. Not so in the ES 300h, which feels remarkably normal and natural.
At highway speeds, the cabin remains remarkably silent and largely devoid of wind or road noise. The suspension absorbs bumps and ruts in the road pretty well, but the ES 300h's ride quality isn't quite as smooth as some other popular luxury sedans.
The 2017 Lexus ES 300h's cabin is modern and stylish. The richness of the materials depends on the available optional packages (you can even get bamboo trim), but in typical Lexus fashion, everything is stitched together with world-class care regardless of materials.
Everyday controls such as the climate control system are easy enough to use, but the audio/tech interface can be a little disorienting whether you get the standard Display Audio touchscreen with a multipurpose knob controller or the Lexus Remote Touch upgrade included with the Navigation package.
The latter is a mouselike device that controls a cursor on a large central screen. Although it operates like a computer mouse, the ultra-sensitive controller is clumsy and distracting to use while driving, although "Enter" buttons on each side of the mouse make it somewhat easier to operate, in theory. If tech features are important to you, we recommend playing around with Remote Touch before you take an ES300h home.
Tall passengers will be quite content in the ES 300h's front seats, and rear-seat legroom is similarly impressive, although 6-foot or taller passengers might find the seats 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, somewhat hindering the sedan's cargo capabilities.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.