I was able to easily swerve around the madness to avoid what could have been bad news while test driving the 2015 Lexus ES300h. I unknowingly cruised this 4-door hybrid into the path of a police chase just in time to witness a man jump out of his car and run within inches of the hood of my car with two policeman racing close behind. The agility of steering and the stability control was my saving grace, moving me out of range before any contact could be made. Like magic, this luxury sedan and I were instantly on a different path. The chase continued without us. Whew!
2015 Lexus ES300h
That could have been the end of my review. Instead it was the beginning of this comparison review between the ES300h and the 4-door ES350.
ES300h Engine: Features a 2.5-liter, dual cam in-line 4-cylinder engine, high output permanent magnet electric drive motor and 200 total system horsepower.
Features 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine, all-aluminum engine construction and dual VVT-i. 2015 Lexus ES350
At First Glance: In addition to the distinctive body designs for each, and colors like Atomic Silver and Deep Sea Mica, both bring a striking presence with auto on/off project bulb headlamps with integrated fog lamps and LED daytime running lights. Standard features include 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels and 215/55R17 all-season tires, but the ES300 comes with split 5-spoke wheels and the ES350 comes with split 6-spoke wheels. The extended rear valance with aerodynamic rear spoiler comes standard with the ES300. Both vehicles offer the one-touch open and close power tilt-and-slide moon roof.
ES300h Performance: The ES300h picks up speed quickly, maneuvers curves and swerves like a pro. The word “glide” is on the tip of my tongue. But on a steep incline my lifesaver seemed to have lost its mojo. What? The reality is that all heroes have their own set of challenges to overcome.
ES350 Performance: Acceleration for the ES350 is powerful in all situations, but the driver needs to be mindful to be easy with the brakes. My passengers didn’t like that jerk effect on their body every single time I stopped. I could feel eyeballs staring at me. They didn’t buy my statement about testing the 3-point safety belts for all seating positions. I did feel the road more in this ride, and liked it.
Both offer eco, normal and sport modes. 2015 Lexus ES350
A Delicate Touch: It is calming to sit in an ES and be enveloped by the well-designed trim. In this test drive, the ES300h features hand stitching and bamboo. The ES350 featured espresso birds-eye maple and contrast stitching. On both, the trims carry over to the shift knob and the mesmerizing telescopic steering wheels. On a hot day, your passengers will high-five you with a beaming smile when they discover the benefits of power rear sunshades and manual door sunshades. It is easy to get lost in the design before going anywhere.
The rear legroom and trunk space in both cars is ample, but even more so in the E350, adding 3 cubic feet for storage. Considering the rear seats do not fold down, the rear-seat pass through to the trunk is a useful feature.
Finding Strategic Placement: Of all the brilliance invested in the design of both luxury sedans, I question a couple of placements in the interior. The SmartAccess start/stop push button is too close to the multi-media control area, namely the radio button. People like me might accidentally hit the wrong button and stop the car when trying to turn the radio on or off.
The telephone charger connections and a tray are located inside the console. But the location requires me to reach back into my armpit. Charlie Brown’s “aaugh!” is appropriate here. Cartoon characters aside. Really, where do I comfortably place my phone? I’m going to err on the side of safety and say drivers are being encouraged to use phone controls on the steering wheel. 2015 Lexus ES300h
Safety in Motion: While both designs offer 10-way driver and front passenger power seats with lumbar support as standard features, memory settings are optional. For this test drive, the ES300h made the memory setting available for both driver and passenger seat. Neither is able to use it while the car is in motion. Understandable for the driver, but perplexing for the passenger.
In all fairness with the ES you can customize the right fit for you with the many options and packages. Know that when a surreal situation crosses your path, you will be poised to escape the madness.
2015 Lexus ES350 MSRP: $37,550; City/Highway MPG 24. 2015 Lexus ES300h MSRP: $40,430; City/Highway MPG: 40.