2015 Lexus ES300h & ES350

2015 Lexus ES300h & ES350 AWD

2015 Lexus ES300h $40,430 - Tested $46,995

2015 Lexus ES350 $37,550 - Tested $44,145

Lexus’ entry level IS models and bigger GS have done very well and received lots of great press.  Unfortunately, they have somewhat overshadowed the ES, which to me is a great addition to the Lexus line-up.  While the IS and GS both have a sportier feel to them, the ES was designed to be a more classic model to balance the two.  Both the IS and GS have an aggressive stance with sharp body lines, sporty front bumpers and option to add the F sport performance package.  The ES gives you a nice luxury sedan that reminds you what Lexus is known for.  I had the opportunity to spend time with two ES models, the standard ES 350 3.5L V6, and the ES 300h 2.5L 4 cylinder hybrid.   

ES 350

ES 350

When I received the Lexus ES 350, I was surprised at how clean the styling was.  It didn’t have the aggressive appearance that I was used to on the IS and GS, but a very elegant luxury feel.  The sleek projector headlights wrap around the fender and a medium size front grill.  Though not as big as others, this bigger grill holds to the trend I’ve noticed Lexus moving towards in making the front grills slightly bigger and bolder.  I really liked how the front end looked with small LED daytime running lights just below the headlights and the fog lights on the far end of the lower bumper.  The ES 300h had the same exterior appearance as the ES 350.

ES 350

ES 350

The rest of the vehicle has smooth flow all the way through and towards the rear of the car.  Now here is where there is a slight difference between the ES 350 & ES 300h.  The ES 350 has a dual chrome exhaust and the ES 300h has a single exhaust aiming slightly down.  The hybrid does have a small rear defuser where the ES 350 chrome dual exhaust would have come out.  Both vehicles are equipped with 17’’ alloy wheels. 

ES 300h 

ES 300h 

ES 350

The interior is where Lexus concentrated on making sure they provided plenty of room with all the convenience you would like in a luxury sedan.   Not only does the driver side has a 10 way power seats with lumbar support, but the passenger side does too.  Plenty of leg room for both front and rear passengers.  Having two young boys, this is very important to make sure we are all comfortable.  Both my wife and I are tall and with our massive Britax toddler and infant seats, we tend to have to sacrifice leg room to accommodate them in most vehicles.  The seats are a very soft leather with heat and cool features for both of the front passengers.  Both models have a wood trim along the dash, door panel and steering wheel, though on the hybrid it’s the traditional bamboo.

ES 300h

ES 300h

The seats are comfortable but not anything spectacular.  They have subtle styling and are great for long rides.  The controls and accessories are pretty easy to navigate around.  There is a learning curve on using the mouse to navigate through the settings on the 8’’ display screen on the dash.  The piano black trim along the center console is nice and adds to the luxury look.  I am not too crazy about the cup holders though.  You may be able to fit a normal size cup in one but there is another located just below the climate control which will cause some problems with the same size cup or water bottle. Everything felt nice and soft, and the padded dash with double stitching along the edges is nice touch.  Both the hybrid and non-hybrid models are identical with just slight differences in drive settings.  Neither models have fold down rear seats, however the ES 350 does have a cut through in middle.  Both cars have a good size trunk, even on the hybrid model.  You do lose some space but we still had room to fit a full size stroller, golf bags and groceries. 

ES 350  

ES 350  

ES 300h 2.5L 4cyl. 

ES 300h 2.5L 4cyl. 

The Lexus ES was one of the top selling vehicles in its line-up for 2014.  With the newly redesigned IS & GS models targeting the younger market, it will be interesting to see what the top selling Lexus will be for the near future.  The ES concentrates more on comfort and luxury, but it’s no slouch when it comes to performance. The hybrid model has a 2.5L 4 cylinder hybrid engine pushing out 200hp.  With its massive 17.2 gallon gas tank, it will give you close to 700 miles on a full tank.  It’s one of the highest average mpg producing hybrids in its class, averaging 39 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.  I wasn’t able to get close to what they advertise since I don’t live in the burbs, considering my big city driving equals an average speed of about 15mph.  There is always traffic and most of the time it’s stop and go.  In these driving conditions, it really doesn’t give much time for the hybrid batteries to charge up and drive in EV mode.  Those who live in the burbs or outskirts of a big city you will see the increase in mpg.  That being said, it wasn’t too bad for me at all, averaging 33 mpg.  I was surprised mostly on how big the gas tank was.  Most hybrids I’ve been in the gas tank has been slightly small but still exceed the total miles of a non-hybrid. 

ES 350

ES 350

ES 350 3.5L V6

ES 350 3.5L V6

The ES 350 has a 3.5L V6 pushing out 268hp.  There was a big difference on the mpg from the hybrid model with average of 21mpg in city and 31 in hwy.  It was close to what Lexus advertised with mpg until I drove it around the city.  In the city I averaged 19 mpg and in the highway 28 mpg.  It had a good amount of acceleration, but not much more than the hybrid.  Between both models you really couldn’t feel the difference other than when hybrid engine kicked in.  Both were really comfortable and there was minimal road noise both in the city and on the highway.  They both had good handling and performance with a suspension to really absorb the beautiful roads Chicago has to offer. 

ES 300h

ES 300h

Overall both vehicles are great. As a current hybrid vehicle owner, I was impressed on the mpg I received on a full size vehicle and how much cargo room I had on the hybrid.  Both models have a good amount of room and the only difference really is that the non-hybrid model has a bigger trunk.  Both were great traveling installing a toddler and infant seat and we had plenty of leg room and space to stretch out in both models.  The car drove great and was easy to operate without having to pull out the manual.  Comfortable, spacious, reliable, stylish and a good amount of power to get you through the day.  Thank you Lexus for the opportunity to spend time with both ES models. 

ES 350

ES 350

2015 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD

As a husband and father of two, sometimes I think about what it would be like if I bought a minivan.  That jump from having a 2 or 4 door vehicle cool looking car to a big minivan is a leap I don’t often think about.  Well this week I had opportunity to spend some time with one of the best-selling mini vans in the market, and now my wheels are turning.

The new 2015 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD showed up and I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to spend some time with this vehicle and tow my family around Chicago.  First off, yes it was a minivan, but it had a nice appearance to it.  The sleek front headlights and chrome grill really set it off.  Some minivans I’ve seen just look stretched out or look like a bad plastic surgery job.  Not in this case.  This year it received a face lift adding a different grill, LED driving daylights integrated with the headlights, turn signals on side mirrors and a slightly updated front bumper.  Toyota left the rest of the vehicle with minimal changes from the previous year. 

The biggest changes I noticed were in the interior.  I had opportunity to review 2014 model and I wasn’t too impressed.  I thought it was too boring and there was not much that stood out to me.  Now, a year later, I stepped inside this new model and I was blown away.  It’s a night and day difference on what they changed, especially with the dash.  The pictures do all of the talking in this case.    

Overall this vehicle is great for a large family and/or those needing the extra space.  Living in downtown Chicago, it did give me some issues due to size but nothing that I wouldn’t get used to.  It drove really nice and my family really enjoyed the massive amount of room and the added bonus of the entertainment/multimedia features.  The flip down wide screen monitor was a big plus with its split screen viewing.  Might be a bit much on having two video sources being played but great to entertain the age difference on long trips.  Big plus is that this model is equipped with all-wheel drive and run flat tires.  Great for areas that receive a lot of snow like Chicago.  For gas mileage I was averaging 22 mpg in the city and high 20’s in the highway.  Not bad for a large vehicle. 

Check out the 2015 Toyota Sienna…it might just get you thinking about a minivan too!  I'd like to thank Toyota and Drive Shop for the opportunity to review this vehicle.

2014 Hyundai Azera Limited

2014 Hyundai Azera Limited

The brand new Hyundai Azera is a full size sedan that should not be ignored.  The Azera fits between the Sonata and the Genesis in the Hyundai lineup.  I have not had the chance to review either of those two, but I hope to have the chance soon.  This being my first Hyundai to test drive this year, I was very curious as to how it would compete with the Kia Optima, Lexus ES350, and Toyota Avalon.  It did NOT disappoint.


I took delivery of a beautiful Starlight Silver Limited model, and immediately saw that it had a very luxurious look to it.  It was sleek and had the larger 19” alloy wheels.  I really like what Hyundai did with the exterior, especially given appearance is the first thing to grab a customer’s attention, and effectively getting that person interested in a vehicle and finding out more information.

I couldn’t wait to get inside and check out all of the bells and whistles.  The interior of the car was graphite black leather, with heated and cooled front power seats.  It was a warm day in Chicago that day, so I immediately testing out the cooled seats.  It’s a strange feeling at first, but it’s very nice to have an extra layer of cool on hot days.  Similar to what I’ve seen in a Mercedes Benz, the seat controls were located on the upper front part of the door.


The dash and surrounding trim was plastic, with the look of black graphite.  It was in line with what I’ve seen in other cars of this class.  Easy to read and refer to while driving.  The center dash wasn’t too appealing to me.  I would have like to see a bigger display screen for the navigation and other features that it controls.  I like a more modern look, but it was functional and easy to control.  There was a small storage area behind the display which housed an additional charging port.  There was another storage compartment directly below the display screen, which had two USB ports and a cigarette charging port, much like what you might see in a Toyota.


The panoramic sunroof, which encompassed practically the entire roof, was a huge plus.  I really enjoy vehicles with this option (and my wife especially loves a good sunroof).  The sunroof doesn’t open as much as you might think, but I am not planning on jumping out of it so it’s ok.  Our son loved to watch the planes and sky overhead while we were on the road.


The rest of the vehicle was clean and simple, with nothing too overwhelming.  The back seat had plenty of leg room, but I would have liked more out of the rear center arm rest.  Seems it was just missing something.  An unexpected feature of the rear of the vehicle was the sunshades.  The doors had manual sun shades, and the rear shade was motorized.  I’ve seen this on mostly luxury vehicles, and I really thought this was a nice touch.   It’s great for the rear passengers, especially when there are babies or toddlers there.  It really helped tone down the sunlight so that nobody was squinting or bothered by the incoming sunlight.  This model was also equipped with rear heated seats, which is something that is a must during the cold Chicago winters.  

 

We have a good size Britax convertible car seat, and installation was a breeze.  The LATCH hooks were very easy to find, and the whole process took just a couple of minutes.  This is always a bonus when a toddler is in the picture.  The back seats have a large amount of leg room, even with the front seats pushed back, so the front passenger would not have to sacrifice leg room when the car seat is installed.  Our son really likes to kick the seat, which can happily be avoided in this car without anyone being scrunched into the dash.  Both my wife and I are tall, and this is a huge bonus in traveling. 


The trunk was enormous.  I was able to keep our large Britax stroller in the back and have plenty of room for other baggage and groceries.  This is always a big plus with traveling with extra luggage and kid related items on a trip.  If desired, both rear seats fold down in a 60/40 configuration, and all it takes to lower them is to press two buttons located in the trunk. 


I got to take the car for a spin, including a long trip to Grandma’s.  It had great power on the highway, with the 3.3L V6 6 speed automatic transmission providing a smooth ride with minimum road noise.  I was averaging 35mpg on the highway, which was better than advertised highway mpg.   This was a different story when battling the Chicago city traffic.   The car averaged approximately 14 mpg in the city, which is honestly what I would expect for a big motor with just under 300hp.  To make up for that, the suspension really absorbed the city potholes with no issues, and overall it had great acceleration and stopping.  I did find that was little on the heavy side while turning but then again, I was not driving a sports car. 


Overall, I would see my family traveling in this car.  It was really nice driving around a big city like Chicago and it got good gas mileage while driving on the highway.  I thought the full size of the car might bother me, being I’m used to a mid-size sedan, but I didn’t find anything that I didn’t like about it.  Thanks to the comfortable seats, plentiful leg room and quiet ride, traveling with a family was easy and enjoyable.  The only thing I really would like is to see a redesign on the center dash to be more luxurious to match the exterior.  We found the price to be very reasonable for what the car offers.  The model we tested was priced at $39,000.   For more information please go visit Hyundai website and or visit your nearest dealer. 

Click on image to be re-directed to Hyundai Website.  

Click on image to be re-directed to Hyundai Website.  

 

 

I would like to thank Hyundai USA and Drive Sti for the opportunity to test drive this vehicle.  Thanks you Snappy Car Wash for keeping the car looking clean.