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2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid Sedan Review Plus 2017 Model Update By Larry Nutson

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2016 Lexus ES 300h
Plus what’s new for 2017

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

My norm is I drive and evaluate a different vehicle just about every week. Each vehicle requires a quick assessment of its various nuances—even sometimes resorting to reading the owner’s manual, getting comfortable behind the wheel with controls, checking outward sight lines and so on.

With the new driver-assistance safety technology being equipped these days, either as optional or standard equipment, that too needs to be assessed. The truth being, you quickly adapt to having a feature on one vehicle and can overlook that the next vehicle doesn’t have it. Sort of like, oh yeah, that was last week’s car.

For example, a blind-spot monitor system is fairly common but is not on every vehicle. I have found that this warning system becomes an added subconscious aide to reassure that a lane change maneuver is safe to execute. Get in a vehicle without it and that added safety and reassurance is not there to help your decision.

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Case in point is the 2016 Lexus ES 300h sedan I recently drove. The Lexus line-up of luxury vehicles is always something I look forward to driving. Lexus sedans, coupes and SUVs provide entry-level luxury to high-end luxury and span from comfortable and refined transportation to very sporty cars. I was especially looking forward to driving a sedan, in this day and age of everything being an SUV.

After a short drive I quickly noted that I was driving a “base model” 300h with no options, although there’s a long listed of standard luxury features. The MSRP of the 2016 300h is $40,920 and the only addition was $940 for delivery and handling. So there I was, no options and no driver-assistance safety features.

For 2016, Blind Spot Monitor with rear cross-traffic alert is a $500 option. And, the Lexus Safety System+ is also an option costing $500. That gets you Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Intelligent High Beam and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist.

But now, for 2017 the Lexus Safety System+ has been made standard and the base price of the 300h bumped up to $41,820. The blind spot monitor system still remains an option for 2017.

Lexus did a lot of work on the 300h for 2016 with bolder styling, a new chrome-trimmed spindle grille, LED headlights, new front fascia and L-themed taillights. There were new wheels, new colors and new interior features and finishes. The Lexus Safety System+ mentioned above first became available in 2016.

For 2017 in addition to the Lexus Safety System+ now made standard, the Lexus Display Audio adds Scout GPS link, rain-sensing wipers are standard and the remote touch interface adds a “Back” button for easier navigation.

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The ES 300h has a trunk lip spoiler for improved aero and hides the exhaust pipe instead of boldly placing two stylish dual exhaust outlets at the rear fascia like we see on so many cars today. There’s loads of standard luxury including automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats, leather steering wheel, power moonroof and more.

Of course a hybrid is all about low fuel consumption. The 300h has EPA test-cycle fuel economy ratings of 40 mpg combined, with 40 city mpg and 39 highway. Note the high city rating which is characteristic of hybrids really paying off in lower speed driving. In my mostly around-town driving the on-board indicator showed I was getting 40.5 mpg. Not too shabby!

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The 300h has a 2.5-L 4-cylinder combined with a high-output electric motor for a total of 200 system horsepower. It’s mated to a CVT driving the front wheels. A drive mode switch lets you choose between Eco, Normal and Sport. Around town and in normal driving the 300h has no shortcomings when it comes to acceleration, merging and passing. A Hybrid System Indicator shows energy flow. I was entertained by challenging myself to try and keep the gas engine from turning on.

With light throttle and low load the 300h drives silently and smoothly on electric power only. Switch to Sport mode and the 300h lights up with lots of performance and quick acceleration. Zero to 60 mph is in 8.1 seconds, so says Lexus.

Ride quality is comfortable with good precise steering and good manners in twists and turns. Over the road wind and tire noise is low making for enjoyable conversation or listening to your favorite play list.

Take a road trip and the 300h should be good for around 680 miles on one tank of fuel thanks to its 17.2 gallon capacity.

On the inside the 300h is very roomy, comfortable and quiet, with the light colored interior on my media-loan car much to my liking. The quality of materials really impresses and the overall fit and finish is very satisfying. Front seats with their 10-way adjustment are easy to get comfortable in and there’s plenty of room in the rear. The computer mouse-like controller for audio and climate control takes getting used to and is not the most direct system for making adjustments.

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Noteworthy is that Lexus topped the 2016 Consumer Report car reliability survey of the most reliable brands. More brand product info on the 300h can be found at and Lexus comparisons, specs, safety ratings news, opinion and everything else about Lexus (1997-2017) can be found on our Lexus Buyers Guide

The ES 300h is a very good entry luxury sedan doing what it is intended to do very well.

© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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