2018 ES 300h New Car Test Drive
The polished, smooth and quiet Lexus ES is a midsize sedan on a full-sized wheelbase, designed that way to be a better family sedan with more room in the rear. For a family, it's better than the smaller and tighter IS at the same price, and better than the GS sports sedan, both those Lexus models are rear-wheel drive.
The ES 350 is designed for comfort, with a soft ride that isn't floaty, and it uses front-wheel drive. It's not that far mechanically removed from the Toyota Avalon, although it feels more sophisticated and refined. It was last redesigned for 2014, with its exterior touched-up for 2016; there are few changes for 2018, from 2017.
It's got a great and comfortable cabin, maybe best in class thanks to attention to detail; and it handles well, with nicely weighted steering. So there are a lot of positive things, despite its getting long in the tooth, in its fifth year of its sixth generation.
The ES 350 uses a robust 3.5-liter V6 making 268 horsepower, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It's a conservative, steady powertrain.
There's also an ES 300h hybrid, using a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine paired to an electric motor with generator. The Drive Select system offers Eco, Power and EV (all-electric) modes.
The ES 350 gets an EPA-rated 21 City, 31 highway, 24 Combined miles per gallon; while the ES 300h rates 40 City, 39 Highway and 39 Combined mpg.
The IIHS gives it five stars overall in crash protection, and four stars for frontal impact. But they still give it a Top Safety Pick+ award, probably because of standard automatic emergency braking.
More standard safety equipment includes lane-keep assist, intelligent high beam headlamps, and adaptive cruise control. It comes with 10 airbags, including full-length curtain airbags and rear seat side airbags. A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert is optional.
The ES 350 and the ES 300h hybrid come in standard, Premier, and Ultra Luxury trim.
The standard 2018 Lexus ES 350 ($38,900) comes with the 268-hp V6, while the ES 300h ($41,820) features the hybrid powertrain. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
The ES comes very well equipped. Standard equipment includes perforated NuLuxe leatherette upholstery, automatic climate control, keyless ignition, sunroof, HomeLink garage-door opener, 4.2-inch color info display, eight-speaker audio system with seven-inch screen, rearview camera, HD radio with traffic and weather data, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth streaming audio, USB/iPod connectivity, and satellite radio.
The Ultra Luxury Package lives up to its name, with gorgeous semi-aniline leather seats and exotic wood choices like bamboo. Lexus Safety Connect adds telematic services including roadside assistance, emergency assistance, a stolen vehicle locator, and automatic collision notification. More options include a hard-drive-based navigation system with voice command, Mark Levinson audio, upgraded leather and trims (or NuLuxe seats that can be heated and ventilated), and the next generation of infotainment system with apps.