January 27, 2022

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2021 Lexus ES 300h facelift review, test drive

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Lexus India’s bestselling model gets some enhancements and a touchscreen for 2021.

Lexus ES 300h: what is it?

Lexus India’s bestselling model, the ES 300h premium sedan, is known for its petrol-hybrid powertrain, its distinctive styling and its luxurious interiors. For 2021, this Mercedes-Benz E-Class rival gets a minor facelift, a touchscreen and some mechanical tweaks.

To begin with, cosmetic enhancements are so subtle, blink and you will miss them. The attractive Z-shaped LED headlamps have different elements within them; the oversized spindle grille gets new L-shaped elements; and the 18-inch alloys now sport a different design. On the whole, the ES 300h is an attractive-looking sedan with crisp body lines and a coupe-like sloping roof.

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Lexus ES 300h: what is it like inside?

The biggest talking point on the inside is a new, large 12.3-inch touchscreen that replaces the non-touch unit of the earlier iteration. The screen is now closer to the driver and also angled towards them for easier reach and convenience. Its touch sensitivity is good, the display is crisp, and it is very easy to use. Those who prefer using physical buttons will be happy to find shortcut buttons, steering controls, as well as a track pad controller, which are carried over from the previous iteration. Lexus offers in-built navigation and finally the ES gets Android Auto and Apple Carplay.

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New open-pore walnut trims on the dashboard, door pads, steering and on other bits add to the sense of occasion on the inside. Among other things, the analogue clock looks exquisite and the superbly cushioned leather seats feel supremely comfortable and luxurious, both at the front and at the rear. Adding to the comfort of rear seat occupants – in addition to the oodles of cabin space, supportive seats and a reclining function for the back rest – are a three zone climate control, sunshades on the windows and rear windscreen, and control buttons for the infotainment.

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Another small change is the shape of the brake pedal, which now offers a wider contact area than before. Lexus claims that this new shape enhances the sense of stability when the pedal is depressed.

Lexus ES 300h: what is it like to drive?

Powering the ES 300h is still a petrol-hybrid powertrain that make a combined 218hp and is mated to an e-CVT transmitting power to the front wheels. It starts off in full-electric mode, and it’ll drive smoothly at city speeds, in complete silence. And so long as the motor has adequate charge, it’ll even manage the daily bumper-to-bumper routine using pure electricity. Get aggressive with the accelerator or up the pace, and the petrol engine kicks in to provide the requisite punch, but even then, the transition from electric to petrol is so seamless, all you hear is a faint purr in the background that lets you know you’re running on petrol.

The e-CVT mated to this powertrain does a fine job and when you drive in an unhurried manner, you will really appreciate it for its smoothness. Yes, drive aggressively and you can hear it whine a little, and the paddle shifters seem to be a bit artificial at their job. Overall, the Lexus doesn’t offer an engaging or entertaining driving experience and lacks the fun factor that its German rivals offer.

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Lexus has tweaked the 2021 ES’ refinement, as well as enhanced the torsional and lateral rigidity. We’re happy to report that its ride quality is well judged for our Indian road conditions, and that’s despite tall 18-inch alloys. The suspension cushions you from the worst of shocks, and couple that with bucketloads of sound deadening materials and insulation, and it makes for a hushed, relaxed and comfortable drive experience.

Lexus ES 300h: should I buy one?

Updates to the 2021 iteration of the ES 300h are subtle to begin with, and its biggest talking point is the touchscreen which now gets Android Auto and Apple Carplay. That said, it does offer a lot of premium kit for its asking price, which ranging between Rs 56.65 lakh-61.85 lakh (ex-showroom, India).

The ES 300h stands out for its petrol-hybrid powertrain, its smooth drive experience, its stylish and distinctive looks, and the supreme levels of comfort on offer. Yes, its service network is limited, and for some, the Lexus badge doesn’t enjoy the same brand equity as its German counterparts. But for those willing to look beyond German marques, the ES 300h is a luxury sedan worth considering; having a carbon footprint lower than comparable petrol or diesel cars is the icing on the cake.

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