Friday, April 18, 2014

Lexus hybrid sedan a luxury thrill, ditto the brakes

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at www.sacbee.com/business

Sacramento, California – Before telling you a little about the tested 2014 Lexus ES 300h sedan, I’d like to say a few words about brakes.

The ES hybrid luxury car I was driving had a four-wheel anti-lock braking system bolstered by electronic brakeforce distribution and a brake-assist system, not the kinds of things you normally think about … until you are forced to make an all-out panic stop.

For me, it had been awhile since I had been forced to do such a thing.  I like to think of myself as a driver who specializes in anticipation, seeing things develop in front of me before they happen.

But on a recent commute home, the perfect storm occurred right in front of my ES 300h’s bumper.  It was the classic crowded freeway crash set-up.  Everybody going around 65 mph in three lanes with the extreme left lane tapering down to an exit-only lane.  Naturally, you have idiots who use the exit-only lane as a launch ramp to cut right into high-speed traffic at the last moment.  That’s what happened in front of me on this particular day, a driver ripping to the right in front of the car that was in front of me, at the VERY last fraction of a second.

Even as I was smashing the brake and hearing the staccato sound of the anti-lock braking system exerting itself, I had one clear thought in my mind: There is no way to avoid the high-speed crash I’m about to be involved in.

And yet, the Lexus did avoid it.  Stopped on a dime.  With a foot to spare.  Not a scratch on the Lexus, or me.

The two cars in front of me were not so fortunate.

And so, beyond everything else, thank you Lexus ES 300h for saving me from embarrassment and possible physical harm.

Naturally, this being a Lexus sedan, there was a lot of everything else – luxury, numerous comfort/convenience features, a super-smooth ride, interior cabin quietness and much, much more.

Lexus aimed to make a statement in the hybrid luxury passenger car niche with this creation, and here’s the statement: 40 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.

Keeping in mind that the 2014 ES 300h starts at $39,350 and my ride was dressed up with another $8,000 or so of extras, it’s good to know you’re catching a break at the gas pumps with those mileage numbers.

And yet, the ES 300h doesn’t rob you of power when you need it.  The “Hybrid Synergy Drive” powertrain system combines a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with a high-output electric motor to produce a total system horsepower rating of 200.  I found the car surprisingly responsive as hybrids go.

Indeed, Motor Trend magazine touts the ES 300h as a “best buy…thanks to its torquey electric motors.”  I completely agree.

And it looks pretty nice too, with air-cutting aerodynamic smoothness bumper to bumper, with just enough side sculpting to add that Lexus dash of class.

The sedans myriad luxury features will keep buyers nose-deep in the owner’s manual for weeks at a time, not a bad thing when you’re learning to enjoy the perks of your new ride.  The high-tech light show on the car’s front end is a blast to watch as well.

As feel-good-about-gas-mileage luxury liners go, you’d be hard pressed to find anything better than this.

And did I mention that the brakes are world-class?  Yeah, I thought so.

 

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