+ Whisper quiet
+ Smooth at speed
+ Improved with more tech
- Is only available as a hybrid
- Less boot space than rivals
- Only one body style available
Verdict: A series of updates make the Lexus ES that bit better, primarily on the inside, where the infotainment system is improved. The hybrid powertrain works well but doesn’t offer a plug-in like its competition.
2022 Lexus ES 300h review: the five-minute read
This may be the updated 2022 model, but you’ll need to look quite closely to spot the changes that Lexus has made to the ES 300h. To help you out, they include fewer vertical bars on that massive grille and redesigned headlights that offer a matrix-style adaptive headlight technology that Lexus calls BladeScan AHS. Sounds pretty sci-fi.
The rest of the car is essentially unchanged and the ES casts an attractive shape, mainly due to it being lower than its direct rivals like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It’s also a little longer and while it does have a hybrid powertrain, that’s all it gets, whereas those rivals also offer petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid versions.
On the interior is the usual high standard of finish that we’ve come to expect from Lexus. Many will say it’s merely a Toyota Camry in a posh suit, and while that argument does hold some water, the ES is more premium inside. Subtle changes to this 2022 model include a new 12.3-inch infotainment display that is now a touchscreen and it runs Apple and Android phone mirroring software. The screen has also been brought forward by 112mm and is now angled slightly towards the driver for ease of use.
If you really like your technology then you may want to tick the option box for the digital door mirrors. Like systems that appear on the Audi e-tron and Honda e, a camera-based setup replaces the traditional door mirrors and relays a live feed to two display screens that are fixed onto the base of the A-pillars at the corner of the windscreen. It’s a novel tech that some people will like, but it carries a high cost and is only available to order as an optional extra on the range-topping Takumi spec.
As for the hybrid system, that remains unchanged with this update and retains its 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor that produces a combined output of 215bhp. The Nickel-metal hydride battery is designed to recharge and dispense its energy via the electric motor quickly. Although it doesn’t allow the ES to drive for any considerable distance on electric power alone, it does work a lot of the time to give it a more even ratio of petrol and electric power in urban or city settings.
To get the best performance from the Lexus you do need to be gentle with the accelerator pedal as the CVT (continuously variable transmission) does its best and smoothest work when it’s not being hurried along. Over a variety of driving situations the Lexus will return fuel consumption figures similar to what you might expect to get from a diesel car, and it’s often as quiet and refined as an electric car, but without the need to even plug it in.
Where the Lexus is left wanting is outright performance. Both its diesel and plug-in hybrid competitors have more power and engaging driving dynamics and taking just under nine seconds to reach 62mph from a standing start means the ES isn’t what you’d call all that fast. Still, if you prefer comfort over outright pace, the Lexus will appeal as it’s excellent and soaking up surface imperfections and blocking out wind and road noise, making it a thoroughly comfortable and enjoyable car to cover journeys in.
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2022 Lexus ES 300h interior and infotainment
With the introduction of a revised ES model for 2022, Lexus has made minor interior design changes. The most noticeable is a new 12.3-inch infotainment screen that is now touch-sensitive though the driver can still control it via the touchpad on the centre console. This display has also been brought forward by 112mm and is angled five degrees towards the driver for greater ease of use.
The native Lexus infotainment system isn’t much to get excited about as it is pretty basic in what it offers beyond phone connectivity and driving data. Speaking of phone connectivity, the Lexus is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which open up better infotainment solutions. If you’re into your tunes then the 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo system will be one option to consider.
If you shell out for the camera mirror system (a £1,600 option), you’ll get colour display screens mounted onto the A-pillars. These are positioned reasonably well and don’t get in the way or create unnecessary blind spots but the actual display feed isn’t very high resolution which is disappointing given the technology involved.
More positively the rest of the interior is up to scratch, with excellent materials and controls that have a solid, well-made feel. The chunky steering wheel is reminiscent of what BMW offers and the digital instrument display can show different views depending on the driving mode. The range-topping Takumi model also gets a head-up display as standard.
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2022 Lexus ES 300h practicality and boot space
Lexus does a reasonably good job of packaging in the hybrid powertrain. At 454 litres the boot capacity is more than that of its nearest plug-in hybrid rivals, but less when compared to conventional petrol or diesel variants. For example, a BMW 520d has 530 litres and a Mercedes-Benz E220d has 540 litres. Lexus differs from its main rivals by not offering an estate version of the ES; you can only get it as a saloon.
The rest of the layout inside the Lexus ES is good and has many practical features. For starters, there is a good degree of adjustability for the driving position both with the steering column and the driver’s seat, with the latter being electrically adjustable as standard.
What the Lexus may lack in boot space, it makes up for some good storage throughout the cabin. Generously sized door bins in the front can swallow up larger drinks bottles and there’s a deep storage bin beneath the centre armrest that conveniently opens from either side. A wireless charging pad is also standard from the Premium Edition specification upwards.
2022 Lexus ES 300h engines and gearbox
Unlike its main rivals, there is only one engine available with the Lexus ES. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol motor is naturally aspirated and is paired with an electric motor to form its hybrid system. A combined power output of 215bhp is respectable but not earth-shattering performance, though the Lexus doesn’t focus on that. Instead, the ES 300h is more about refinement and comfort, two things that it delivers in spades.
The electrical aspect of the hybrid powertrain uses a motor with an output of 118bhp and 202Nm. Powering that is a Nickel-metal hydride battery that can quickly recharge and discharge its energy. Lexus also uses a CVT gearbox with electronically simulated steps to seem more like a conventional automatic transmission. It’s not exactly new tech, but it’s well-proven and suits the hybrid’s driving style.
A top speed of 112mph is lower than its competitors and it will accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds. Perhaps of greater relevance to prospective buyers is that it has CO2 emissions of 119g/km and returns a combined 48.7mpg.
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2022 Lexus ES 300h Driving
The hybrid powertrain of the Lexus ES 300h is primarily designed for efficiency and a more comfortable driving experience. That means that while it isn’t especially powerful nor outright fast, it does cruise along quite easily and makes driving that bit more of a relaxing experience. If you’re more inclined to mash the accelerator pedal in an attempt to race away from every green light, then all you’ll get is a flurry of engine revs and noise but little else.
Instead, it is far better to use your right foot far more gently and allow the Lexus to purr along in its natural calm, wafty state. Do so and you’ll appreciate how the suspension is excellent at bump absorption and smoothening out less even road surfaces. The F Sport model also comes equipped with an Adaptive Variable Suspension that is even more adept at delivering a smooth ride.
Lexus offers a choice of different driving modes, but in reality, there isn’t a great deal to differentiate these and simply leaving the car in its default setting is fine. The assisted steering remains relatively light for the majority of the time and despite being a big car the ES is easy to manoeuvre in tighter confines.
The battery isn’t designed to let the ES drive on only electric power for any sort of distance; instead, it frequently alternates between the electric and petrol motors. It results in a high percentage of time spent with electric power when driving in a city or urban setting. It sticks primarily to the combustion engine on the open road but will occasionally deactivate this when lifting and coasting. This process results in overall fuel economy figures that will match a diesel.
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