The 2014 Lexus ES 300h falls smack in the middle of the Lexus lineup. It is neither the epitome of luxury nor the bargain basement model that lets you say you drive a Lexus without having any of the perks. The ES 300h sits nicely in the middle with a more modest price tag, plenty of amenities, and a hybrid engine for great fuel economy.
The 2.5-liter 4 cylinder engine with 156 horsepower combines with an electric motor for a total of 200 horsepower. This is not a slow, meandering hybrid. It is exceptionally smooth and has none of the typical hybrid roughness going from a dead stop to hard acceleration and is very nice to drive in city traffic.
Where it’s less pleasant is in hard acceleration on the highway. No one is buying a hybrid sedan for performance and this is when the ES 300h gives you a harsh reminder of that fact. It is slow to react with a sluggish response to a heavy foot on the gas at high speeds. This combines with a very whiny continuously variable transmission (CVT) that sounds like it’s having a very bad day.
Once you’re up to speed, all that noise and fuss disappears and it returns to its middle of the road luxury car vibe. It is very smooth, absorbing bumps in the road and providing a very quiet ride with little wind and road noise. As a long-distance highway cruiser, the Lexus ES 300h is a dream. Fuel economy of 40/39/40 city/highway/combined makes it the ideal car for those trips.
There are four drives modes of Eco, Normal, Sport, and EV that let you alter your drive experience and play with the car’s fuel efficiency. The default is Normal and this is likely where most drivers will leave things set. Eco reduces throttle response so much that it becomes tiresome unless you’re on the highway with no traffic. Sport turns the hybrid display into a tachometer and stiffens up the steering, but this is not a sports car in any way. EV lets you drive in pure electric mode for short distances at low speeds.
The interior is luxurious, as you’d expect from a Lexus. This is a mid-range trim so it can be had for less by saying no to many of the optional features, but then there’s no reason to bother buying a luxury brand like Lexus in the first place. The Ultra Luxury Package ($2,435) adds bamboo trim, driver and passenger memory seats that are heated and ventilated, power rear and manual door sunshades, driver’s seat power cushion extender, ambient lighting, and a tilting telescopic steering wheel. Another $450 adds a leather and bamboo heated steering wheel.
There are a few fiddly bits that are disappointing and even frustrating. The controls for the heated and ventilated seats are very small and difficult to adjust. I had trouble setting the ventilation and would imagine adjusting the same switch to heat the seats when you’re wearing gloves would be even more difficult.
The infotainment system is also lacking and does not fall in line with the luxury styling of the car. The interface looks dated and the mouse controller that sits on the center console is difficult at best. It provides haptic feedback, but it is too sensitive and jumps around the screen. This makes it tough to get the selection you want on the first try and proves very distracting. If you’re on a rough road, forget it.
Those frustrations aside, the 2014 Lexus ES 300h is a luxurious hybrid sedan that offers a comfortable drive experience. The available options leave plenty of room to up the luxury for larger budgets and the fuel economy helps make those options easier to afford.
2014 Lexus ES 300h
Base Price: $39,350
Price As Tested: $47,632 (not including destination charge)
- Smooth, Quiet Ride
- Roomy Rear Seats
- Luxury Interior
- Sluggish Highway Responsiveness
- Very Loud CVT
- Frustrating Infotainment Controls