Hybrid adds potency to all-new Lexus ES300h

John Gilbert

The 2019 Lexus ES300 rides on a new platform, with both a hybrid powertrain and "Ultra Lux" trim. Photo credit: John Gilbert
The 2019 Lexus ES300 rides on a new platform, with both a hybrid powertrain and "Ultra Lux" trim. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Graceful lines from the rear spell out Lexus luxury with a sporty flair. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Graceful lines from the rear spell out Lexus luxury with a sporty flair. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Toyota has gotten wisely sophisticated in its advancement of hybrid powertrains, particularly when installing them into its upscale Lexus brand. Test-driving the 2019  Lexus ES300h — a long and slinky luxury sedan with sufficient power to keep any buyer from wanting more.

The official name of the model is the Lexus ES300h Ultra Lux.

You’ve got to love the Japanese, who work with North American cohorts to come up with some of these nicknames. So Ultra is a fairly common name for something on top of the best, and Lux is shorthand for luxury. So Ultra Lux pretty well tells you this car is not only clean and sleek on the exterior, but elegant inside, with real wood trim, and the bucket seats are something called “genuine semi-aniline leather.” Mark them down as soft, supportive, and multi-adjustable at the touch of a button.

And the powertrain? A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine hooked up to a hybrid electric power system. All Toyota says to explain it is that it has 215 total system horsepower, which is a fairly modest number. But trust me on this: When you hit the gas hard, the ES300h takes off swiftly, and you can switch the mode from Eco to Normal and on up to Sport to make sure you get the quickest performance.

The ES300h has a businesslike instrument arrangement, and paddle shifters as well. Photo credit: John Gilbert
The ES300h has a businesslike instrument arrangement, and paddle shifters as well. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Paddle shifters may see out of place in the ultra-luxury interior, but they work to allow you to control your acceleration and deceleration manually. You could opt for the larger V6, but why pass up the hybrid? It not only has the power, but we repeatedly registered 42 or 43 miles per gallon, off an EPA estimated 43 city and 45 highway.

That’s a lot of miles per gallon for such a large sedan. It is particularly large in the rear seat, where your passengers will wonder why anybody would prefer the front buckets to the luxury den in the rear. 

Handling is good, also, for a large luxury car, and you could make it positively sporty if you set it on sport and tend the paddles for shifting.

The sticker price shows $44,960 for the ES300h, but once you move up to hybrid and “ultra luxury” you’re adding some amazing features. That jacks the sticker up to $51,865, which is still reasonable for all that this car delivers.

Standard equipment is impressive enough, with vehicle stability control, antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, smart-stop, an advanced precollision system, radar cries,. ;are assist and ;are tracing, which includes lane-departure alert. Lexus also is into its own thing with th e2.0 Enform app, with its own suite and wifi, MyStream, and 14-way power movements and bolstering of your seats.

Within the option summoning is a $3,000 Mark Levinson Audio system, which includes an 1,800-watt surround amplification, sending audio through 17 speakers, and increasing the navigation screen to a mammoth 12.3 inches. Even the heads-up display that superimposes important information on the windshield in front of the driver is 10.2 inches.

The signature "spindle" grille can be mesmerizing if you stare at it. Photo credit: John Gilbert
The signature "spindle" grille can be mesmerizing if you stare at it. Photo credit: John Gilbert

The other options are meaningful, such as bland-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, intuitive parking, and all the various connectivity Apple CarPlay etc.

One of the most impressive things about the ES300h is the grille. The car’s major model changeover includes an all-new platform underneath, which adds firmness and a sporty flair. The contours along the sides are nicely done too. But the grille is one of those Lexus signature spindle deals, and I think it looks so good on the ES300h that it might be mesmerizing if you stare at it long enough.

We also are going to take the Lexus ES300h on a trip, from beautiful downtown Duluth, Minnesota, down through Wisconsin and around Chicago to Joliet, Illinois, where, along with my assistant and son, Jack, we’ll take part in the Midwest Auto Media Association Fall Rally at Autobahn Speedway. After that, I’ll be able to present a better highway mileage calculation. Yes, Midwest Auto Media Association can be abbreviated to “MAMA” — an indication that whoever is making up the nicknames such as Ultra Lux for cars might have previously found work in acronyms for organizations.

 

An average day of parking on the "wrong" side of a construction-restricted block. Photo credit: John Gilbert
An average day of parking on the "wrong" side of a construction-restricted block. Photo credit: John Gilbert

PARKING TICKET UPDATE

A few weeks ago, there was a little whining done in this space because with all the street maintenance going on this summer in Duluth, there were various areas where you have to change your driving habits to survive. The one in question was the one block street area of 61st Avenue East, where it turns up from Superior Street and heads on up to become Seven Bridges Road.

That one block was mostly blockaded to prevent a glut of parked cars, with the bottom area blocked completely by the thoroughly torn up Superior Street, and a partial warning barricade a block up. My wife, Joan, likes to walk along the various trails adjacent to Lester River and Amity Creek, but you couldn’t get easy access to the park’s parking area. So folks trying to go for hikes parked in that one-block area, paying attention to the no-parking signs on the west side, and parking either nose down or nose up on the east side.

The whining came because Joan parked carefully facing down the slope on the left, as did some other cars. When she returned, there was a $23 parking ticket on her car, and on the windshields of the other down-facing cars, for parking on the wrong side of the street.

You have to realize that because there is a lot of foul winter weather on those streets in Lakeside, many people park on the wrong side as a common practice, and I had never heard of anyone getting ticketed for it. What made me annoyed was that on this one-block, construction restricted street, some over-zealous policeman decided to tag those cars.

So I conducted an unscientific survey by driving to that area several times just to see how often folks parked the wrong way. How about, always? Finally I want back and shot a few photos, for evidence that beats whining. This particular time, I parked north of the blockaded street, legally, and walked down to observe. There were nine cars or pickups or SUVs parked on that east side of that one-block street. Seven of tnem were facing down where they should have been facing up, but none of them had a ticket.

All the signs and warnings restrict parking, but only a select few are chosen for tickets. Photo credit: John Gilbert
All the signs and warnings restrict parking, but only a select few are chosen for tickets. Photo credit: John Gilbert

A construction worker, wearing a yellow vest, was walking up the sidewalk on the west side as I walked down, and I asked him if he had noticed police tagging cars there that were parked the “wrong” direction. He said no, and added that such an idea was ridiculous. I continued on, and when I got to the blockade at the bottom, I turned around and saw the construction guy, apparently having just finished his shift, crossing the street and climbing into a compact SUV — facing down — and started it up, pulled out, backed 100 feet up to the upper barricade and drove away.

This guy had been parked there for an entire shift that day, and no ticket. None of the other six “violating” cars had tickets either.

Now I’m really annoyed. But I’m no longer whining. Superior Street opened in beautiful new-bridge splendor, and the busybody cops must be looking for some other poor civilians to wear their tickets.