2021 ES 300h New Car Test Drive
Sedans have been declining in popularity lately, as so many buyers turn to crossovers and SUVs. Rather than relinquish the market to those popular vehicles, Lexus remains focused on the value and details of its sedan selection. The 2020 Lexus ES, in particular, delivers sharper handling than expected from a front-wheel-drive midsize sedan, while providing excellent fuel economy and retaining its core virtues as a Lexus.
For the 2020 model year, the Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h add some standard features, including power-folding mirrors on Premium, Luxury, Ultra Luxury, and F Sport models. Android Auto compatibility is now standard, joining the existing Apple CarPlay. A rear spoiler is available on ES 350 models. Blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert may be added to base models, if equipped with the Premium package.
Three versions are available, each with its own personality: ES 350, ES 350 F Sport, and ES 300h. Both the ES 350 and the hybrid ES 300h come in base, Luxury, and Ultra Luxury trim levels.
Each ES 350, including the F Sport, uses a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that develops 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Other Lexus and Toyota vehicles use the same V-6.
For a more engaging road experience, the ES 350 F Sport features adaptive dampers and sportier tires, mounted on taller wheels. A special Sport+ mode provides more steering heft and sharper throttle responses.
The ES 300h hybrid substitutes in a gasoline/electric powertrain, in which a 2.5-liter inline-4 engine is teamed with two electric motors, connected to a nickel-metal hydride battery. The combination is rated at 215 hp.
All ES sedans mate with an 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is unavailable.
As expected, the ES 300h hybrid yields fine gas mileage, while regular ES sedans rank average. The ES 350 is EPA-rated at 22 mpg city, 32 highway, and 26 combined. Bigger wheels on the ES 350 F Sport reduce fuel economy to 22/31/25 mpg. The hybrid ES 300h is rated at an impressive 43/44/44 mpg.
Safety is a welcome highlight of the Lexus ES. In addition to scoring well (but not perfectly) in crash tests, the sedan comes with a bountiful complement of collision-avoidance technology. Outward visibility is good, too.
Federal testers for the NHTSA rated the 2020 ES at five stars overall, while the IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick+, provided that it's fitted with more costly LED headlights. Those triple-beam headlights earned a 'Good'? score, whereas standard LEDs were deemed 'Acceptable.”
All ES sedans come with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. All but the base model also get blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert.
The base ES 350 is priced from $40,925 and includes synthetic leather upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED lighting, a moonroof, 17-inch wheels, Bluetooth streaming, three USB ports, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and new Android Auto compatibility.
Upgrading to the ES 350 Luxury ($46,125) adds perforated leather upholstery, heard and cooled front seats, wood accents, and ambient lighting. The ES 350 Ultra Luxury ($49,925) comes with lateral performance dampers, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, navigation, semi-aniline perforated leather, a power rear sunshade, and a hands-free trunk.
The ES 350 F Sport costs $46,725 and features adaptive dampers, a Sport+ driving mode, exclusive bolstered sport seats, heated and ventilated front seats, and 19-inch wheels.
The hybrid ES 300h starts at $42,785 and is equipped similar to the base ES 350. The ES 300h Luxury ($47,985) and ES 300h Ultra Luxury ($51,785) also mirror the features of the ES 350 Luxury and ES 350 Ultra Luxury, respectively. An F Sport isn't available for the hybrid model.