It’s rare that a sedan evokes the kind of driving ecstasy that a luxury classic might give. In this case, though, the 2014 Lexus ES 300h gives that sort of feel to the driver, making the utterance of endearing terms like “fine automobile” and “lovely drive” seem appropriate; even if they are a bit quaint.
From the outside, the 2014 ES 300h is contemporary and generally unassuming at first glance. A longer look, however, shows that it’s designed in the luxury saloon motif, with a hood that appears longer than it is, a fast-curve coupe-like roof profile, and a clipped rear end. Together, these elements create the European saloon feel, but without the driving difficulty that a front-wheel drive car with a long hood might impart.
Inside, that luxurious look is carried over, especially when the optional Ultra Luxury Package with its bamboo treatments is added. The “sustainable” nature of the bamboo treatment fits in with the hybrid ideal, of course, but the light-wooded color it gives to the otherwise black-and-gray interior sets well in the leather and brushed nickel additions that finish the appeal. It’s a great look and one that Lexus knows hits the mark, as they’re using it inside the larger GS 450h as well.
For the driver, the interior of the ES 300h is very well appointed and nicely ergonomic for everyday use. A large part of this car’s lovely drive appeal is the excellent layout and highly adjustable driving position. For passengers, even the largest will find both the front and rear seats accommodating and comfortable. As a midsize sedan, the 2014 ES 300h seats five (four comfortably). It is a hybrid, however, so the rear seats do not fold down and the trunk is slightly smaller than it would be otherwise – both to allow for the large battery positioned there. This is a small inconvenience, really, and most will not likely notice it at all.
Speaking of that battery, it sits just ahead of the rear axle, giving balance to the car where, along with the fuel tank, it counters the engine and motors up front. This creates an extremely well-balanced ride and superior handling characteristics – a hallmark of a well-done hybrid car in today’s market.
The hybrid powertrain is the 2.5-liter Hybrid Synergy Drive that appears throughout the Toyota lineup, but in this Lexus it offers a smoother delivery than those used to the lower-end Camry Hybrid might expect. Total output for the engine and motors is 200 horses, which is ample enough to make the 2014 Lexus ES 300h a fine, smooth driver. Those who want a sporty car won’t be looking towards a hybrid to begin with, but the rest of us will revel in the steady power delivery and nice rolling feel of the ES 300h. These powerplants run through a very nicely-tuned continuously variable transmission (CVT) that bucks the usual wonkiness of Toyota’s CVT use to keep the smooth feel happening.
This all translates to a sturdy, refined road feel that is very relaxed, but not boring. With great confidence, the driver will enjoy the steady delivery of power and the almost imperceptible changes from regenerative braking to physical brakes at each stop. The ultra-quiet cabin and well-balanced suspension finish the combination of comfort and road feel the 2014 ES 300h offers.
There aren’t many other things to be said about this fine car. The 2014 Lexus ES 300h competes with some top notch offerings in the entry-level hybrid luxury market, but comes out on top, in our view, thanks to a combination of all around excellence and a 40 mpg combined EPA rating. In fact, the only real competitor to the Lexus ES 300h may be its cousin, the Avalon Hybrid. The price points are similar enough, though, that buyers may choose based mainly on marque and interior refinement, which many will find better in this Lexus.
Our week in the 2014 Lexus ES 300h proved that it’s a fine, fine automobile that shows that one can have both luxury and hybrid efficiency in a single, beautiful package.