Green motoring is rapidly becoming the new normal with the overall lineup of hybrid and all-electric models growing at a rapid pace. Amid all of this growth though, it would seem that performance (with a few exceptions) is on the backburner with fuel economy being front and center. Lexus is out to change that narrative though with the 2022 Lexus ES 300h F Sport. But does the ES 300h have the chops to balance out efficiency and fun? Or is it a flawed specimen?
Attention-Grabbing Red Paint And F Sport Cues Make This ES A Hit
The exterior styling of our red-hued tester is arguably a potent selling point for models like our tester with F-Sport models benefitting from the styling tweaks that define the bulk of the ES model range. That includes a redesigned front and rear fascia with the front benefitting from newly crafted headlights and a reworked bumper. The rear has revamped taillights and was focused on being a more cohesive presentation this time around.
The F-Sport package adds sharper lines and creases to the ES but unlike other F-Sport models that we have experienced over the years, the Es’s application doesn’t shout loudly at potential customers. Instead, it prefers to whisper its intentions in a slightly more muted tone. That personality quirk may turn off hardcore enthusiasts, but when you consider the kind of luxury that the ES aims to deliver along with the targeted customer base, this strategy makes sense and will undoubtedly allow the ES F-Sport to resonate with a broader crowd of consumers.
However, this approach also causes the ES to fall short of some of its rivals since the look does cause it to blend into the background more versus rivals from Genesis and Mercedes Benz. That said, the Lexus is a welcome diversion from recent BMW models which have pitched design essentials (especially in the front end) for a functional look designed to comply with various safety regulations.
An Interior That Finally Bests German Benchmarks
Slip inside the ES and you’ll find a cabin that has not only been radically improved but also can finally hold its own against German placeholders. While the layout does retain the woefully inadequate touchpad controller that’s typically used in other Lexus models. Our tester also came with a number of F-Sport exclusive touches like a black headliner, more bolstering for the front sport seats, as well as splashes of aluminum trim on the pedals and the instrument cluster.
But don’t be fooled, the ES is still all about providing world-class comfort and while the end result is a cabin that comes up short in its attempts to be a pure sport sedan, the seats still provide plenty of comfort on long journeys and rear passengers also get generous amounts of leg room. That said, the ES’s seats cannot be folded downward to help fit in large items which can greatly hamper its ability to haul long cargo or even bulky items like televisions and other electronic equipment.
Our tester came equipped with the optional 12.3-inch infotainment display which offers sharper colors and tweaked software that now supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability. The screen used to be a reach for shorter drivers, but Lexus engineers moved the screen four inches forward to help improve usability, especially when navigating around the cramped menu setup. The setup is ergonomically sound and while the touchpad is an enduring fly in an otherwise improved vial of ointment, we think that there are enough core improvements here to make the ES a viable alternative to benchmarks from BMW, Mercedes, and Audi.
ES F-Sport Upgrades Focus On Unconventional Tactics
As mentioned, the 2022 ES 300h F-Sport is not a pure sport sedan and as a result, those looking for tire-smoking acceleration and high horsepower are advised to look elsewhere. That said, if you’re an enthusiast who values other avenues towards improved performance, the ES 300h F-Sport might be the perfect fit for your needs. Performance for the car comes from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that’s paired with an electric motor to produce a combined 215 hp and that’s enough for adequate acceleration around town and an admirable 7.3 second sprint to 60 mph.
With the engine’s green-focused demeanor diluting its performance credentials in the process, you might be wondering where the F-Sport treatment makes its mark? It reveals itself in handling with the tweaked suspension doing a good job of making the ES 300h into a communicative dance partner when put through its paces. The regenerative braking does throw off the rhythm on occasion but the steering and the suspension do a decent job of masking this handicap well.
Ultimately, Mileage takes center stage, and the ES 300h excels in this role with our tester capable of getting an EPA-rated 43 mpg in city driving and 44 mpg in freeway use. The only caveat is that the 300h is only available with front-wheel drive with no all-wheel-drive option due to weight and powertrain constraints.
A base 2022 Lexus ES 300h starts at $43,725 with the base F-Sport starting at $47,275. Our example came with some optional equipment which caused the price to rise to a final total of $51,250. That undercuts German rivals but in the process, it also creates an awkward value situation. On one side of the coin, the ES 300h delivers the goods when it comes to fuel economy and promotes the wild side of hybrid motoring too.
That said, the F-Sport’s performance upgrades don’t do quite enough to make the package stick out as a must-choose option for the 300h family. That’s especially true when you consider that the Luxury and Ultra Luxury packages do a better job enhancing the high levels of comfort and serenity that the hybrid already brings to the table and don’t require it to play a delicate compromising act.
But if you’re an enthusiast that doesn’t want more horsepower but prefers to explore other realms of performance, the 2022 Lexus ES 300h F-Sport is an interesting detour and it’ll make a good first impression once you give it the chance to show what it can do.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.