Wheels

2013 Lexus Hybrid Sedan

By Bill Metten |

The popular Lexus ES 350 sedan, now in its sixth generation, has a new hybrid sibling, the 2013 ES 300h.

The hybrid sedan is sophisticated, sports several drive modes, and has an abundance of creature comforts.

The vehicle’s sweet spot is its gas-sipping heartbeat. I was pleasantly surprised to get 41.3 miles per gallon after driving 180 miles from Hockessin to Rehoboth Beach and back, exceeding the EPA’s city/highway estimate of 40 mpg.

Credit for most of the 41.3 mpg goes to the very efficient Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive technology under the hood. It consists of two electric motor/generators and a 156-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. Lexus rates the combination at 200 horsepower.

The advanced and powerful hybrid system is the gold standard of hybrid technology, conserving fuel in more than four million Toyota/Lexus hybrids worldwide. The company plans to introduce 21 new hybrids in the next three years.

Friends who have never driven a hybrid car ask me, “What do they drive like” My answer: “They drive almost like a car, but there are some differences you need to get used to.”

At low speeds or when stopped, the engine may or may not be on, depending on the need. Overall, Lexus hybrids deliver a more quiet and tranquil ride than conventional vehicles.

At medium or high speeds, the engine will probably be running most of the time. You can tell because a color monitor will show you the precise flow of energy within the hybrid system as you drive, a helpful aid for maximizing your mpg.

My Lexus transmission also feels different because it does not noticeably shift with fixed gear ratios like a conventional transmission. It uses an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission to deliver power more efficiently and smoothly. Regular 87 octane gas is another plus.

There’s more. The electronically controlled brake-by-wire system also contributed to my 41.3 mpg by running two braking systems, regenerative and conventional. As a result, the hybrid’s brakes feel different, but they stop quickly.

You experience different sounds while driving a hybrid. The engine sound is steadier when accelerating due to the smooth transmission.

Don’t let all of these hybrid personality traits deter you from driving or owning one. The experience is both pleasurable and financially rewarding. Once you drive one you may never go back to a gasoline-only engine!

I drove the new ES 300h around Hunt Country in the NORMAL drive setting, the everyday driving mode that recorded 41.3 mpg.

The vehicle’s ECO mode will maximize fuel economy and a SPORT mode increases steering responsiveness. An EV setting lets you drive short distances, under certain conditions, at reduced speed with only the power from the battery.

Lexus offers several tips for improving your fuel economy: accelerate slowly, and avoid heavy braking and speeds more than 60 mph because fuel economy decreases over that speed.

You should also use the “D” transmission setting for best fuel economy, maintain the recommended tire pressure, and, in stop-and-go traffic, accelerate to the desired level then lift off the accelerator so the vehicle will run more on electric power.

My Lexus hybrid has many safety, performance, luxury, and convenience features; 34 in all for the $38,850 base price. Safety benefits include dual front and knee airbags and front- and rear-seat-mounted side impact and side curtain airbags.

Standard cabin amenities include 10-way driver’s and passenger’s (including lumbar) power seats; premium audio system with in-dash CD player, MP3 player connectivity, and eight speakers. Numerous options, including heated and ventilated front seats, navigation system with back-up camera, voice command services, parking assist, blind spot monitor, and satellite radio increased the window sticker price to $48,070. Other option packages are available.

Lexus vehicles come with a 48- month/50,000-mile limited warranty, roadside assistance for 48 months/unlimited miles. Hybrid-related components are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.