Many of us are fortunate to drive on a nice, open highway or even a winding back road for our daily commute. Unfortunately, most of us seem to be stuck in soul-crushing traffic every day. What is the ideal car for them?
Welcome back to Ask Automatch, where you get to ask me your burning car buying questions. Got a scenario or a situation and you aren’t sure what to do? Send an email to Tom.McParland@jalopnik.com and I’ll try to help you out.
This week’s letter comes from a reader who finds no joy in driving to work:
I have a 20-mile commute, but due to traffic, it takes me about an hour or on a really bad day an hour and a half to get to work. My car rarely sees speeds above 40 MPH. It’s time for me to trade up my econobox for something nicer. I need something that is safe because I see all kinds of accidents and it’s only a matter of time before some doofus on their cell phone gets me. I would also prefer a car with good gas mileage and some interior features that make it not so bad to be stuck in for two hours a day. My price range is about $30,000-$35,000.
If you are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a regular basis, a high-revving, sport-tuned, performance machine will not only be a waste of money but also make your daily drive even more frustrating.
The priorities for this reader are comfort, safety, and fuel economy. What I think he needs is a Lexus ES300h. The Lexus ES series might be one of the best highway cruisers you can buy. It’s also supremely comfortable, just powerful enough to make merging easy, and packs all kinds of luxury features to make the drive bearable. As an added bonus this rolling isolation chamber also incredibly reliable, it’s a luxury car that can rack up the miles with minimal impact to your bank account.
So you take all the wonderful things about the ES, add a hybrid powertrain and you have yourself the perfect bumper-to-bumper warrior. The ES300h loses the punchy 268 horsepower V6 and replaces it with a four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor that has a combined output of about 200 HP. Since our reader rarely goes above 40 mph, I doubt he will miss the extra ponies. What he will like is ES300h’s ability to get up 40 MPG in city driving.
A quick search reveals plenty of lightly used examples well under the $35,000 mark, many of which that come with Lexus’ excellent CPO warranty that covers you for six years and unlimited miles from the original date of service. Even if you don’t have a baller budget of $35,ooo, you can still pick up a nice ES300h in the mid-$20,000 range.
I would suggest spending a little more for an example that comes with the advanced safety features such as the blind spot monitor collision mitigation system and the adaptive cruise control. These extras will help you avoid an accident and hopefully reduce the stress of being surrounded by inattentive drivers.
Despite Raph’s noble attempt to turn the wonderful ES into a racecar, this is not a car you exactly dream about owning. But when your commute crushes all hopes of an enjoyable drive it’s time to embrace the comfort and isolation.