Final Sendoff: We Drive the 2015 Lexus ES 300h

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One of the more difficult tasks of an automotive journalist is reviewing a car that’s about to be refreshed by a newer model. That’s the case with the ES, which will be new for the 2016 model year, with a new design, infotainment interface, and more. We recently spent a week in the current ES 300h and decided to give it a proper sendoff by highlighting what made this luxury hybrid so popular!

I teased the folks at Toyota a little bit about the color. A colleague of mine over at BestRide.com claims that not many Toyotas are beige, but that didn’t stop our review unit being beige on beige with the bamboo steering wheel. I may have suggested in the introduction post that it didn’t come with a pamphlet in the glove box to get a reverse mortgage.

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But really, color is subjective, and fortunately Lexus lets you choose from a variety of colors, so it’s unfair to judge a vehicle based on the color it arrives in. Believe me, I’ve seen some interesting colors on review units.

Really, though, this car is pretty great. It’s not a “look at me” car by any means, which means you can cruise by law enforcement without them batting an eye. Not only that, but you’ll be doing it in pretty good comfort. This is a car you could drive across the country in and not be tired when you get there. I even slept in the thing!

And unlike other manufacturers who have had to readjust their mileage claims on their hybrids, the Lexus ES 300h easily hit the 41 miles per gallon EPA highway number without even trying. Again, that’s a serious plus in my book.

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Rear seat passengers have plenty of room, as midsize cars have gotten bigger and bigger over the years, and you have tons more leg room than you get in Main Cabin Extra on an American Airlines flight. The car’s almost deceptively large in the legroom area.

But how does it drive? Well, it drives like a car. It’s not a sports car by any means, even though it does come with a Sport mode that turns the instrument cluster red and gives you a big tachometer instead of an energy meter. But don’t use it. It feels out of place in this car and just makes the steering stiffer.

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Some people have suggested that it’s just a nicer Camry. I agree with that sentiment, but not in the back-handed compliment kind of way. The new Camry is such a good car that the bar separating the new Camry against the “old” ES has narrowed significantly. But, as I mentioned, there’s a new ES coming.

So what didn’t I like? The hybrid badge looks out of place on the rear doors and seems to be an afterthought. I’d be getting the fishing string out right away and removing them.

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Also, I didn’t care for the infotainment control knob that functions like a computer mouse. I hated it at first, and after driving nearly 1,000 miles it didn’t get much better. Acceptable? Yes, but me being left-handed also didn’t help me jive with the interface.

All in all, I was happy with the car. If you’re looking for comfortable, reliable transportation with an air of luxury, the Lexus ES 300h is a nice choice. And with an as-tested price of right at $46,000, it’s not that bad of a deal either.

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