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CleanMPG First Drive Review of the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

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CleanMPG First Drive Review of the 2013 Lexus ES 300h
CleanMPG First Drive Review of the 2013 Lexus ES 300h
2013 Lexus ES300h = Affordable Fuel Saving Luxury
Published by xcel
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CleanMPG First Drive Review of the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

All-new edgier exterior, more interior room, plus improved ride and handling traits make for a force to be reckoned with.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - June 4, 2012

2013 ES 300h Hybrid – $38,850 to start and a 40/39 mpgUS city/highway.

Newberg, OR -- What if you were in charge of creating the next generation of the car you currently own and drive? Would you make it less luxurious or make its ride worse? Would you intentionally decrease its overall drivability and handling traits? Would you want to decrease its fuel economy since you in fact will fuel it over the next couple of years? Would you consider shrinking its interior volume knowing your growing family will reside in it for the foreseeable future? Would you consider forgoing the latest infotainment and feature based advanced technology? How about targeting a marginal frontal crash test rating on the IIHS or just 4-stars on the NHTSA?

If you were in charge of the next generation of the car you drive today, you would make it better in every respect all the while making it the car you would “want to drive”, not just one “you have to”.

In the case of the all-new 2013 ES300h, Lexus’ Toshio Asahi, the Chief Engineer at Lexus Development Center not only owns a current generation Lexus ES300 but is the person responsible for the development and engineering of the all-new sixth generation 2013 Lexus ES.

If you were in charge of the next generation of automobile you currently own and drive, it would be as “Good as Good Can Get” and Mr. Asahi has done just that with the all-new 2013 Lexus ES 300h.

What a difference a generation makes

The all-new sixth generation 2013 ES 300h is Lexus’ first entry level luxury sedan to feature Lexus’ hybrid drivetrain. Featuring an all new exterior design with much improved “at the limits” handling, more passenger volume and the latest safety and infotainment technologies, the ES is another Lexus offering following in the footsteps of the recently released 2013 Lexus GS 450h that will shake up its segment.

Meet the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

At its reveal at this year’s NYIAS, The 2013 ES lineup was for the first time going to include Lexus Hybrid Drive featuring the latest generation Camry Hybrids Atkinsonized 2.5L I4 allowing an excellent 40/39 mpgUS city/highway along with additional enhancements we will describe later in the Preview.

The all-new ES 300h entry level luxury sedan features Lexus’ signature spindle grille and an all-new more aggressive yet easier to drive ride and handling character.

The ES 300h benefits from a 1.7” longer wheelbase that in turn provides a massive 4.1” increase in rear seat legroom (40.0”) and an additional 5 cu. ft. of interior passenger volume built off the Avalon platform!

The all-new ES 300h also features Lexus Drive Mode Select with a Normal, Eco, Sport, and EV mode. When you select Sport, the hybrid power monitor instantly transforms into a tachometer.

2013 Lexus ES 300h Specifications

The 2013 Lexus ES 300h is available in a single trim. Complete specifications, standard and optional equipment can be found on the 2013 Lexus ES 300h – Specifications page.

2013 Lexus ES 300h Exterior

The all-new sixth generation ES 300h is an evolutionary addition to the Lexus lineup featuring the now common Lexus signature front fascia with attitude.

Just like its performance oriented stable mate in the GS 450h, the new ES arrives with a “spindle grille” and its trapezoidal contours. It is the new definition of Lexus giving off the impression of aggressive performance through its “Black Widow” moniker shaped grille.

A large Lexus badge set in the center, sculpted front fog lamp cutouts located on the outer edges of the lower grille, and thin wraparound headlight lenses with the other Lexus signature (check mark LED DRLs) add to this all-new look Lexus.

From the side, the short front overhangs and long silhouette with extended integrated rear spoiler give it a modern and aerodynamic sense of purpose. With a Cd of just 0.27, it more than just “looks” the part too.

From the rear, the concealed tailpipe gives a clean but non-distinct appearance.

Aggressive up front, sleek from the side and sedate through to the rear = mission accomplished.

Upscale interior appointments.

2013 Lexus ES 300h Interior

The all new ES’ interior is best described with the term “Takumi” or master craftsmanship. I have never heard of it before and to describe it, think of how hard it is to fold an origami figure. Now consider folding the figure with one hand and that hand is not your natural one?

That is the skill these craftsmen must have and they are the same individuals that added contrast stitching to the instrument panel and crafted the bamboo wheel and dash inserts. Not only can you see the quality, you can feel it too!

The second thing I noticed after seating myself behind the wheel was that the driver seat cushion length could be extended (available with Ultra Luxury Package). Adding that additional inch to inch and a half made these seats the most comfortable I have sat in during a preview.

Just like all of Lexus’ most recent reveals, the A-pillars are shaped in such a way to maximize outward visibility.

After adjusting the front driver seat, I moved to the rear and discovered vastly increased leg room from the previous generation ES. So much so in fact that I went back inside to grab a Lexus PR manager to find out why there was so much more additional space. And that is when I found out the all-new ES 300h is built off the Avalon platform.

2013 Lexus ES 300h

Front and rear seating room detail.

Other ES 300h interior highlights include an analog, metal trimmed clock centrally located in the front dash illuminating the instant a door is unlocked and gradually fading when passengers disembark, manual sunshades and Lexus next-generation Remote Touch 2.0 for control of the infotainment selections.

The Remote Touch mouse like system was designed to reduce eye movement and minimize distraction and fortunately there is a new snap to like feature so manipulating the cursor to a selection is much easier than my experience with it in the very recent past.

I cannot speak for the non-optioned up 2013 ES 300h but I can speak about the fully loaded variants. If I were shopping in this market segment, there would not be another manufacturer’s interior I would be choosing over the all-new 2013 Lexus ES 300h.

Better than the previous generation ES? You can take that to the bank!

ES 300h – Infotainment

An eight-speaker Lexus Premium Sound System is standard while I was in ES 300h’s equipped with the 15-speaker, 835 W Mark Levinson system with Greenedge technology that is supposed to reduce power consumption by 50%. The prototypes were also equipped with the optional 8” screened HDD Navigation systems with Lexus Enform apps including Bing search, iHeartRadio,, OpenTable, Pandora, Yelp and Facebook Places.

Impressions? Listening to true 5.1 encoded music DVDs sounded fantastic while listening to FM or XM via the same 5.1 system sounded synthetic. Through the standard audio system, XM and FM were really good but I have heard better in competing makes systems. Selection of the various apps through the maximum two menu deep selection system using the remote touch was intuitive and somewhat non-distracting with just a few minutes of use.

Better than the previous generation ES? You betcha!

2013 Lexus ES 300h Drivetrain

The ES is equipped with the all-new Camry Hybrids drivetrain with a few tweaks added to provide the mid-size luxury class owner a far more sustainable way to travel from point A to point B. The 156 HP engine and Lexus Hybrid drive combine to provide a total system output of 200 HP making the ES 300h an 8-second car.

As with all Lexus hybrid vehicles, the new ES 300h is a full hybrid capable of operating in gas, gas and electric combination and electric-only modes. The Lexus Hybrid Drive system is silky smooth with the Atkinsonized 2.5L mated to a compact, high-output, electric motor powered by a high performance NiMH battery pack. Both power-plants can drive the front wheels independently or in tandem as needed.

Lexus’ LHD is standard fare with MG2 acting as the traction motor for slower speed propulsion and regenerative braking while the smaller MG1 acts as both a generator (recharging the battery while underway) and a speed control within the planetary gear set itself.

The cooling performance of the hybrid system’s Power Control Unit (PCU) has been improved through the adoption of dual cooling paths and a single piece, integrated DC/DC converter.

The PCU boosts motor drive voltage to a maximum of 650V in Sport mode and limits it to a maximum of 500V in Eco mode under normal driving conditions.

The most notable addition to the drivetrain was a slight expansion of the high speed glide range to 48 mph from the 46 - 47 mph we have experienced in the previous iterations of Lexus and Toyota hybrid drive units.

2013 Lexus ES 300h Engine Bay

Notice the new engine vibration isolation damping unit along the left center side of the engine.

2013 Lexus ES 300h Preview Drive Fuel Economy Results

With a 25-mile scripted round trip loop including ~ 12.5 miles of stop light to stop light and the same distance of 55 and 65 mph local highways, the ES 300h proved to be quite adept at pulling what the average luxury car buyer would deem to be stupid high numbers. Mid 60’s to even a 72.4 mpg mile RT loop was achieved on multiple drives of the same loop over an afternoon.

During the 65 mph PSL Interstate portion of the scripted route along I-5 just south of Portland, the ES proved itself but with a little less over the top capability providing a 43 and 48 mpg run on an almost 50 mile RT drive loop with moderate afternoon rush hour traffic at 60 to 65 mph.

Better than the previous generation ES? You better believe it!

2013 Lexus ES 300h - The Result(s)

City and Suburban highway loops: 67.7 mpg over 25 miles and 72.4 mpg over 12.5 miles
All Interstate highway loops: 43.3 mpg over 28.5 miles and 47.8 mpg over 47.6 miles.
The second city/suburban/highway and fourth all highway pics were taken from an ES drive partners Cell phone

2013 Lexus ES 300h Ride and Handling

The Lexus ES is not a track car and should not handle like one. What it should and does provide is the almost patented Lexus compliant and cushy ride thanks in part too much improved shock absorbers while offering much improved road feel and pavement holding capability due to a stiffer body, stiffening plates, a quicker steering ratio and revised suspension geometry in both the front and rear.

Taking a roundabout while closing in on the ES 300h’ road adhesion limits saw the VSC kick in before any screech of the Michelins was heard.

Better than the previous generation ES? Yup.

2013 Lexus ES 300h Safety

The ES is equipped with 10 airbags, including front, side and knee airbags for both the driver and front passenger, outboard rear seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain airbags plus new Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) front seats.

Like all the latest Lexus’ the ES 300h arrives with the latest active safety features including ABS, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) + Traction Control (TRAC), Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) plus Smart Stop (Brake Override).

Available options include a Pre-Collision System (PCS) that uses a sub-millimeter wave radar to detect certain obstructions ahead and prepare the vehicle for a potential collision, a Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) system, Lane Departure Alert system and backup camera.

An Automatic High Beam system continuously illuminates as long as headlamps and taillights from another vehicle are not detected. If the camera sensors detect light from the headlamps of oncoming vehicles or the taillamps of preceding vehicles, the high-beam headlamps are automatically turned off. They are also automatically turned off in bright nighttime environments such as inner city streets.

2013 Lexus ES 300h Preliminary Conclusions

With well over 125miles behind the wheel of the all-new 2013 ES 300h, I can affirm that the Lexus ES 300h is not only an excellent replacement for the current generation ES but also better than the 5 Series and A4/A6 that Lexus was surely targeting.

With more luxurious interior materials and some of the best craftsmanship ever placed within a vehicle interior, even better ride and much improved handling traits, a vast improvement in fuel economy thanks to the hybrid drivetrain, a 5% increase in interior volume, the latest infotainment systems and surely an IIHS Top Safety Pick along with a NHTSA 5-star crash test rating in the offing, Toshio Asahi succeeded in creating the epitome of the mid-size luxury automobile. The 5-Series and A4/A6 may provide better track times all the while the 2013 Lexus ES 300h will provide a more pleasing driving experience for the rest of us the other 99.7% of the time.

Toshio Asahi, congrats on building your current ES replacement. It is better in every way and surely what we would have designed ourselves if we had the qualifications to do so

2013 Lexus ES 300h

I wish I had one of these in my drive. How about you?
By Jay on 06-04-2012, 07:34 PM
Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

I'm not seeing the ES on their website. Why does Toyota insist on using these mostly obsolete NiMH batteries? They must have a big warehouse of them somewhere they need to use up. Do they think their customers won't notice that their competitors (such as the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid) are using batteries that have about 3X the energy density as the crap batteries they use?
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By ItsNotAboutTheMoney on 06-04-2012, 08:31 PM
Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

Originally Posted by Jay View Post
I'm not seeing the ES on their website. Why does Toyota insist on using these mostly obsolete NiMH batteries? They must have a big warehouse of them somewhere they need to use up. Do they think their customers won't notice that their competitors (such as the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid) are using batteries that have about 3X the energy density as the crap batteries they use?
Because they're cheap and reliable and they have annual manufacturing capacity of 500,000, with plans to increase it to 1,000,000 per year.
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By EdwinTheMagnificent on 06-04-2012, 09:15 PM
Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

Why does Toyota insist on using these mostly obsolete NiMH batteries?
+1 what INATM said. Also , in mighty 'Yota we trust. They have not let us down yet.
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By Jay on 06-04-2012, 10:33 PM
Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

They're cheaper, but Ford says they pay $600/kwh for their lithium-ion batteries. It's harder to find out what Toyota pays, but as I google around I'm seeing $450kwh for the NiMH batteries. I'd gladly pay the difference to get the much better lithium-ion batteries. I can understand the cheap approach in a car like the Prius C--not this expensive Lexus.
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By Bennett on 06-04-2012, 11:17 PM
Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

I actually like the look of the 2013 fusion hybrid better...and the mpg. Not that I'm in the market for anything new yet, but I can dream...
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By ItsNotAboutTheMoney on 06-05-2012, 06:14 AM
Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

Originally Posted by Jay View Post
They're cheaper, but Ford says they pay $600/kwh for their lithium-ion batteries. It's harder to find out what Toyota pays, but as I google around I'm seeing $450kwh for the NiMH batteries. I'd gladly pay the difference to get the much better lithium-ion batteries. I can understand the cheap approach in a car like the Prius C--not this expensive Lexus.
I understand, but before I'd question the use of NiMH in a luxury car, I'd need to know what their access to lithium manufacturing capacity is.

They're using the lithium in the Prius Alpha and plug-in, both of which actually need it, and are dealing with numbers of which other manufacturers can only dream. In Japan in April, for example, they sold over 10,000 Prius Alphas; in the USA alone they're selling over 1,000 Plug-ins per month and then they'll soon be adding some more lithium hybrid sales in Europe with the Prius Plus and Plug-in.

It could either be that they're trying to make full use of the NiMH capacity or it could be that they don't want to have sales constrained by lithium battery.
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By Carcus on 06-06-2012, 10:37 PM
Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

IMO, .. we haven't seen lithium prove itself to handle aging as well as some other chemistries.

Last week I pulled out some 15 year old Ni-cads (Nakita cordless drill that I'm sure hadn't been charged in well over a year) and measured the charge on my "kill-a-watt" -- they appear to be almost good as new. If those had been lithium they would most likely have been trashed many years ago.

Toyota's Nimh are making it the life of the car --- why change?

/P.S. Subjective, of course, but the 300h is what I'd term a "handsome" car.
Last edited by Carcus : 06-06-2012 at 11:09 PM.
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By xcel on 06-07-2012, 01:20 PM
Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

Hi Carcus:

It is more handsome than its predecessor

RE: Li-Ion vs. NiMH, for a Charge sustaining mode hybrid, Li-Ion is not going to provide much advantage over the older but truly reliable NIMH because it’s power density matches the HSD duty cycle very very well. When it comes to energy or storage density and less weight, the Li-Ion’s have an advantage but only for a charge depletion mode PHEV or BEV does the Li-Ion really outshine the NiMH right now.

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By xcel on 07-16-2012, 12:35 PM
Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Lexus ES 300h

Hi All:

Lexus this morning released pricing detail on its 2013 ES 300h as previewed above.

The ES 300h luxury hybrid sedan is $2,750 more than the 2013 ES 350. The delivery, processing and handling fee is $895.

In the release, Lexus stated the 300h will arrive in dealership showrooms early next month.

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