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Driven: Lexus ES 300h 2019-01-11 09:40:46


Step inside the ES and you are greeted by a typical Lexus dashboard. There are switches and buttons all over the dash, steering and center console. There are even 2 round knobs on either side of the instrument console that is inspired by the LFA. It's the opposite of Volvo, who believe in a minimalist design. The steering wheel is similar to the one found in the LS. The interior features mass-produced handcrafted items. Lexus offers a variety of customization options. Customers can choose from 4 colours for the leather upholstery and 3 wooden trims:

The dashboard features a mix of leather, wood, and faux metal. The stitching is accurate and the leather facings get 3D printed lines to reduce stickiness. Disappointingly, the bottom half of the dash, centre console and door sills are finished in hard plastics:

The 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel is leather-wrapped with wooden trims. The steering mounted controls get a silver border. The steering wheel is nice to grip with thumb contours at the 10-2 position, which makes it more suitable for wafting, as opposed to carving corners:

The buttons on the right side of the wheel are used for cruise control, while the ones on the left can be used to operate the MID and voice commands. They can also be used to choose various audio modes and to tune FM stations. The Indian car has lost some features and that has resulted in a couple of blank buttons on the steering wheel, shockingly at this price:

Paddle shifters on both sides of the steering wheel - one on the left to shift down and the one on the right to shift up. Paddles have a good response time and offer good engine braking:

The instrument cluster display can be toggled between analog and digital and it also changes depending on the drive mode:

The MID shows a variety of information including efficiency, range, energy monitor and tyre pressure for all 5 wheels. It can also display, navigation, audio, cruise control settings and vehicle alerts, including open doors and rear passenger seatbelt warning. When the car starts moving, the rear passenger seatbelt warning starts beeping, which then becomes continuous:

You also get a Head-Up Display (HUD) which projects the energy monitor as well as a tachometer. The blue bar in the navigation system blinks when you are nearing a turn:

The left stalk is for the lights and indicators while the right stalk is for the wipers. This will take some getting used to in a Japanese car. Being a CBU import and targeted mainly for the left-hand drive US market, the stalks remain LHD oriented:

Unusual placement for the traction control button and the button for the various driving modes. These cylindrical knobs are placed on either side of the instrument cluster. Even the LS sedan gets similar stalks inspired by the LFA sports car:

To the right side of the steering wheel, there is a small storage space along with buttons for the HUD, fuel cap release and the boot release. The plain buttons on top indicate missing features. This is something you do not expect from a car at this price range:

Buttons to brighten the HUD, as well as the instrument cluster, are placed behind the steering next to the instrument cluster:

A simple power on/off button finished in blue to denote the hybrid power unit:

The door pad has a mix of wood and leather upholstery. The bottom part of the door is made of hard plastics. The doors are easy to open and close and they shut with a weighted thunk. The front door gets 2 speakers. Door pockets are a little small. Regular 1 litre bottles do not fit easily. Depending on the upholstery colour, the seats are matched with the door trim and door inserts. Tan interiors get more leather facing on the door compared to white or beige interiors:

Plain and simple-looking switches for operating the power windows, adjusting the ORVMs and for central locking. Not expected of a car from this segment. The switches aren't even illuminated or finished in metal (like the Europeans). They look as if they are from a Corolla:

These horizontal ambient light strips light up at night on the dashboard and all four doors. The car also gets footwell lighting:

The seats are available in four different colour themes. When you turn off the car, the seat retracts and the steering lifts up to allow more space for easy ingress and egress. When the car is switched on, they move back to the original position. This can be disabled as part of the convenience function. Both front seats are heated and ventilated. The ventilated seats are a bit noisy when the fan is switched on. The seats are very comfortable but are a little on the narrow side. Head restraints are manually adjustable:

The driver's seat is 14-way electrically adjustable, while the front passenger seat is 12-way power adjustable:

The driver's seat gets an extended seat base for better under-thigh support for taller drivers. It extends in a phallic manner as opposed to a linear fashion like in a Volvo:

A close up of the perforated leather seat upholstery. Light coloured seats are not the best choice for Indian conditions:

The centre console is cluttered with too many buttons. The well-integrated 12.3-inch infotainment screen is not a touchscreen. Instead, it is controlled by a touchpad next to the gear lever. The touchpad itself is placed on the wrong side of the centre console (left of the gear lever), but gets a cushion to rest your wrist on when using it. The centre console also houses buttons for the EV mode and hill hold function placed behind the gear selector:

The infotainment system gives a variety of information including trip information, which also shows the amount of battery power regenerated. Maintenance schedules along with dealer location can also be set. The system supports split function which enables you to have two different information displays. The infotainment system does not get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. US-spec cars get Apple CarPlay. Toyota has only recently started adding

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

to its cars. The infotainment system is not very intuitive to use and may take some time to understand:

The split-screen functionality gives two different views for the navigation system. Graphics have been provided to warn the driver to stick to a particular lane or while approaching a toll booth. The blue vertical bar on the right gives the distance to the next intersection and reduces as you get closer. The navigation system sounds one beep when you are nearing a junction or a direction change. When you reach the place, it makes two beeps:

The touchpad is used to control the infotainment system. This system is a pain to use and selecting an option is not easy. It also vibrates when you go over the options and it confuses the user into thinking that they accidentally pressed it. It is also uncomfortable for right-handed drivers to use. The touchpad has shortcuts for menu, navigation and return:

There is a classy analogue clock next to the infotainment screen:

The ES comes with 3-zone climate control. There is one knob on the dash for controlling both volume and radio tuner. The inner circular knob is used to tune radio stations, while the outer knob is used for volume control:

The ES comes equipped with a 1800 watt, 12-channel, 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with a DVD player. Controls for the heated and ventilated seats along with the electrically operated rear-sunshade are placed above the DVD slot. Lexus climate concierge uses seat heaters and ventilated seats to warm up or cool passengers before the climate control reaches optimum temperature. The AC is very effective and cools the cabin quickly. Rear sunblinds retract when reversing or by pressing this button:

Only 1 cup holder up front. There's a USB and an AUX port next to it. The USB port lid is flimsy and feels like it can come off easily. A slot to hold the key is also present:

The centre console also has a cooled glovebox with a 12V socket and wireless charging. It is hinged on both sides and can be accessed by the driver and the passenger:

Touch operated cabin lights. Just touch anywhere on the lights to turn them on or off. The roof bezel also houses sunroof controls:

The sunroof has a manually operated blind! At this price point, not having an electrically operated blind is inexplicable:

Rear doors are similar to the front doors. Rear windows and quarter glass get manually operated sunshades:

The rear seats are comfortable for only 2 occupants. The central hump makes it uncomfortable for middle seat passengers. The seats are comfortable and supportive but could do with some additional under-thigh support. They are also heated and can be reclined. The reclining seats have a very limited range. They can recline up to 8 degrees only:

Lots of legroom and headroom available. The chauffeur-driven will love it. Even 6 footers will be comfortable at the back. Picture shows excess legroom as BHPian


is 5'4":

The rear armrest comes with 2 cupholders and controls for seat reclining, seat heating, rear climate control, audio and the rear windscreen sunshade:

Air-con blower for the rear passengers. A 12V socket and 2 USB ports are provided below it:

Rear passengers can also control the front passenger seat using these controls on the side of the seat back (seen on Camry as well):

The rear cabin lights are not touch operated:

Vents below the rear seats to cool the batteries for the hybrid system, which are located below the rear seat. The earlier ES, as well as the Camry, had the batteries in the boot:

The tailgate is electrically operated. It can be opened by using the boot release button inside the car or by pressing the boot release button on the key fob. It can also be opened by using the electromagnetic boot release on the tailgate if you have the key on you. The boot can accommodate up to 454L of luggage. Useful bag hooks have been provided:

Lexus has provided a full-size spare alloy wheel:

Boot has a compartment on the side to store small articles out of sight:

The boot can be accessed from the rear sets. Good to carry long items:

Alternately, the tailgate can be opened or closed by waving your leg underneath the rear bumper. The sensor is located under the right side of the car. Here's a demonstration of how the handsfree boot works. The boot can be stopped midway while opening by waving your leg underneath: