Lexus says its engineers toiled for three years to ensure the ES’s cabin made for a quiet and tranquil driving environment, using the flagship LS limousine as a benchmark. But when we road tested the LS last year, we found it wanting in some respects for refinement. The same is true for the smaller ES. At motorway speeds, it’s not engine noise you’ll notice in the cabin; the four-cylinder motor is very demure at a relaxed cruise.

But the by-product of this is that wind noise and tyre roar become more conspicuous. Not to the point of warranting serious criticism, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that at a 70mph cruise our sound gear recorded cabin noise at 65dB in the ES – making it no quieter than the Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI we tested in 2018. As for real-world performance and drivability, the hybrid powertrain is the usual mixed bag we’re used to from Lexus.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Dashing ES 300h can be best appreciated – from the driver’s seat and afar – when leaning on its hybrid powertrain’s 149lb ft electric motor in slow-moving town traffic

It’s at its most effective at urban speeds, when the electric motor’s 149lb ft of instantly available torque provides a useful initial punch of acceleration before the petrol engine wholeheartedly comes into play. It makes for a car that feels responsive and fairly light on its feet in traffic; one that’s capable of capitalising on gaps in between other cars when they present themselves.

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Progress away from a standstill is seamlessly smooth, provided you’re gentle with your inputs. Adopt a more boorish or urgent approach, though, and things begin to unravel. Pace isn’t the real issue here – the Lexus hit 60mph from a standstill in a two-way average of 8.7sec (for comparison, the A6 managed 8.6sec).

But the e-CVT’s tendency to flare the combustion engine’s revs to dizzying heights on a wide-open throttle, and keep them there until you’ve come up to speed, remains a big alienating factor in the driving experience. If you’re accelerating from 30mph to 70mph, you’ll have to sustain the engine’s slightly coarse-edged drone for some 7.6sec, after which point you might find yourself questioning how suitable its application is in a comfort-oriented saloon.

As for stopping power, ventilated front and solid rear discs do a fine job of bringing the ES’s 1742kg mass to a halt, although there’s a slightly unnerving initial lack of resistance about the brake pedal that makes it harder to stop smoothly in traffic than it ought to be.

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