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Driven: 2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.

Driven: 2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport
Can Lexus’ revamped ES compete with rivals from Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the executive saloon stakes?


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Lexus ES 300h F Sport

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The ES has faded into the background of the executive car market in recent years, but Lexus has refreshed the big saloon to bring it back into the big time. Chief among the upgrades is the new and improved infotainment system, with which Lexus hopes to remove the ES's biggest flaw. Has it worked, or is the Lexus destined to remain an also-ran?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport
Price: ES from £39,980, F Sport from £47,095
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with 'self-charging' hybrid system
Transmission: e-CVT, front-wheel drive
Power: 218hp
Torque: 221Nm (petrol engine only); 202Nm (electric motor)
Emissions: 122g/km
Economy: 52.3-53.2mpg
0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Boot space: 454 litres


The latest-generation ES is slightly larger than its predecessor, and it's slightly longer than some of its key rivals, but that was all true before the update. Changes are minor, because the body has remained much the same, but there are subtle tweaks to the grille and the headlights. You might also notice the car in these images has camera-based door mirror systems, which is another new option for ES customers, although it doesn't come as standard.


Lexus has made more changes inside, where the new touchscreen infotainment system takes pride of place. The 12.3-inch screen is essentially lifted from the new NX and RX SUVs, and it's much more user-friendly than the old system, which came with an irritating, laptop-style trackpad. Admittedly, the new touchscreen has its foibles, including some complicated menus and some unclear icons, but it's a vast improvement on the old system.

That aside, the cabin is much the same as before, and that's good news for fans of quality. As you'd probably expect from Lexus, the interior is beautifully built and the materials are excellent, which gives it a premium feel that's easily on a par with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Even the switchgear feels fantastic.


Although the ES doesn't look especially enormous, the current car is noticeably larger than the previous generation, and that means it's very spacious. The 454-litre boot isn't brilliant by diesel saloon standards, but compared with hybrid rivals it's very competitive, while interior space is up there with anything else in the class. Fitting four fully grown adults in there will be a simple task, and even the tallest passengers will have ample head- and legroom.


Unlike so many of its rivals, which are mostly propelled by diesel or plug-in hybrid powertrains, the ES comes with a conventional 'self-charging' hybrid system. That combines a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor to produce 218hp, and that means 0-62mph takes a respectable but unremarkable 8.9 seconds.

It isn't the fastest car on the market, then, but it makes up for that with efficiency. Officially, the hybrid system allows it to return more than 50mpg, although that will depend somewhat on where you drive. In suburban conditions, with traffic flowing smoothly but slowly and only a little stop-start, that might well be achievable, but diesel is still going to be a better choice on long journeys, where something in the region of 43mpg is probably more realistic.

All that said, it's remarkable how often the ES reverts to electric power, even at motorway speeds. Lift off the gas slightly and it'll cruise on the electric motor, shutting down the engine quickly and smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that you probably wouldn't notice were it not for the little EV logo that illuminates when it slips into electric mode. The ES is incredibly quiet and refined, particularly considering the four-cylinder engine, but even with your foot buried in the carpet it doesn't get too raucous. It's eerily quiet.

Ride & Handling

The 300h powertrain, then, is clearly set up for efficiency and refinement, rather than sportiness, and that attitude pervades throughout the ES. The suspension is clearly set up for comfort, and it does a brilliant job of soaking up most bumps. Sure, you'll feel a few more abrupt potholes through the seat of your Levis, but most of the time it'll be like sitting on a water bed.

Naturally, that means handling is low on the ES's list of priorities, but it isn't a dead loss. The steering doesn't have huge amounts of feel, although it's quite smooth and confidence-inspiring, and body control is remarkably good for something so comfortable. Few will choose one of these ahead of a BMW 5 Series or a Jaguar XF for driving pleasure, but the ES can still hold its own with the Audi A6 and Volvo S90.


ES prices start at just under £40,000, which is roughly in line with other saloons of this size. And you get plenty for your money, with every model getting electrically adjustable and heated front seats, alloy wheels and satellite navigation. LED headlights, leather upholstery and wireless phone charging are thrown in, too, along with two-zone climate control. Upgrade to the F Sport and you get a sportier look, while the Takumi model majors on luxury.


The ES is likely to remain a niche choice for consumers, but that's almost entirely down to the hybrid powertrain. That shouldn't distract us from what is a very likeable executive saloon with impressive ride comfort and refinement, as well as a high-quality cabin. The new ES may not be a sales sensation, it is a really viable and appealing alternative to the E-Class and 5 Series.

James Fossdyke - 20 Apr 2023    - Lexus road tests
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2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.

2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.


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