• EPA-rated at 40 mpg city/39 mpg highway and 40 mpg combined.
  • Less trunk space than conventional, non-hybrid ES 350.
  • Priced at $2,750 more than ES350.

Luxury and exceptional fuel economy are not mutually exclusive. The 2013 Lexus ES 300h is EPA-rated to achieve 40 mpg in combined driving, putting the midsize luxury sedan on par with some compact fuel misers. Yet the hybrid ES gives up little in exchange for efficiency. It delivers much of the upscale equipment of its conventional, gas-powered sister model, the ES 350. Its few notable downsides include a bit less trunk space, slower performance and a $2,750 price premium.

The EPA says the gasoline-electric hybrid ES 300h gets 40 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. Compared with the ES 350, that's an advantage of 8 mpg in highway driving, while the hybrid's city number nearly doubles the economy of the conventional ES. The ES 350 is rated at 21 mpg city, 19 mpg less than the hybrid ES 300h. For drivers who spend a significant amount of time in traffic, the savings offered by the hybrid could add up quickly.

Although it outweighs the ES 350 by about 110 lb, the hybrid ES 300h gains its massive efficiency advantage by pairing a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor generator and delivering power through a continuously variable transmission. The ES 350, meanwhile, uses a conventional V6, giving it more power and better performance. With output of 200 hp compared to the 268-hp V6, the ES 300h is a second slower from 0 to 60 mph.

The hybrid's battery claims some trunk space, too. The ES 300h has 12.1 cu-ft for cargo while the conventional ES 350 offers 15.2 cu-ft. That difference equates to space for about two airline carry-on bags.

For many drivers, the reasons for buying a fuel-efficient vehicle go beyond just saving money on fuel. Better economy contributes to lower emissions and reduced pollution, making more efficient cars the greener choice. But for the fiscally responsible luxury car driver, the economic advantage of the ES 300h, which costs $2,750 more than the ES 350, works out in the long term, too. Assuming 12,000 miles per year and $3.75 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline (recommended for both vehicles), the fuel savings makes up for the price premium after 3 years and 8 months of ownership. In exclusively city driving, the break-even point occurs in less than 3 years.

Only a handful of midsize luxury sedans boast the kind of exceptional fuel economy of the 2013 Lexus ES 300h. Drivers who want to enjoy the posh appointments of a Lexus along with less frequent visits to the pump should include the ES 300h on their short lists.

What it means to you: Although the ES 300h's performance, cargo space and price are at a disadvantage compared with the conventional ES 350, the hybrid's economy is far ahead of the competition.


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Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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