On a recent long weekend I was able to test a new Lexus for a trip to Nebraska, and it was the ES series hybrid model that has been available since early 2012. The car was painted Atomic Silver and had black leather five-passenger seating. Inside it was black perforated “Semi-Aniline” (a dying process) leather throughout, courtesy of the Ultra Luxury package that was included on this ES. This added $2,435.00 to the base price of the Lexus ($40,430.00) and included power memory heated/air conditioned front buckets, ambient lighting, bamboo trim, power tilt/telescope steering column, rear sunshades, and driver’s seat power cushion extender.
Additionally, the car had blind spot monitor ($500.00), lane departure alert with intelligent high-beam headlamps ($1,015.00), navigation package with 8″ screen ($1,795.00), power trunk closer ($400.00), intuitive parking assist ($500.00), rain-sensing wipers with de-icer ($155.00), and heated leather trimmed/bamboo steering wheel ($450.00). Thus the base price and freight of $925.00 pushed the total M.S.R.P. to $48,605.00.
My father and I bought a brand new 1965 Corsair Corsa for about $46,000.00 less than that figure in Grant, Nebraska fifty years ago. I bring that up because my 50th class reunion in that town was the reason for the road trip in the Lexus. I tooled around Grant in the ES300h, a sedan considerably more accomplished than the old Chevy was, and although the Lexus is more expensive, the Corvair was over $20,000.00 if adjusted for inflation. The Lexus’ current price adjusted back to 1965 dollars comes to $6,500.00, and it may be that Bullock Chevy/Cadillac there in Grant sold a Caddy for about that amount. I don’t really know, but I do know that Dad and I didn’t bother to look at such a car.
As a popular Lexus hybrid, the ES has an Atkinson-cycle, 2.5 liter, four cylinder gasoline engine at its heart, and two electric motor/generators to contribute power. An Englishman named Atkinson obtained an American patent on the Atkinson-cycle engine over 120 years ago, but the design wasn’t favored until recently because its efficient fuel consumption aspect was more than offset by its lack of torque. Well, electric motors provide instant torque, so in the hybrid automobile the Atkinson engine goes with an electric motor like love and marriage. And in the ES300h, the total package provides 200 horsepower and runs that through a continuously-variable automatic transmission. Reportedly, top speed is 112 mph and zero to sixty acceleration takes 8.1 seconds.
Size-wise, this ES is a luxo-Camry with 111” wheelbase and a 16-foot overall length. It’s heavier than a Camry, though, at 3,700 lbs. with its big battery. That battery restricts the trunk to 12.1 cubic feet, and on this ES the lid powers up and down. No restriction is evident in the back seat, however, with seating for three and a big armrest in the middle. Riding anywhere in the ES300h is a pleasure, and I felt the ride was superb while motoring up through northeastern Colorado and into Perkins County, Nebraska. Lexus ES300h styling is suitable for me and me and Ruth really liked the Atomic silver tone. The front-end styling is fine and so is the rear with the exhaust tips concealed, hybrid-style.
EPA ratings for the ES300h are 40-city, 39-highway, and 40-combined miles per gallon – electric power allows drivers to save fuel in the city. My average, driving around Greeley as well as the road trip to Nebraska, was 41.1 mpg. It’s hard to say how much driving is necessary to make a hybrid Lexus pay off; there are other factors involved in the calculations. With resale value and pride of ownership factored in, this hybrid Lexus looks like a pretty good deal to me.