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    Quick Drive: 2015 Lexus ES 300h


    • Does Hybrid Power Make the ES More Appealing?

    Late last year, I had the chance to pilot the 2014 Lexus ES 350. In my review I said that while the new ES is a noticeable improvement over the old one, competitors such as the Buick LaCrosse have surpassed it. But Lexus has an possible ace up their sleeve and it happens to be the hybrid version of ES. Not many competitors offer a fuel efficient version, so does it give the ES an edge?

     

    What differentiates the ES 300h from the ES 350? Not much from the exterior aside from blue tint on the badge, hybrid badges on the door sills, and the"h" on the rear badge. The interior is the same aside from a new instrument cluster with an eco/power gauge and a EV mode button. One item I do have to call out on the ES 300h’s interior is the optional Bamboo trim. Not only is it sharp looking, but adds a nice touch of class to the interior.

     

    Power comes from Lexus’ Hybrid Drive system which pairs a 2.0L four-cylinder and a electric motor producing a total output of 200 horsepower. A CVT sends power to the front wheels. This powertrain seems more attune the ES’ mission of providing a smooth and quiet ride. The powertrain is able to get the vehicle moving without much stress or noise in city traffic. Merging onto freeway or trying to make a pass does reveal some noisy clatter from the engine. The CVT doesn’t help matters as the drone that plagues many CVTs when you push further down on the accelerator pedal comes in. Fuel economy for the ES 300h is rated 40 City/39 Highway/40 Combined. My week saw an average of 37 MPG. This was slightly disappointing, but at the time I was driving the ES Hybrid, temps were below freezing which would explain the drop.

     

    As for ride and handling, the ES 300h follows in the footsteps of the standard ES 350. The suspension provides a smooth ride. Any imperfections on the road are dealt with and don’t make they way into the cabin. Also not making an appearance inside the cabin is road and wind noise, Thanks to thicker windows and added insulation, the ES is a very quiet car. Helping matters is one of the smoothest transitions from hybrid power to electric power. The only way to know that the hybrid system has kicked on or off is a EV Mode light in the instrument cluster. If your planning to tackle the winding roads, then leave the ES Hybrid at home. Like the standard ES, the hybrid shows a bit of body roll and steering doesn’t have any sign of feel.

     

    If I was considering an ES, I would go for the 300h since it fits the ideals of the model - a quiet and comfortable ride paired with a somewhat upscale cabin. Add in the fuel economy and the ES 300h might be a compelling choice for those who just want something luxurious. But for almost the same price as this ES 300h, you can get into a fully loaded Toyota Avalon Hybrid which offers most of the same features as the ES, along with a much better look and a more sporty drive if you are interested in that. So while the ES 300h does give a slight edge to ES, it gets undercut by another member of the family.

     

    Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the ES300h, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

     

     

    Year: 2015
    Make: ES
    Model: 300h
    Trim: N/A
    Engine: 2.5L DOHC, 16-Valve with VVT-i Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor
    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
    Horsepower @ RPM: (Gas) 156 @ 5,700, (Total) 200
    Torque @ RPM: (Gas) 156 @ 4,500
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 40/39/40
    Curb Weight: 3,660 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka
    Base Price: $40,430
    As Tested Price: $46,995 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    Hard Disk Drive Navigation system with Backup Camera - $1,795
    Luxury Package - $1,370
    HID Headlamps - $565.00
    Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert - $500.00
    Intuitive Parking Assist - $500.00
    Power Trunk Closer - $400.00
    Bamboo & Leather Trimmed Steering Wheel - $300.00
    Power Rear Sunshade - $210.00

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    Interesting, sounds like a tad better than the ES350 but not by much.Such a bland exterior / Interior even with the wood accents, still looks 1980's to me.

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    Interesting, sounds like a tad better than the ES350 but not by much.Such a bland exterior / Interior even with the wood accents, still looks 1980's to me.

    Nice review.  We don't see a lot of Lexus around here (or any luxury brands other than  Cadillac and Lincoln), so it's nice to now how some of them compare to non luxury options like the Avalon, too.  I'm not going to lie, this sounds like a great tool to help me sell an Avalon if it is equal to or better than it's luxury sibling.  Unfortunately we just don't sell too many of those, anyway.  When we do they definitely trend towards an older crowd.  In fact I would say the current Avalon customer is basically the old image of a Buick customer, since the ES has an even homelier visage I would imagine that it would invite an even older crowd yet.  Sounds like Lexus needs to work a bit on their styling with this one.  I don't worry so much about the handling bit, this wasn't meant to be a canyon carver and I'm sure it is plenty adequate for what it's meant to be (though I would be interested in how those bits compare to it's main rivals), so from reading this and looking at pictures it seems like the visuals are the biggest knock on this car, besides the way it is undercut by the Avalon.  Great review, thanks!

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    Bamboo trim has another advantage - It is ecologically friendly because it is a highly renewable resource. Probably a big reason it is on the hybrid car.... the green conscious drivers don't have to feel bad about chopping down old-growth trees just to have wood trim in their hybrid.   I wish more auto makers would use bamboo. 

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    I really like the wood-trim used in the top of the line GS and LS models. It's some really nice stuff. I think either C/D or MT said that the wood portion of the steering wheel was the most smoothly polished wood grain they'd ever grasped with their hands. 

     

    The wood is like treated 5-6 times to get that finish. It's really an excellent trim choice for a car south of a S550 S-Class.

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    And it comes in exciting beige!

     

    Bamboo can be stained any color you might like.

     

    I meant the outside of the car.  Seems like every Camry, Avalon and ES is sold in wallpaper paste beige.   I guess to match the hearing aides of their owners.

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    Lexus owners must be a happy bunch. The reason why. There cars still looks basically the same 10 years in a row with changes so small and subtle most owners will never notice them. As is the case with this car. Pull off a little chrome, give is a semi  predator  grille and make it as plain boring and generic as ever and literally no one will ever notice. Ditto the beige exterior. That says it all!

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      I wasn’t too keen on the redesigned Hyundai Elantra I drove last year. In the review, I said it didn’t really do enough to compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic. But maybe the model could redeem itself with the introduction of the Elantra Sport. Hyundai made some key changes such as adding a turbo engine, revised rear suspension, and slight tweaks inside and out. 
      I was really excited to check it out and spend some quality time with it. But life had other plans. The day I was supposed to get the Elantra Sport, I took a tumble down a flight of stairs, causing a fracture in my right leg. Because of this, I really didn’t get to spent a lot of time in the Sport. This is going to be more of a first impressions piece than a review. Hopefully, in the near future, I get to spend some time in the Sport again, barring any injuries.
      Hyundai only made some small changes such as a blacked out grille, side skirts, rear diffuser, and 18-inch alloy wheels for the Sport. The end result is something that stands out from other Elantra’s, but not to the point where it looks like someone went on a shopping spree in the JC Whitney catalog. The only changes the Elantra Sport gets inside are new front seats with extra side bolstering, different gauge layout, and a flat-bottom steering wheel. Otherwise, it is your standard Elantra interior which isn’t a bad thing. The simple dash layout comes paired with the use higher quality materials. Back seat space has seen a nice improvement in terms of legroom, while headroom is still slightly tight for taller folks. Under the hood is a new turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This can be paired with a six-speed manual or my tester’s seven-speed DCT. It should be noted this engine is also being used in the recently refreshed Kia Soul! (Exclaim), but it only comes with the DCT. First impressions of this powertrain were disappointing. It doesn’t feel eager to accelerate quickly as the DCT bogs down at lower speeds. Once above a certain speed, the powertrain becomes alive. Hyundai engineered the 1.6 to deliver torque evenly across the rpm band which gives the impression that you will not run out of steam anytime soon. The DCT delivers quick up and downshifts. You can remove most of the bogginess by putting the vehicle into the Sport mode which sharpens the throttle response and quickens gear changes. This makes the Elantra Sport raring to go when leaving from a stop or acerbating from a corner. Underneath the Elantra Sport’s skin, Hyundai has made some significant changes to the chassis. The big change is a new multi-link rear suspension setup that is said to improve the driving dynamics. There is also revised springs, dampers, and steering ratio. End result? This is Hyundai’s best effort in making a fun to drive vehicle. Body roll is minimized and the vehicle feels poised when going into a corner. Steering is still a mixed bag. Turn-in is quick and there is plenty of weight, but there is barely any feedback from the road. For a sporty model, it is a bit disappointing. Compared to the standard Elantra, the Sport does let a few bumps come inside. But it isn’t to a point where your back will be in pain. There’s a nice balance between handling and comfort. Pricing for the Elantra Sport starts at $21,650 for the manual and $22,750 for the DCT. The Elantra Sport seen here came with an as-tested price of $25,985 as it featured an optional premium package that adds a number of features such as an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, sunroof, blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert, and upgraded audio system. Where does the Elantra Sport fit in? It is like the Nissan Sentra SR Turbo/NISMO where it is sportier than the standard model, but not a full blown sport compact like the Volkswagen Golf GTI or Ford Focus ST. Think of it a warm compact and one that is quite surprising (for the brief time I drove it). Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Elantra Sport, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Elantra
      Trim: Sport
      Engine: 1.6 Turbo GDI DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder
      Driveline: Seven-speed DCT, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 201 @ 6000 
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1500~4500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/33/29
      Curb Weight: 3,131 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, Alabama
      Base Price: $22,750
      As Tested Price: $25,985 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Package for Sport - $2,400.00
    • By William Maley
      Toyota Motor North America Reports January 2017 Sales
      Toyota division posts best-ever January in RAV4, Highlander TCUV posted 17th consecutive month of best-ever monthly sales L/Certified by Lexus achieves best-ever January sales Plano, Texas (February 1, 2017) – Toyota Motor North America (TMNA), Inc., today reported its U.S. January 2017 sales of 143,048 vehicles, a decrease of 11.3 percent from January 2016 on a volume basis. With the same number of selling days in January 2017 compared to January 2016, sales were down 11.3 percent on a daily selling rate (DSR) basis. 
       
      Toyota division posted January sales of 127,476 units, down 9.2 percent on a volume basis and DSR basis.
       
      “Coming off a record December and year in 2016, the industry in January took a bit of a pause with volume down slightly vs. a year ago,” said Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division.  “Much improved Light Truck availability helped RAV4 and Highlander begin the year with record January sales.”
       
      Lexus posted January sales of 15,572 vehicles, down 25.6 percent on a volume basis and DSR basis.
       
      “January proved to be a challenging month driven by limited LUV availability and the strength of our December results,” said Jeff Bracken, group vice president and general manager of the Lexus division. “Our outstanding December of nearly 41,000 resulted in a low days’ supply for our core models, especially in metro markets. We are continuing to replenish dealer inventories and expect healthy levels in February. Our dealers did achieve a best-ever January in L/Certified sales with more than 7,900 sales.”
       
      January 2017 Highlights  
      Camry posts January sales of 20,313 units Toyota division SUV up 8 percent in January Highlander posts best-ever January, up 12.4 percent RAV4 posts best-ever January with sales of 22,155 units, up 2.8 percent 4Runner sales were up 16 percent TCUV had a best-ever January and 17 consecutive months of  best-ever monthly sales RX posts sales of 5,520 L/Certified by Lexus posts best-ever January sales of 7,901, up 9.2 percent from January 2016  *Note:  Unless otherwise stated, all figures reflect unadjusted raw sales volume
      TOYOTA  U.S. SALES SUMMARY
      JANUARY 2017
        -- CURRENT MONTH --
      -- CALENDAR YEAR TO DATE --     
                          2017
      2016
      DSR %
      VOL %
      2017
      2016
      DSR %
      VOL %
      TOTAL TOYOTA
      143,048
      161,283
      -11.3
      -11.3
      143,048
      161,283
      -11.3
      -11.3
      TOTAL TOYOTA DIV
      127,476
      140,350
      -9.2
      -9.2
      127,476
      140,350
      -9.2
      -9.2
      TOTAL LEXUS
      15,572
      20,933
      -25.6
      -25.6
      15,572
      20,933
      -25.6
      -25.6
                        YARIS IA (INCL SCI IA)
      1,951
      1,840
      6
      6
      1,951
      1,840
      6
      6
      YARIS LIFTBACK
      1330
      548
      142.7
      142.7
      1,330
      548
      142.7
      142.7
      TOTAL YARIS
      3,281
      2,388
      37.4
      37.4
      3,281
      2,388
      37.4
      37.4
      iQ
      0
      2
      -100
      -100
      0
      2
      -100
      -100
      xD
      0
      3
      -100
      -100
      0
      3
      -100
      -100
      xB
      0
      782
      -100
      -100
      0
      782
      -100
      -100
      tC
      72
      715
      -89.9
      -89.9
      72
      715
      -89.9
      -89.9
      COROLLA IM (INCL SCI IM)
      1,460
      1,250
      16.8
      16.8
      1,460
      1,250
      16.8
      16.8
      COROLLA SEDAN
      20,107
      22,362
      -10.1
      -10.1
      20,107
      22,362
      -10.1
      -10.1
      TOTAL COROLLA
      21,567
      23,612
      -8.7
      -8.7
      21,567
      23,612
      -8.7
      -8.7
      86 (INCL FR-S)
      474
      507
      -6.5
      -6.5
      474
      507
      -6.5
      -6.5
      MIRAI
      83
      26
      219.2
      219.2
      83
      26
      219.2
      219.2
      AVALON
      2,503
      3,597
      -30.4
      -30.4
      2,503
      3,597
      -30.4
      -30.4
      PRIUS
      7,829
      9,311
      -15.9
      -15.9
      7,829
      9,311
      -15.9
      -15.9
      CAMRY
      20,313
      26,848
      -24.3
      -24.3
      20,313
      26,848
      -24.3
      -24.3
      TOTAL TOYOTA DIV. CAR
      56,122
      67,791
      -17.2
      -17.2
      56,122
      67,791
      -17.2
      -17.2
                        CT
      393
      622
      -36.8
      -36.8
      393
      622
      -36.8
      -36.8
      IS
      1,423
      2,178
      -34.7
      -34.7
      1,423
      2,178
      -34.7
      -34.7
      RC
      447
      755
      -40.8
      -40.8
      447
      755
      -40.8
      -40.8
      ES
      2,171
      3,400
      -36.1
      -36.1
      2,171
      3,400
      -36.1
      -36.1
      GS
      422
      1,298
      -67.5
      -67.5
      422
      1,298
      -67.5
      -67.5
      LS
      280
      397
      -29.5
      -29.5
      280
      397
      -29.5
      -29.5
      LFA
      0
      1
      -100
      -100
      0
      1
      -100
      -100
      TOTAL LEXUS CAR
      5,136
      8,651
      -40.6
      -40.6
      5,136
      8,651
      -40.6
      -40.6
      TOTAL TOYOTA CAR
      61,258
      76,442
      -19.9
      -19.9
      61,258
      76,442
      -19.9
      -19.9
                        SIENNA
      7,285
      10,992
      -33.7
      -33.7
      7,285
      10,992
      -33.7
      -33.7
      RAV4
      22,155
      21,554
      2.8
      2.8
      22,155
      21,554
      2.8
      2.8
      FJ CRUISER
      0
      1
      -100
      -100
      0
      1
      -100
      -100
      VENZA
      4
      184
      -97.8
      -97.8
      4
      184
      -97.8
      -97.8
      HIGHLANDER
      12,656
      11,258
      12.4
      12.4
      12,656
      11,258
      12.4
      12.4
      4RUNNER
      8,699
      7,496
      16
      16
      8,699
      7,496
      16
      16
      SEQUOIA
      1146
      852
      34.5
      34.5
      1,146
      852
      34.5
      34.5
      LAND CRUISER
      272
      273
      -0.4
      -0.4
      272
      273
      -0.4
      -0.4
      TOTAL TOYOTA DIV. SUV
      44,932
      41,618
      8
      8
      44,932
      41,618
      8
      8
                        TACOMA
      12,509
      12,717
      -1.6
      -1.6
      12,509
      12,717
      -1.6
      -1.6
      TUNDRA
      6,628
      7,232
      -8.4
      -8.4
      6,628
      7,232
      -8.4
      -8.4
      TOTAL TOYOTA DIV. PICKUP
      19,137
      19,949
      -4.1
      -4.1
      19,137
      19,949
      -4.1
      -4.1
      TOTAL TOYOTA DIV. TRUCK
      71,354
      72,559
      -1.7
      -1.7
      71,354
      72,559
      -1.7
      -1.7
                        NX
      2,964
      3,133
      -5.4
      -5.4
      2,964
      3,133
      -5.4
      -5.4
      RX
      5,520
      6,956
      -20.6
      -20.6
      5,520
      6,956
      -20.6
      -20.6
      GX
      1,418
      1,608
      -11.8
      -11.8
      1,418
      1,608
      -11.8
      -11.8
      LX
      534
      585
      -8.7
      -8.7
      534
      585
      -8.7
      -8.7
      TOTAL LEXUS TRUCK
      10,436
      12,282
      -15
      -15
      10,436
      12,282
      -15
      -15
      TOTAL TOYOTA TRUCK
      81,790
      84,841
      -3.6
      -3.6
      81,790
      84,841
      -3.6
      -3.6
      Selling Days
      24
      24
          24
      24
          DSR = Daily Selling Rate
                   
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