1. August 2013
The Lexus ES 300h is a hybrid. It has a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine. The Atkinson cycle relates primarily to the intake stroke of the engine such that it gets the most out of the combustible fuel, but there is generally less fuel combusted, so there is comparatively less power produced than in a conventionally operating four-stroke engine. It has to additional motors, MG1 and MG2, with the MG2 (for “Motor Generator”) generating electricity and driving the wheels. The engine alone provides 156-hp. When the 105-kW MG2 is factored in, the system output is a total of 200 hp. The system uses 204 nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries that are organized into 34 modules that are located in the space behind the rear seats. The ES 300h has things like an electric water pump and electric power steering. The car actually operates as an electric vehicle based on the state of charge of the batteries.
And you should pretty much not care about most of that stuff. You should not care that it is a hybrid. You should not care that when you put your foot on the brakes, there is a regenerative braking system that puts power into the batteries. You should not care that you might be cruising along and see a little green symbol with the letters “EV” turn on in the instrument cluster, indicating that the car has switched over to electric drive.
If you care about the hybrid aspect of the car at all, it should be what it does, not what it is. You should care that the car has an EPA estimated 40 mpg city, 39 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined. The non-hybrid ES 350 returns 21/31/24 mpg. The hybrid has a starting MSRP to $38,850. The non-hybrid is a bit less expensive, starting at $36,100. And the non-hybrid, as it doesn’t have those 204 NiMH batteries, has a bigger EPA cargo volume, 15.2-cubic feet vs. 12.1 for the hybrid.
All of which is to say: Consider the “hybrid” only as a powertrain option. Think of the hybrid like you would a six- or four-cylinder engine. And chances are, you don’t think a whole lot about that for a four-door entry luxury sedan. The hybrid powertrain provides everything you’d want for a car in the ES category and more—or less—depending on your perspective (more fuel efficiency; less time spent at the gas station watching the digits run up).
Or you might want to think about the hybrid in the context of being advanced technology—which it is—that you have come to expect in a Lexus.
You might want to think of the hybrid as something that provides you with bragging rights for your neighbors (assuming your neighbors would find is laudable that you have a hybrid).
The reason that I am going on at such length about the hybrid aspect of the vehicle is because with the exception of the exceptional fuel efficiency, it is absolutely transparent. You don’t know that you are driving anything but a very stylish, well-appointed, solidly built car. Sure, you can make the screen show you the graphic with the engine and the motor and the batteries and the wheels and arrows going this way and that in order to see how the hybrid is working. But chances are (assuming, of course, that you have opted for the navigation system and the stuff that comes with it), you’re going to be looking at a map or an app or something other than what’s making the wheels of the car turn.
The car as-driven had various options, including the aforementioned navigation package and even a heated steering wheel (see, a hybrid that doesn’t mean that you can’t have plush amenities). Added to the MSRP the whole thing came in at $43,264, and when you add the $895 handling, the car is $44,159.
Here’s something to keep in mind: when Lexus first launched in the U.S. market way back in 1989, it did so with two vehicles: the LS and the ES. The ES has been part of the company’s offerings from the start. The current model is the sixth generation of the car. The company has been working to improve it for more than 20 years, and in the current culmination, they have done a remarkable job. While other brands compare their cars to the ES, it is a comparison made because there is something of a benchmark quality to this car (hybrid or not).
They’ve worked to get it right. And they have.
Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC, VVT-i I4
Horsepower: 156 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 156 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Total system power: 200 hp
Transmission: Electronically controlled CVT
Wheelbase: 111.0 in.
Length: 192.7 in.
Width: 71.7 in.
Height: 57.1 in.
Curb weight: 3,660 lb.
EPA passenger volume: 100.1 cu. ft.
EPA: 30/35/32 city/highway/combined mpg