Stick Shift: 2016 Lexus ES

The new 2016 ES 300h has left the retirement home and entered mainstream America. With enough facial reconstruction to make its bold new look hardly recognizable as an ES anymore, a progressive eco friendly hybrid system and an interior to fall In love with, this isn’t you grandparents Lexus anymore.

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2016 Lexus ES. Photo by Brandon Randall

 

From the outside we see right away that the ES has fallen in line with the rest of the Lexus family and committed to the full hourglass spindle grill. New Bi-LED headlamps, fog light bezels and newly sharpened body lines create an aggressive style that’s far beyond the mild mannered approach we’ve seen in previous generations. Will these changes be too extreme and scare off the usual buyers? Only time will tell, but lately the whole Lexus line-up has been receiving a healthy dose of edge, and the formula seems to be working.

The interior cabin is as well-built and brimming with all the luxury goodies you’d expect. Wood finishes range from piano black to dark wood, warm maple and light matte bamboo. Finish it off with soft rich leather, a Mark Levinson sound system, plenty of natural light through the long sunroof and a few old world touches like an analog clock, and you begin to see how enjoyable a commuting space Lexus has created for just under $41,000. Craftsmanship is top notch. There’s generous legroom in the back and an overall aesthetic that’s clean and modern. Long horizontal lines on the dash help to visually widen the space. The new Lexus Remote Touch system controls with a mouselike device, moving a cursor on the large centrally positioned screen to control navigation, vehicle settings, audio and much more.

Combined fuel economy comes in at an impressive 40 mpg. Sadly, the trade-off is hybrid-like acceleration (0-60 in 7.8 seconds). You won’t win any stop light races with its V6 powered ES350 sibling, but it still does the job. The chassis has been tuned to deliver a balance between comfort and control, with an electronic continuously variable transmission that contributes to the smooth as silk ride. If the mood should strike, you can dial up the fun with four different driving modes, ranging from Eco and EV to Normal and Sport. This last mode changes the gauge cluster to a menacing red and replaces the hybrid system indicator with a sporty tachometer.

Offering more polish and refinement than the Accord or Avalon hybrid and more space than BMW’s 330e plug-in, the new 2016 Lexus ES300h is hard to beat. Armed with a new design direction that visually shaved off 30-40 years, and that famous Toyota dependability, this might be one of the most well rounded hybrids yet.

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