2018 Lexus ES 300h

2018 Lexus ES 300h Review

The hybrid ES prioritizes fuel economy over performance but never forgets that it is a luxury sedan.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Cameron Rogers
Edmunds Editor

What do you do when you're attracted to the fuel efficiency offered by a typical hybrid but want more room and an upscale cabin? A large luxury hybrid that doesn't cost a fortune might seem like an impossibility, but the 2018 Lexus ES 300h delivers on all fronts.

This comfortable cruiser provides spacious transport for up to five passengers, all while returning fuel economy around 40 mpg. You definitely get a lot of car for your money with the ES 300h. It costs just a bit more than the related Toyota Avalon Hybrid, but the Lexus is undeniably the more luxurious of the two.

That doesn't mean the ES 300h is perfect — you do give up some functionality when you upgrade. We're specifically referring to the Lexus' Remote Touch infotainment controller, which is frustrating to use even for seasoned tech veterans. Overall, though, the 2018 Lexus ES 300h should easily satisfy shoppers who want a fuel-efficient and roomy luxury sedan.



what's new

The Lexus ES 300h receives no major changes for 2018.

we recommend

There's only one version of the 2018 Lexus ES 300h, but a couple of option packages are worth considering. The Premium package is inexpensive yet adds appealing luxury touches such as a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver-seat memory settings and wood trim (a definite upgrade over the standard piano black pieces). It's also required if you want to add the Navigation package. We think the Luxury package is another good buy: It bumps up the price by a healthy margin, but its extra safety features and real leather upholstery are worth the expense.




trim levels & features

The 2018 Lexus ES 300h luxury sedan comes with a four-cylinder hybrid powertrain, allowing it to achieve better fuel economy than its V6-powered ES 350 sibling. It's sold in a single, well-equipped trim level, with a number of available feature packages and stand-alone options. Note that some options and configurations may be limited depending on where the car is purchased.

The hybrid powertrain has a four-cylinder engine and electric motor with a combined output of 200 horsepower. The combo sends power to the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting (headlights, taillights, running lights and foglights), automatic high beams, automatic wipers, a sunroof, heated mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, adaptive cruise control, a forward collision warning system with automatic braking, and lane departure warning and mitigation. Also standard are dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats (with two-way power lumbar), 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 infotainment front, the ES 300h comes with a driver information display, an 8-inch central display screen, Siri Eyes Free (iPhone voice control integration) and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, HD radio and a USB port.

There are a few notable packages available for the Lexus ES 300h, starting with the Navigation package. It includes the mouselike Remote Touch interface, a navigation system, voice controls, a second USB port, and the Enform suite of smartphone-connected apps and concierge services. A 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system can be added to this package.

The Premium package adds a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver-seat memory settings and several wood trim choices. The Luxury package includes the Premium package and tacks on leather upholstery and heated and ventilated front seats. It also requires the addition of several stand-alone options, including front and rear parking sensors, a steering wheel trimmed in leather and wood, a power rear sunshade, upgraded headlights, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

Finally, the Ultra Luxury package includes everything from the Luxury package plus a driver seat-cushion extender, passenger-seat memory settings, upgraded leather upholstery, manual rear side sunshades and ambient lighting. 



trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2017 Lexus ES 300h (2.5L inline-4 hybrid | CVT automatic | FWD). NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current ES 300h has received only minor revisions. Our findings remain applicable to the 2018 ES 300h.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

3.0 / 5.0

Acceleration3.0 / 5.0
Braking2.0 / 5.0
Steering3.0 / 5.0
Handling3.0 / 5.0
Drivability4.0 / 5.0

Comfort

4.5 / 5.0

Seat comfort4.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort4.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration3.0 / 5.0
Climate control3.0 / 5.0

Interior

4.0 / 5.0

Ease of use4.5 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out3.0 / 5.0
Driving position3.5 / 5.0
Roominess4.5 / 5.0
Visibility5.0 / 5.0
Quality4.5 / 5.0

Utility

3.5 / 5.0

Small-item storage2.5 / 5.0
Cargo space4.0 / 5.0

Technology

2.5 / 5.0

Audio & navigation1.0 / 5.0
Smartphone integration3.0 / 5.0
Driver aids4.0 / 5.0
Voice control3.0 / 5.0

Driving

edmunds rating
The ES 300h is faster in a straight line than its chief rival, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, but neither is as entertaining to drive as a performance-oriented plug-in such as the BMW 330e. Handling is acceptable for a car like this, but hair-trigger brakes with a soft, spongy pedal are inexcusable.

Acceleration

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Acceleration response is dull in the default driving settings. The Eco driving mode only exacerbates this issue, while Sport improves it somewhat with sharper power delivery. The ES can accelerate to 60 mph in a respectable 7.8 seconds.

Braking

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The brakes are initially very grabby. Even when you're familiar with the brakes, smooth stops don't come naturally. We needed 117 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is average for this class of vehicle.

Steering

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The steering has lots of assist, but the actual ratio is slower than average. There's also no steering feedback to speak of, though the on-center feel is sufficient enough to keep the ES 300h pointed straight at highway speeds.

Handling

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Considering this is a large, soft-riding Lexus with a big battery pack, it handles OK. Body roll is well-controlled even if the tires don't provide much grip. It doesn't do as well with quick transitions; the car is slow to respond.

Drivability

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The ES 300h usually pulls away from stops in a pure EV mode, but the engine fires up smoothly and quickly when needed. You can feel when the engine kicks on, but overall the transition is impressively smooth.

Comfort

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In classic Lexus fashion, the ES 300h exhibits a soft ride quality that diminishes or altogether neutralizes any jitteriness that poorly maintained roads can cause. Performance from the sedan's climate control system is disappointing, though.

Seat comfort

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All outboard seats are comfortable over long distances. The rear bench is set to a gentle recline, though passengers would further benefit from a seat bottom with a little more rear tilt. A lack of lateral support is understandable given the car's mission.

Ride comfort

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The ride is predominantly soft and comfortable. Highway cruising is enjoyable. But the ride can get a little bouncy while traveling on undulating roads, and some midcorner bumps will send the occasional shudder through the cabin.

Noise & vibration

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Road and wind noise is reasonably quelled. When the electric motor is recharging, it produces a high-pitched whine that some buyers might not expect. The gas engine sounds a bit overworked when you dig into the accelerator for power.

Climate control

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Dual-zone automatic climate control comes standard, and heated and ventilated front seats are included with our tester's Luxury package. The ventilation function is weak, while the heaters will only toast rear ends on the highest setting. Heated rear seats are not available.

Interior

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Aside from minor issues with getting into and out of the car, the ES 300h is easy to live with. Highlights include fantastic outward visibility and a spacious cabin. One caveat: We haven't tested an example with the panoramic sunroof, which could affect headroom.

Ease of use

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All controls in the front are clearly labeled and within easy reach of the driver. There's even a long pad just aft of the mouse controller so you can rest your hand while using it.

Getting in/getting out

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Taller drivers will find it fairly difficult to avoid grazing a knee on the steering wheel bottom when getting in, even with the wheel tilted all the way up. Otherwise, entry is easy all the way around. Low seat bottoms in the back slightly impede exiting.

Driving position

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The driver's seat provides a nice range of adjustment and is a nice place to sit overall. For long-legged drivers, the bottom cushion may feel slightly short (without the Ultra Luxury pack) while the armrests are a little low if you like to cruise with your hands at the 3 and 9 positions on the wheel.

Roominess

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This big sedan has abundant legroom and shoulder room for all outboard passengers. The standard sunroof doesn't cut into front headroom at all, though tall rear-seat passengers might brush their hair against the roof when fully leaning against the seatback.

Visibility

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A low beltline, narrow pillars and large windows with light tint combine to give the driver excellent outward visibility, even with the seat set in its lowest position. A rearview camera comes standard; front and rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring are optional.

Quality

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The ES displays the solid build quality we've come to expect from Lexus. Trim pieces line up perfectly, and contrast-colored stitching looks good. There's nothing terribly daring or awe-inspiring but perhaps that's for the best, considering the busy interiors we've seen in other Lexuses of late.

Utility

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The ES 300h's cargo area dwarfs rivals' by several cubic feet, but because of battery pack placement, you can't fold the rear seats down to increase it. Adding child seats is easy thanks to the large back seat and easily accessible LATCH anchors.

Small-item storage

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There's a pair of cupholders front and back, and the front door pockets will each accept a standard water bottle laid on its side. There are no rear door pockets or additional trays in the front.

Cargo space

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The cargo area measures 12.1 cubic feet, which is larger than you'll find in rival hybrid sedans. However, with the battery compartment pressed against the bulkhead, there's no pass-through and you can't fold the rear seats down.

Child safety seat accommodation

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There are two LATCH anchors that stick out from each of the outboard seats. They are easy to access, though they are unsightly considering they aren't hidden at all. Three tethers on the rear shelf are concealed and similarly easy to find and hook on to.

Technology

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All the latest safety systems are here, but the ES 300h stumbles on other tech fronts. You have to download Lexus' app to have access to things such as Pandora, and the infotainment system's mouselike controller continues to fall short in user-friendliness.

Audio & navigation

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The Lexus infotainment system's mouse controller is unintuitive and frustrating to operate. Give it an extensive test run at the dealership, so you know you can live with it. The Mark Levinson system sounds good but lacks a little strength to fully satisfy our audio demands.

Smartphone integration

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You have to download Lexus' Enform App Suite to use smartphone apps such as Pandora and Yelp through the central display screen. Enform Remote lets users perform basic functions such as door unlocking and cabin heating and cooling from their phone. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are notably absent.

Driver aids

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The ES 300h comes standard with several advanced safety systems, including lane departure alert and pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking. The last one is especially important; it comes in handy given how difficult it is to effectively use the brakes.

Voice control

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Lexus' voice command prompts you to communicate with preselected phrases, but we found detection of natural speech to be limited. Siri Eyes Free is theoretically available with connected iPhones, but we were unable to get it to work on our test car.

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.