The new Lexus ES300h wows with a bar-raising level of smoothness, ride and handling
ES-quisite Lexus ES300h wows with a bar-raising level of smoothness, ride and handling The Lexus ES300h offers a comfortable and cosseted ride. ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG

It is a non-turbo, front-wheel-drive and has a continuously variable transmission. Not exactly the convention luxury sedans usually conform to.

But lo and behold, the new Lexus ES300h astounds with a bar-raising level of smoothness, ride and handling, and overall finesse.

Even before you get behind the wheel, the car makes a strong impression. It is quite handsome, with its protruding spindle grille flanked by bold intakes and slim LED headlights, and a stretched-out form measuring nearly 5m long.

Nose to tail, it sits between the 4,996mm Mercedes-Benz CLS and 4,969mm Audi A7 Sportback. Its width and wheelbase, however, are less generous than the two German cars.

That, however, has not much bearing on its interior space. Rear passengers in the ES have as much, if not slightly more, room than those in the flagship LS. That is one practicality of front-wheel-drive cars.

The new ES is also a bit sportier in appearance than its predecessor. Word has it that the new ES not only replaces the old one, but it also replaces the GS - Lexus' performance sedan.

Visually, the latest ES certainly fits the bill. But what about in other areas?

Well, for sure, the ES300h - the hybrid variant tested here - does not have much to crow about in the specs department. Zero to hundred is done in 8.9 seconds and top speed is 180kmh.

But it stands out for its ultra-smoothness, super linearity and absolutely unflappable demeanour. Unlike turbos, the ES300h's throttle response is completely predictable, 100 per cent of the time.

So, moments between flooring it and lifting off - and everything in between - are never visited by lag, surge or clunky gear hunting. Ever.

The ES' 2.5-litre four-cylinder, electric motor and continuously variable transmission work seamlessly together to make acceleration fun and fussless. Yes, you have seen the word "seamlessly" many times before, but in this case, it is with emphasis and not hyperbole.

As you would expect of a Lexus, progress is quiet and vibration-free, even when you rev it past 5,000rpm. In fact, the car is as unflustered at 5,000rpm as its rivals are at 2,000rpm. This makes the non-turbo part a non-issue.

The ES' chassis is sterling. It offers a very comfortable, cosseted ride, while remaining sturdy when the going gets a little hurried. Few cars strike a balance as fine as this Lexus.

The same goes for its steering, which is nicely weighted, precise and tractable. And when the car comes to a stop, it does so with no trace of its nose diving.

The only quibble you might have is that its interior is less flashy or posh than its German rivals. But considering that the car is at least $50,000 cheaper than an equivalent competitor, the ES makes good sense.

The car is far from bare, though. All the modern amenities you would normally rely on are on board. But there are no superfluous items. Unlike manufacturers which choose to wow with cutting-edge gadgets and fanciful toys, the ES retains its relevance by focusing on fundamentals.

The car shares its platform with the new Toyota Camry. So that gives you a hint of what the new executive sedan will be like.