There’s something of the Jekyll and Hyde about the sleek, eye-catching, powerful-looking Lexus 300h F Sport.
It attracts attention wherever it goes; neighbours comment on its ground-hugging lines, no doubt drawn in by the sharp, unmistakably Japanese and rather aggressive ‘nose’, and meaty 19-inch wheels. Drivers at the filling station can’t resist giving it a second look either, possibly confused by its athletic lines from the rear which, curiously, make it look like one of the bigger, sportier BMWs.
It’s so purposeful, it’s actually reminiscent of some of those muscle cars from the 1980s; the Toyota Supra; first Mazda RX7, Mitsubishi Starion and so on. But this Lexus is far more grown up, far more civilised, far more subtle and refined than those.
Sure, it has a fairly large four-cylinder engine (by today’s ever-shrinking standards) at 2,487ccs but this car is in fact cut out for life in the city, as it is an electric-petrol hybrid. When its two motors work in tandem they produce a smooth, refined 215bhp – enough for 062mph in 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 112mph.
It actually feels a lot quicker off the mark than those figures suggest, thanks to the big dollop of power from the electric motor, and those big, fat tyres that grip the road.
Its electric CVT gearbox delivers power smoothly, enhanced by six fake ‘steps’ to simulate gear changes. Only when you clout the throttle – perhaps for an overtaking manoeuvre – does the system feel a little less refined. That four-cylinder engine is undoubtedly smooth, but it doesn’t sound particularly tuneful when revved hard.
Inside, the cabin is unmistakably luxurious even if the driver’s ‘cockpit’ is – relatively speaking and if you’re used to Lexus models of old – fairly sparse. It’s dominated by a generous, easily-read 12.3-inch ‘infotainment’ screen although fortunately, the designers thought to retain a neat, accessible row of buttons which quickly and easily adjust the climate functions, so that you don’t have to go delving into obscure menus on the move.
Headroom is acceptable front and rear despite its coupe-esque looks. The boot is good and deep, too – there’s even a self-closing function, which seems slightly over the top considering it’s a small, easily-reached lid. It is handy, however, to push a button near the steering wheel, to open it remotely.
On the road the ES300h is a pleasure to drive; sure-footed, responsive and fast. The steering is as nicely weighted as the chunky steering wheel suggests it will be and this car is very quiet indeed on the motorway.
The suspension obliterates lumps and bumps reasonably well, but holds the car firmly in line around bends too, without much body roll, while the brakes are reassuringly powerful, unhindered by the regenerative braking which spoils the feel of some cars’ systems.
While the entry-level ES 300 starts at £35,200, the F-Sport costs rather more at £38,155, thanks to extra goodies including – but not confined to – sliding ‘exit’ steering wheel and driver’s seat, luxurious, fancy-looking upholstery, LED headlamps with automatic high beam, noise-reducing acoustic windscreen and so on. The ‘Takumi Pack’ adds further luxuries (including a very useful wireless phone charger and a very tasty Mark Levinson sound system) for a further £4,000.
Mind you, Lexus aren’t at all stingy on the entry model either, which comes with electric and heated front seats, a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, including daytime cyclist and night time pedestrian safety systems.
Particular likes on the ES300 F-Sport? Its efficient head-up display on the windscreen (part of that ‘Takumi’ pack) conveying speed and sat-nav data, its overall sense of refinement, its super-comfy seats, its CO2 emissions of just 106 g/km and fuel economy figures (combined WLTP) of 48.4 – 53.5mpg. Not bad at all for a car of this size.
I also like the executive-style ‘treats’ in the back, such as the neat fold-out cup-holders, the cushy fold-down armrest with stowage compartment, and the lockable flap which will give you kids hours of fun as they see what they can retrieve from the boot as you drive along.
It’s long-legged cruising that this car excels at, thanks to its refinement, sense of hush and composure. But even in town it is a pleasure to drive, as you feel so cossetted. Vision out is much better than its lines would suggest.
Lexus has a particularly good line-up at the moment in terms of range – and looks. The ES 300h is one of the most beguiling – and refined – of all.
Details: Lexus ES 300h F-Sport
Top speed: 112 mph
0-62 mph: 8.9 seconds
MPG (WLTP): 48.4 – 53.5
CO2 emissions: Combined 106 g/km