2016 Lexus ES Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 7.7

The 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid has enough engine power for most driving situations, according to reviewers. Some say that the standard continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is a type of automatic, exhibits a loud drone, and most think the powertrain smoothly switches from gas to electric mode. The ES Hybrid has a very comfortable ride, critics write, though some think the steering is numb. Test drivers report the regenerative brakes feel smooth, which is rare praise for a hybrid.

  • "Of course, what makes the ES 300h truly desirable is its outstanding fuel economy. Its four-cylinder hybrid powertrain helps this sedan achieve an EPA combined rating of 40 mpg, and pulls this off while offering acceptably quick acceleration and handling that's on par with that of the ES 350." -- Edmunds
  • "In a world of sport sedans, the Lexus ES stands out, and not necessarily in a good way. While body motions are generally controlled on the highway, the car struggles when driven hard." -- MSN (2013)
  • While the 2013 ES is certainly a more competent driver than the last-gen model, it's still a long way off from being classified as a sports sedan. And while that might be an issue in a car like the BMW 3-Series, it's perfectly fine in the ES." -- Left Lane News (2013)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 ES Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that together generate 200 horsepower. A continuously variable transmission, which works like an automatic, is standard. The ES 300h gets better fuel economy ratings than most upscale midsize hybrids, at an EPA-estimated 40/39 mpg city/highway.

Most auto writers say the ES Hybrid delivers enough power to satisfy most drivers’ daily driving needs. Some report that the ES Hybrid’s Sport mode noticeably improves throttle response, while Eco mode makes the powertrain feel dull. The hybrid system transitions seamlessly from electric to gas mode, according to a few reviewers, though they say the CVT is noisy.

  • "While the hybrid ES is noticeably less quick than the V6-equipped ES 350, most buyers will find its acceleration fully acceptable in normal driving situations and an acceptable trade-off for the hybrid's improved fuel economy." -- Edmunds
  • For those who occasionally like to push the limits, the ES' Sport mode makes transmission shifts more aggressive, providing better performance for passing and merging. This same option on the hybrid is even more appealing, perhaps due to the added boost in torque from the electric-assist motor. If you go with the hybrid, you'll find the electric-to-gasoline transitions nearly imperceptible. However, when we switched to Eco mode, the throttle response was dulled and the powertrain felt uncertain." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The ES 300h's hybrid system also comes from the Camry, but with 40 mpg on tap, it's still unique in the luxury segment -- and there's adequate power for freeway merging and the like." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "At full bore, the car hustles well enough, but it lacks the passing confidence deserving of a luxury badge, and the droning, here-it-comes CVT sounds anything but refined." -- Cars.com (2013)

Handling and Braking

The front-wheel drive 2016 ES 300h has a cloud-like ride, reviewers report. Still, some testers say the ES Hybrid's steering feels numb and it has body roll through corners. In rare praise for a hybrid, a few critics say the regenerative brakes are smooth and that most drivers won't notice the brakes switching from regenerative to traditional braking.

  • "Brake pedal feel is also impressively normal for a hybrid. You'll be hard-pressed to detect the transitions between the hybrid system's regenerative braking (which helps recharge the hybrid's battery pack) and application of the conventional brakes." -- Edmunds
  • "On the road, the ES feels more responsive than ever, but that's not saying much. At heart, this Lexus remains a classic luxury car with a creamy, tranquil ride, and that's the way ES buyers like it. Frankly, we like it, too." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "The steering is light and slow, body roll is quite noticeable, and the tires howl like a dog baying at a passing ambulance when the car is pushed through a turn." -- MSN (2013)
  • "The ES 300h rides like a comfortable luxury car should, with the improved suspension allowing for a reasonable amount of gusto in the bends." -- Left Lane News (2013)

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