By: Mike Schlee
Lexus has a rather unique position in North America.
It’s the only automaker to offer a full line of premium and luxury vehicles. The Japanese manufacturer battles premium brands like Acura and Buick while also taking on the best German luxury has to offer. But there is one offering that is a bit of a lone wolf in Lexus’ portfolio: the ES hybrid sedan.
Unique Price, Unique Powertrain
Starting at a base price of $38,745 after destination charges, the front-wheel drive only ES significantly undercuts midsize luxury sedans like the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6. But the ES was never intended to take cars like that on as it lacks their refinement and driving dynamics. The pricing and purpose of the ES lines up better with the Acura TLX or the Buick Lacrosse.
With nearly every option box checked off, my ES300h came in at an as tested price of $49,705 thanks to the inclusion of the navigation/premium audio package, ultra luxury package, intuitive parking assist, HID headlamps, rain sensing wipers and rear cross traffic alert. That keeps it competitive with the newly arrived TLX, but there is one major difference. The Acura and Buick are equipped with a V6 and all-wheel drive, but the ES300h uses a class-exclusive hybrid drivetrain with only two driven wheels.
It’s true the Lacrosse can be had with GM’s eAssist mild hybrid system, but calling that a real hybrid system is like calling the Lexus RX350 F Sport a sports car. Under the hood of the ES300h is a familiar 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine paired up to an electric motor. The gasoline engine itself makes 156 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque while the combined system is reported to make 200 hp. In usual Toyota/Lexus hybrid fashion, total torque output numbers are not listed...