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Quick Drive: 2015 Lexus ES 300h


William Maley

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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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      Not much has changed outside since we last checked out the 4Runner in 2016. It still has a blocky and chunky look that helps it stand apart from other SUVs. This Venture model adds several goodies such as TRD wheels, blacked-out trim pieces, and a Yakima roof rack; perfect if you decide to go adventuring. Inside, Toyota has made a massive update to the infotainment system. A larger eight-inch touchscreen running an updated version of Toyota’s Entune system is standard. This change makes it so much easier to operate the system either parked on while on the move. It doesn’t hurt that this system also brings forth Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Aside from this, the interior hasn’t changed. There is plenty of space for those sitting in the front or back, and controls are well marked. Power comes from the old, but reliable 4.0L V6 with 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. The base SR5 can be equipped rear-wheel or four-wheel drive, while other trims only come with four-wheel drive. The 4Runner’s performance is adequate. Around town, the V6 can get up to speed quickly and smoothly. But it struggles when trying to get up to higher speeds. Adding an extra gear would allow for more flexibility in terms of performance. It would also help fuel economy as I saw 15.4 mpg for the week. EPA figures are 16 City/19 Highway/17 Combined. My average for the week landed at 15.4 mpg. The 4Runner’s roots of being an old-school SUV show up prominently when driving on pavement. It has noticeable body roll-around turns and the ride quality is rough. One area that I sadly did not get to test was the off-road capability. With such features as Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control, this helps make the 4Runner very capable off-road. The 4Runner should be considered by someone who wants to venture off-road. For those who are planning to commute or go on family trips while on pavement, Toyota has other models that should be considered first.
      Land Cruiser Heritage Edition
      The Heritage Edition adds some nice touches to the Land Cruiser’s exterior such as 18-inch BBS wheels with a bronze finish, black accents for the front grille, and vintage-style “Land Cruiser” badges on the rear pillars. The Heritage Edition does lose the entry steps found on the standard model, making it somewhat difficult to get in and out. The interior looks somewhat boring in terms of the design, but Toyota nails the materials. Wood trim, supple leather, and soft-touch materials make this a very pleasant place to be in.  Despite having one of the larger screens in Toyota’s utility lineup, the Land Cruiser’s infotainment system leaves a lot to be desired. Using an older version of Entune, it feels sluggish and the graphics look somewhat dull. No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to be found here as well. Anyone sitting in the front or second-row will have no complaints about space or comfort. No third-row is available on the Heritage Edition which helps boost cargo space from 41.3 cubic feet (with the third-row folded) to 53.5. Under the hood is a 5.7L V8 engine producing 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic and a full-time four-wheel drive system.  Performance from this engine is impressive considering the Land Cruiser’s curb weight of almost 6,000 lbs. It will move away from a stop much faster than you first think. The only place where the engine seems to run out of steam is on the highway. The eight-speed automatic does an excellent job of providing smooth and quick shifts. I do wish it wasn’t giddy with trying to shift into top gear quickly. Fuel economy isn’t great with EPA figures of 13 City/17 Highway/14 Combined. I only got 13 mpg during my week. I was surprised at how well the Land Cruiser drove on pavement. It felt stable and provided a ride that made even some of the roughest roads feel smooth. There is a fair amount of body roll when cornering, but that is to be expected considering the size and intended purpose of this vehicle. I am bummed that I didn’t get the chance to take the Land Cruiser off-road during my week. But from reading other reviews, very few vehicles can match what is on offer. How to sum up the Land Cruiser Heritage Edition? This is a vehicle that will not impress most due to the poor fuel economy and aging infotainment system. But for a small group who are wanting something that can take them anywhere and back, and do it in comfort, the Land Cruiser is the right vehicle. (Addendum: As I post this review a few months late, I have some news on the Land Cruiser. Earlier this month, Toyota unveiled the next-generation model with a new twin-turbo V6 replacing the V8. The outside doesn't look that much different from the current model, but the interior has underwent some major changes. It is unclear whether or not we'll see this model arrive in the U.S. The best chance we possibly have is next-generation LX. Stay tuned. -WM)
      Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the SUVs, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Toyota
      Model: 4Runner
      Trim: Venture
      Engine: 4.0L DOHC 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Five-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 270 @ 5,600
      Torque @ RPM: 278 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/19/17
      Curb Weight: N/A
      Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
      Base Price: $44,285
      As Tested Price: $48,877 (Includes $1,120.00 Destination Charge and $730.00 Keep It Wild discount)
      Options:
      Kinentic Dynamic Suspension Suspension System (KDSS) - $1,750.00
      TRD Pro Exhaust - $799.00
      Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof - $730.00
      Running Boards - $345.00
      Cargo Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $269.00
      Door Edge Guard - $79.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Land Cruiser
      Trim: Heritage Edition
      Engine: 5.7L DOHC 32-Valve VVT-i V8
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 381 @ 5,600
      Torque @ RPM: 401 @ 3,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/17/14
      Curb Weight: 5,715 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Toyota, Aichi, Japan
      Base Price: $87,645
      As Tested Price: $89,239 (Includes $1,295.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Glass Breakage Sensor - $299.00
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