Lexus ES 300h: So much more than just an upscale Toyota

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A very good local plumber has had to visit Spray Towers a number of times recently. It always makes me a little nervous when a craftsman comes for the first time.

When you see a great new Mercedes or BMW sitting in the garage for over £100,000, a few extra spins on the slot machine in your brain could trick you into thinking you’ve hit the jackpot and the bill can be increased proportionally.

Explaining that the cars are only with me for a week at a time and that we really only own the 10-year-old runabout in the corner brings with it his own bout of eye-rolling.

It’s bad enough, even after 43 years here, to have a Boris Johnson-style accent without trying to play the poor mouth too. But then maybe I should see what they drive when the white van is parked for the night.

I remember the legendary Sam Synott, when he was CEO of Hyundai Ireland a few decades ago, explaining that the Sonata, the company’s incredibly well-appointed executive sedan, was popular with vets, accountants and consultants doing their business , the clever peasant folk were very popular.

These people wanted all the comforts of the executive floor without giving customers the impression that they were getting too high a percentage of their hard-earned money. In case things went a bit wrong, there was also an air of mafia thinking about the car.

There was a lever in the trunk to prevent you from locking yourself in forever.

I once thought of retiring to this safe haven when I had a week’s sonata with my then-teen children playing their age in all its unbearable glory.

But back to the plumber, who has a great “old/young” relationship when working with his son.

After admitting to this column last week, I asked him what he drove. To my relief, he replied to me about the Lexus ES sedan that I just happened to be testing and only brought back the latest model the day before.

If you ever want to know someone’s judgment and reliability; owning a Lexus is very high on the predictability scale. The Lexus folks might politely grimace when told that the brand is really just an upscale Toyota.

But the luxury brand is much more than that. It went the hybrid route before its stablemate and has earned a reputation for enduring build quality, which consistently places it at the top of the charts.

In her latest Which? car driver The magazine states that it is the “only brand to receive the full five stars in all age categories (0-4, 5-9 and 10-15 years)”.

The Lexus range available in Ireland ranges from the compact crossover UX at €43,750 to the LS, its flagship saloon, at €162,820 and the enormously powerful LC Cabriolet at €189,500.

The ES 300h, which starts at €54,640, is pretty much in the foothills of the Lexus brand. While it shares certain elements with the much-loved, relatively recently relaunched Toyota Camry, it has a luxurious presence of its own. It aims to offer a real alternative to other premium models such as BMW’s 5 Series, Audi’s A6 and Mercedes’ E-Class.

I’ve always hated the term “minor change” that Toyota/Lexus use for mid-life upgrades. It’s pretty off-putting and makes you wonder why you bother.

It’s definitely worth looking at the ES again, especially now that the IS is no longer available.

Evolved from the GS, the ES is a very sleek, nicely put together four-door sedan with a massive trunk.

It’s low and noticeable. There is only one engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder petrol engine connected to a battery hybrid system and developing 218 hp. The car is extremely comfortable without being too fast. This is a car for big saves and the 0-100 km/h is 8.9 seconds. Once the automatic CVT transmission settles down, it’s amazingly quiet.

There was a 12-page bulletin noting the “minor changes” to the ES.

The front grill looks even more confident and eye-catching and inside there is a better display with a good touchpad on the center console. However, the most interesting page in the bulletin was the additional security features that build on an already impressive package.

It can get pretty nanny and some of the features are a bit fiddly to turn off, but overall the features are really great to have on board, especially as Lexus ES drivers are likely more concerned with safety and comfort than whizzing – banging speed.

The front and rear seat cushions are excellent and four adults could spend hours in the car without pain.

Those on the back are surrounded by luxe accents. It’s not all perfect though – there are small annoyances, such as I kept leaving my phone in the car because the charging pad is covered.

A bigger one is that the rear seats don’t fold. But overall this is a car with distinction and with ordinary mass market cars becoming more expensive it seems good value for money.

The Dynamic model is the entry-level model, but there’s an F-Sport trim for €61,890 and a Premium trim for €67,310.

That Which? car driver says the ES is a best buy draw in terms of “economy overall mpg, while its excellent traction and steering means it feels confident and agile through corners. It’s a strong performance, made even better by Lexus’ reputation for fantastic reliability.”

It makes me even more confident about the job my plumbers have done.

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After my article last week about the compact all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQB seven-seater, I now see that the company is also launching the super-luxe electric SUV EQS this week.

On more mundane issues, I received an email asking for advice on affordable seven seater EVs.

Unfortunately there are very few. I would have liked to draw the reader’s attention to the Peugeot e-Rifter, a great car for larger families. However, it’s not available here just yet and the company doesn’t know when it will arrive.

Other naturally aspirated alternatives include the VW Touran, Kia Sorento and Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer, as well as the near-high priced Hyundai Santa Fe and Peugeot 5008.

The cheap seven-seater Dacia Jogger will be launched here before the end of the month and will strike a balance between price and the most comprehensive safety equipment. Happy Easter.

https://www.independent.ie/life/motoring/car-reviews/lexus-es-300h-so-much-more-than-a-just-an-upmarket-toyota-41558054.html Lexus ES 300h: So much more than just an upscale Toyota

Fry Electronics Team

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