The Lexus ES was, at least for a significant period, a bit of a tarted up Toyota Camry. However, while it is true that the first five generations were basically built off of the Camry platform, the sixth generation ES (2013-2018) was really closer to the Avalon XX40 and the Lexus RX than the Camry. That trend continued for the seventh generation. Launched for 2019, the ES is currently built on the TNGA-K global platform, but more than ever looks nothing like it’s Toyota cousins. Lexus sent me this 2023 ES 300h F Sport Handling for a week and I had things to say. Just a warning, I’m feeling a little saucy this morning, so I have no clue where this might go.
2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport Overview
If being classy AF is your thing, you can opt for the base ES 300h, the Luxury trim and the top-spec Ultra Luxury trim. If you are sporty AF, for 2023 Lexus split the regular “F Sport” into two versions, the F Sport Design and the F Sport Handling. As the name implies, one is more about looks, while the other is intended to improve the driving/hooning experience. The F Sport Design adds 19-inch wheels, some sporty exterior bits, and a rear spoiler (downforce bro). Pricing is just over $48,000 for the Design and just over $50,000 for the Handling. That’s about a grand each over the comparable ES 350 F Sport versions.
The F Sport Handling adds a good deal more, with a performance tuned adaptive suspension (natch) but also additional sport driving modes. But wait, there’s more. It also has interior upgrades like a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated sport seats up front, and even active noise cancellation. For a couple grand over the regular F Sport, it seems like a nice upgrade.
Speaking of upgrades, our F Sport Handling had some. Quite a few actually. You can read through them above, but out the door you’re at a not-inconsequential $54,970. Let’s find out if this this ES is capable of handling the competition.
See what I did there?
2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport Handling Inside & Out
OK, I’ll say it up front, the ES is a nice looking car. Finally. You’d have to go back to the third generation to find what I would consider to be a good looking ES. The fourth generation had the massive headlights (which I usually like, giggity) and the fifth and sixth generations were just…bland. Love or hate the front end of the ES, it’s consistent with every other Lexus out there and looks like way more than an upgraded Toyota.
The rear is sculpted and flows well from the rear fenders. Sure, there are probably still a few too many slats and intersecting lines, but it all comes together in a classy but aggressive package. Black wheels are on the way out, at least according to my car Twitter friends, but it helps give the F Sport some “sport” and the split spokes look nice.
That red interior though! Damn, they went for it with that interior didn’t they? It’s called Circuit Red NuLuxe with Hadori Aluminum trim and it’s fantastic. If I recall correctly, that Circuit Red can be found on some pretty sporty stuff like the new IS 500 F Sport Performance. It’s quite a statement and may not be for every Lexus buyer. I personally love the contrast between the classy, but subdued, Iridium exterior color and this blazing red interior. I also love the upscale touches borrowed from higher end Lexus vehicles. The door handles for example look they are straight off of the amazing Lexus LC 500. The seats are nicely bolstered to help keep your ass in place during all those high G cornering maneuvers.
Overall you get the typical Lexus feel inside, with most of the surfaces and materials feeling first rate. Our tester had the massive 12.3-inch touchscreen upgrade (a worth while $1,030 price bump) and Apple CarPlay looked fantastic on the widescreen layout. I had no issues with wireless connectivity on the initial attempt, or on subsequent attempts. I mention that because I have had that issue with some other recent vehicles. Mercifully we are free and clear of the dreaded trackpad era of Lexus that is gone (but not forgotten, many of us still have the scars, even if they aren’t visible from the outside). The touchscreen interface on this new ES was generally easy to use and pretty intuitive.
Rear seat room is ample, with 39.3-inches of legroom. It passed the “grumpy 16-year old daughter who usually ends up in the back” test without complaint. I typically look back and if she has her feet spread across the rear seat, that means it failed. Passive aggressive teen measurements are the best. The trunk is a little tight for a car of this size, with 13.9 cubes of space available. It passed the “nine-year old hockey practice” test, but just. As you can see, his stick barely fit.
2023 Lexus ES 300h F Sport Handling On The Road
Out on the road, the ES F Sport Handling shows it’s “h” and isn’t particularly exciting from an acceleration standpoint. All hybrid versions are are front-wheel-drive and use the same 2.5L four-cylinder engine with a hybrid system for a rather underwhelming 215 total system horsepower. Add in a continuously variable automatic transmission and you can see where that is going. I suppose for a large’ish hybrid sedan, a trip to 60 in around eight seconds isn’t awful, but it’s not particularly inspiring. Sport and Sport+ didn’t really make much of a difference.
On the handling side, I came away pretty impressed, Lexus says that the Adaptive Variable Suspension is straight out of the LC 500. While I wasn’t out on the autocross course in the ES 300h, I did push it hard through some on/off ramps and it held the line admirably for a 3,682 pound sedan. Actually, shit that’s impressive in itself, the average V8 Dodge Challenger comes in at well over 4,000 pounds (bad example maybe).
Still, for most buyers the 44 mpg combined is the huge seller, and it’s an impressive one. Overall, I enjoyed my week in the ES 300h. It’s one of those “put it in drive and go” cars where you don’t have to worry about anything. The latest ES is four years into it’s seventh generation, and I’m here to say that it’s aging gracefully. Everything just works smoothly I’d recommend to the ES hybrid to a non-enthusiast because you get to cruise along in comfort, and skipping a trip to the petrol pump now and again isn’t terrible.
Speaking of that, I’ve got an RS 6 Avant this week (stay tuned for the review) and in four days I’ve filled it up twice!
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