Full 2014 Lexus ES 300h Review
What's New for 2014
The Lexus ES 300h now comes standard with xenon headlights. In addition, sedans with the NuLuxe leatherette upholstery can now be equipped with ventilated seats as an option, while the Display Audio package picks up Siri Eyes Free compatibility for newer iPhones.
The 2014 Lexus ES 300h brings hybrid technology to the popular ES entry-level luxury sedan. The ES 300h has the same large, luxurious interior and pleasant ride quality as the standard ES 350. But instead of the usual V6 engine, the hybrid ES gets a four-cylinder hybrid powertrain to maximize fuel economy.
With an EPA combined rating of 40 mpg, the Lexus ES 300h will likely measure up to most buyers' expectations on paper, and based on our testing, owners should get pretty close to that in real-world driving. Equally important, there's little sacrifice involved in driving the 2014 ES 300h. It's acceptably quick in most normal driving situations, and apart from its exceptionally serene demeanor in city traffic (made possible by its electric-only operation at low speeds), it steers, brakes and rides just like the ES 350. And of course you can equip it with all the same high-end features, including leather upholstery, sustainable bamboo interior trim and a Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system.
However, the 2014 Lexus ES 300h is not your only option for a spacious hybrid sedan with high-end trimmings. The 2014 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid can't quite match the ES 300h's rich interior appointments, but its EPA fuel economy ratings are higher, and depending on your driving habits, you might very well get better mpg. If you have an eye on the bottom line, you'll find that loaded versions of Toyota's very similar Avalon Hybrid and the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid will give you much the same fuel economy fix at a significantly lower cost. All that said, we like the Lexus ES 300h quite a bit, and it's a fine choice if you want both the comforts of an entry-level luxury sedan and the fuel economy that only a hybrid car can deliver.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Lexus ES 300h is the hybrid version of the Lexus ES 350 luxury sedan, which is reviewed separately. It seats five.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, LED running lights, a sunroof, heated mirrors with memory function, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats (with two-way lumbar adjustment), "NuLuxe" premium vinyl upholstery, a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Lexus Safety Connect emergency communications, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The Display Audio package adds the Lexus Remote Touch electronics interface, a 7-inch display screen, rearview camera, Siri Eyes Free (enhanced hands-free iPhone functionality and integration) and an upgraded sound system with HD radio. The Navigation package includes all of the Display Audio items plus a navigation system, a larger 8-inch display screen, voice controls, surround-sound audio processing, enhanced Bluetooth connectivity and the Enform suite of smartphone-connected apps and concierge services. A 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system with DVD-audio capability can be added to the Navigation package.
The Premium package builds on the Navigation package and adds a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver memory functions and bamboo wood trim on the steering wheel and shift knob. The Luxury package includes all the Premium items plus leather upholstery and heated and ventilated front seats. Finally, the Ultra Luxury package includes items from both the Premium and Luxury packages, plus a panoramic sunroof, premium leather upholstery, adjustable seat-bottom cushion length for the driver seat, a power rear sunshade, manual rear side sunshades and ambient interior lighting.
Most package options are also available as stand-alone options. Other optional items include a blind spot warning system that includes a power-closing trunk, rear cross-traffic alerts, a lane departure warning system bundled with automatic high-beam control, and adaptive cruise control paired with a pre-collision system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Lexus ES 300h features a hybrid powertrain consisting of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor (powered by a battery pack) that together produce 200 horsepower. Front-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) are standard.
In Edmunds testing, the ES 300h went from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, which isn't quick for a conventional entry-level luxury sedan but pretty good for a hybrid. EPA-estimated fuel economy is an excellent 40 mpg combined (40 mpg city/39 mpg highway).
The 2014 Lexus ES 300h comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Also included is Lexus Safety Connect with automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle location and an emergency assist button.
Optional equipment includes a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, automatic high-beam headlights that turn off when they detect other vehicles, a lane-departure warning system and a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alerts. The optional adaptive cruise control includes the pre-collision system, which primes the seatbelts and brakes when it senses an impending collision.
In Edmunds brake testing, the ES 300h stopped from 60 mph in 129 feet, which is longer than average for an entry-level luxury sedan.
In government crash testing, the Lexus ES 300h received five out of five stars for overall safety, and for its protection in frontal- and side-impact crashes. The Lexus ES 350, on which the ES 300h is based, received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal offset, side-impact and roof strength tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated Good for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 Lexus ES 300h's cabin presents a modern, stylish environment. The optional (and sustainable) bamboo wood interior trim is an especially attractive touch. The quality of the materials depends on whether you opt for one of the luxury packages, but in typical Lexus fashion, everything is put together with care regardless of how the ES is equipped.
When you opt for the Display Audio or Navigation packages, you get the Lexus Remote Touch system, a mouselike device that controls a cursor on a large, centrally located screen. The system gives good tactile feedback, but the ultra-sensitive nature of the controller can make it clumsy and distracting to use while driving. The integrated armrest for the Remote Touch system also takes up quite a bit of center-console real estate.
Six-footers will be quite content in the ES 300h's front seats. Rear-seat legroom is very impressive as well, and even taller adults will find it quite comfortable back there. Due to the rear-mounted battery pack, trunk capacity drops to 12.1 cubic feet (versus 15.2 cubic feet in the ES 350), and the rear seats do not fold.
The 2014 Lexus ES 300h delivers a refined and serene driving experience that is bolstered by its hybrid powertrain's quiet, all-electric operation at lower speeds. Although the hybrid ES is noticeably less quick than the V6-equipped ES 350, most buyers will find its acceleration fully acceptable in normal driving situations.
No one will ever deem the ES 300h sporty, but few people will expect it to be. The steering is commendably accurate for a hybrid sedan, though predictably, effort levels are light. Brake pedal feel is also impressively normal for a hybrid, and you'll be hard-pressed to detect the transitions between the hybrid system's regenerative braking (which helps recharge the battery pack) and application of the conventional brakes.
At highway speeds, the cabin remains remarkably silent and is largely devoid of wind or road noise. Bumps and ruts in the road are well absorbed by the suspension, but don't expect complete isolation from road imperfections: Even in hybrid form, the ES is tuned to deliver a balance between out-and-out comfort and handling precision.