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Say Yes to ES, Now with Hybrid Powertrain: Lexus ES300h Gets a Handle On It

Sections: Chassis

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2013 Lexus ES300h Photo Shoot 011

The door handle on the Lexus ES300h features a design that accommodates either over- or underhand styles, plus touch-sensitive points that can illuminate the car’s interior lights, unlock, or lock the doors at the lightest contact. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

It’s the little things that can make or break a car’s first impression. The door handles on our Lexus ES300h tester are a big part of why the car made such a good one on me.

Door handles aren’t supposed to be sexy, I guess, but there’s something to be said for a well-engineered one. Considering the complexity of what is often hiding behind that sheet metal, with power window motors, switch wiring, and the latching mechanism itself, there’s a lot going on in there.

Everybody has a preference when it comes to door handle types, too. There are pull-up handles, pull-down handles, push-button handles, and pull-out handles. My Ford Ranger has pull-up handles that look like they were tacked on just because you had to have something to allow you into the truck, and a cable with a loop at the end of it wouldn’t look too swooft. Those aren’t my favorite door handles, even though they do adorn the doors of my daily. No, instead, I’ve always liked pull-out handles that allow me to access them over- or underhanded.

Lucky for me, that’s exactly the style of handle the Lexus ES300h has. I slip my hand in from above almost every time, and the feeling is natural, with a wide enough opening to accomodate all four fingers.

The cool part is when the car comes alive at the merest suggestion of my touch. As long as the ES300h key fob is in my pocket or somewhere on my person, waving a hand near a door handle will result in the interior lights and puddle lamps coming on. You don’t notice it during the day so much, but at night, it’s a neat party trick. When my hand slides into the door handle, the car automatically unlocks. An added bonus is the smoothness with which the handle pulls, with a positively teutonic feel of precision as the door unlatches and welcomes me aboard.

When I arrive at my destination and close the door– among the most solid door closes you’ll likely ever hear this side of a bank vault or this car’s big sister, the LS460, no lie– locking is equally simple as unlocking. I just press the little divot on top of the door handle, and she’s sealed for freshness– and for keeping thugs out, of course.

The door handle design is just one example of how well thought-out the Lexus ES300h chassis is. Lexus likes to chant its motto– something about a relentless pursuit of perfection– and apparently it’s not just a marketing ploy. At least not where door handles are concerned.

Disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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