SENIORS NOT AS WARMED UP: A survey taken in Nordic countries shows that the aging Baby Boomer generation is the demographic least likely to warm to fossil fuel alternative energy cars. Chalk it up to the older population’s skepticism about the reliability of new vehicle technologies. The statistic is all the more ironic considering that a few generations back, elders dumped gasoline power for plug-in batteries in their “Golf Cart” communities.
BABY BOOMER STEPS TO GREEN: Gasoline battery electric hybrid power might only be a first transitional stage towards zero tailpipe emission vehicles. Yet hybrid powertrains are tried and true, capable of nominal around the neighborhood pure electric operation, without the need to re-learn range limitations or fuss with any cords.
ALLEGIANT TO THE CORE: As expected, the Lexus brand’s unveiling of the 7th generation ES sedan, continued the tradition of catering to septuagenarians through octogenarians seeking J.D. Powers reliable posh. Perhaps more revealing about the brand’s environmental earnest, the new Lexus ES was designed, ground up, to host a hybrid powertrain. The 2020 Lexus ES 300h is the lastest baby step in spreading the message of green love to the most ardent new technology averse.
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Standard Power: 2487 cc Atkinson cycle, dual VVT-i DOHC 24V start-stop idle I-4 cylinder gasoline engine: 176 hp/ 163 lb-ft; 215 hp (160 kW) NET HYBRID + parallel shaft gearset coupled Continuously Variable Transaxle, arranged parallel to
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC traction / regenerative charging motor, front wheels: 118 hp (88 kW), 149 lb-ft coaxially mounted with
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC Hybrid Starter Generator: 8 kW
- Battery electric supply: Ni-MH, 204 cells, 244.8V, 1.6 kWh, 29 kW
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: [From previous generation Mk.6 ES 350]
– SPINDLE GRILLE DETRACTORS BEWARE: There is little other than badging and unique fan blade wheels to differentiate from the non-hybrid ES 350. The current state of Lexus sedan design language of coke bottle fuselage with coupe-like flared fenders and rear quarters is accented by L shaped boomerang front DRLs, rear directionals and spindles on the pronounced wide spindle grille. Door mounted wing mirrors suggest a low slung attitude. Once the brazen grille is digested all the others swaths of chrome are appropriate for a luxury conveyance.
WHY: Constituting the cordless transition to cleaner efficient luxury motivation.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Summer 2019
WHERE: Lexus new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Georgetown, Kentucky, U.S.A.
HOW ROADWORTHY: Mid-speed acceleration benefits most from a swap of less electric motor power for more gas engine oomph. Migrating to a parallel axle gearset coupling makes gas to battery electric power transitioning more fluid. Promises made by available Sport Mode are nearly empty when shift paddles which can’t manipulate the smooth 8-speed gearbox to muster authoritative throttle blips. Omitting an all-wheel drive option is glaring but hardly a deal breaker. It just so happens a snowy interstate escapade on all-season Michelin shod front wheels dispatched measured sure-footedness.
A lighter 204 cell nickel metal hydride battery pack now packs more neatly beneath the rear seat cushion. This lowers the center of gravity for steadier chassis stability. The conventional dampers are tuned for ripple free road isolation while there is reasonable grip until gentle sway gives way to understeer. Good luck finding any road feel from a steering rack that reacts faster than ever. Brake pedal effort is tuned for a spa massage, therefore scrubbing speed requires patience.
HOW FAR: 42 combined miles per gallon = 3 mpg > 2017 ES 300h and 70% > ES 350 gasoline, 55% > BMW 530e PHEV.
-1 Only school zone speeds available in pure battery electric mode
HOW BIG/ LITTLE:
The unusual case where a luxury brand’s entry sedan offering offers more usable cabin occupant space than the flagship. Not even a third good size adult will crowd the back seat.
√ Compared to Lexus LS 500h: 113″ wheelbase = +2″, 195.9″ total length = + 2.6″, 39.2″ rear legroom = -0.8″;
HOW USEFUL: √ Trunk space = no longer suffers from partial battery accommodation; √ Trunk pass through; √ Cargo tie-down net; √ Center-stack matching wood hinged lid phone slot w/ optional Qi wireless charging = 2 devices; √ Wide front center armrest, dual driver and passenger side lid release, shallow felt bottom bin; +1 Proximity power release and close trunk lid; +1 Spacious door pockets; +1 Cupholders x 4, Bottle holders x 4 (each door); Split shelf, felt lined glove box; –1 Shallow trunk aperture; -1 No overhead sunglasses bin.
HOW SAFE: √ 10 airbags; √ IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus; √ Rear camera; √ STANDARD Lexus SafetySense 2.0 = √ Pedestrian and daylight bicycle detection braking; √ Forward collision avoidance braking; √ Blind spot warning; √ Front & Rear cross traffic detection; √ Lane Departure Warning w/ steering trace assist; √ Full adaptive cruise control w/ auto hold; √ Automatic high beam headlamps;
ADVANCED SAFETY PKG: √ Sonar front & rear park assist; √ 360° Bird’s Eye camera view, perimeter scan; √ Heads Up Display
BEWARE WINTER: That more prominently raked front end & spindle grille became an icy-slush cow catcher which rendered many driver assist functions “winter paralyzed.”
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: √ Climate control synchronized heated & cooled front, driver’s 10-way, 4-way lumbar, passenger’s 10-way, 2-way lumbar power leather seats, w/ 3-setting driver’s memory and driver’s knee extension; √ 3-setting Easy Access driver’s seat, steering wheel; √ Heated rear seats; √ 4 power windows w/ full soft close up/ down express; √ Heated, power tilt / telescoping heated leather steering wheel; √ 2-zone auto climate control w/ auto front seat, steering climate; √ Puddle lamps x 4 doors; √ 1-touch power moon roof.
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Comfort approach entry and lighting; √ [LC500’s] Deep padded and contrast stitched single variable gauge binnacle; √ Driver / front passenger dual center armrest cover release;
Details Done Right: √ Nappa leather seating and upper door inserts; √ Satin honey finished wood veneers dash, console and door accents; √ Beveled etched dashboard panel appliques; √ Uniform seat & contrast soft dash-top; stitching; √ LED door panel, central console ambient lighting; √ Soft padded center console & lower dash, glovebox door; √ Fine grain knee and below plastic pebbling; √ Lateral tuning-fork shaped upper door Mark Levinson loudspeaker housings.
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Small lower center stack dark plastic switch buttons; Smoked plastic simulated metallic bits; Thin pile trunk carpeting.
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ 12.3″ split-pane touch pad remote control LCD infotainment screen; √ Voice recognition command hands-free communications; +1 SMS Text Messaging; √ 3-D SD GPS navigation; √ Android Auto & Apple Car Play wireless device projection; √ Siri Eyes; √ Enform 2.0 Apps: Amazon Alexa, Doppler Weather, HD Traffic, √ USB x 4, 12V x 1; √ Qi wireless inductive charging pad.
For All Ears: √ sibilant and spatial 17 speaker, 1800 Watt Mark Levinson Quantum Logic Clari-Fi 2.0 5.1 DTS HD radio audio;
By Subscription: √ Sirius XM radio; √ Wi-Fi; √ Lexus Enform Connected Services w/ S.O.S.; √ Dynamic Navigation POI search & voice recognition
-1 Ditched for 2020 MY: iHeart, Slacker, NPR One radios, Fuel, Sports, Stocks applications
HOW MUCH: $51,469 = as tested 2020 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid Ultra Lux = @ $4000 or +8.0% vs. gas only Lexus ES 350H Ultra Lux.
WHAT’S MISSING: Sense of road surface; Deeper center console mobile device slot.
ANY COMPETITION: Toyota Avalon Hybrid: Lighter on wallet, BMW 530e PHEV: 31 miles all electric power to 87 mph, real planetary torque converter automatic transmission, available AWD.
FINAL WORD: “Older Boomers” making transition to renewable energy luxury driving sans golf cart cord.
Contributing Editor: S. Frissell