The phrase is old-timey, quaint, but highly relevant when used on a very few automobiles. In this case, calling the 2014 Lexus ES 300h “one fine automobile” is the most succinct way we can muster to summarize this beautiful car.

2014 Lexus ES300h - baseball 2 - AOA1200px

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Lexus
  • Year, Model: 2014 ES 300h Sedan
  • Class: Midsize sedan
  • Powertrain: 2.5L, perm. magnet motor, CVT
  • Base Price: $39,350
  • MSRP as tested: $48,290
  • Availability: Now

Overview

Explaining the ES 300h to people who aren’t familiar with it is a difficult task. The temptation to say that it’s a “very luxurious Camry Hybrid” might seem like a good start off the cuff, but it falls very short and only serves to diminish the Lexus ES 300h instead. The reality is, it doesn’t have an equal among the more common lineup from Toyota and is, in fact, one of the best luxury vehicles you can get on the market today, in our opinion.

That impression is so strong with us that we’re using a term we normally reserve for revered luxurious classics. We are calling it “one fine automobile.” Read on to find out why we’re so impressed.

2014 Lexus ES300h - park 7 - AOA1200px

Exterior Design of the 2014 ES 300h

On the outside, the ES 300h is very similar to the ES 350 Sedan it is based upon, with just a few differences in badging and aerodynamic touches. This does not remove from the 300h’s look at all, as this series from Lexus is very elegantly designed.

The front clip and hood are pure Lexus, flowing up to the windshield quickly from the flattened nose which conforms with pedestrian impact requirements. The hood flows towards the windscreen in a sloop that makes it appear longer than it is, adding to the “saloon” quality of the car’s overall build.

The windshield is laid back tightly to give the impression of a very low, coupe-like roof, which itself moves in a curved ellipse towards the clipped rear end, which gives a fastback appearance. The overall feel on the Lexus ES300h is of a long, low-built estate cruising saloon in the old fashion of Jaguar and other European makes.

It’s a subtle, but very well played appeal to the luxury-eyed viewer who wants that European feel that BMW, Mercedes, and others have so perfected.

Interior Refinement in the Lexus ES 300h

The exterior beauty of the car is carried into the interior, where the 2014 Lexus ES 300h sports a lot of refinement. The seating is very comfortable, the driver’s cockpit is well-tuned for daily use, and the back seat is sizable and accommodates full adults readily and without cramping. The car is rated at seating five, which can be done when required, but like most sedans, it’s tuned for four. The trunk on the ES 300h is large and more than enough for most needs.

2014 Lexus ES300h - interior - AOA1200pxAt its base, the 2014 ES 300h comes well-equipped and there are no trim levels for the car, only package options to upgrade interior electronics and some safety equipment.

Our test model sported the Piano Black trimmed interior beset with the Ultra Luxury Package option ($2,435) which adds the beautiful bamboo trim and several comfort options including powered and manual, built-in sunshades and seat cushion extenders. Well worth the extra cost, in our opinion, if you wish to really make this car as luxurious as it can be. This includes the leather-trimmed and bamboo steering wheel ($450 option). One thing to note is that the bamboo on the far left of the dash does reflect light quite often, mirroring itself in the left side mirror. One small flaw in an otherwise lovely interior package.

Several other options are available as well, and our test drive included most of them. Safety options such as Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Alert, Navigation and technology additions, Rain-sensing Wipers, and more all combined with the aforementioned options to bump the price tag up about $9,000 from the 2014 Lexus ES 300h base model. Most are well worth the cost if you wish to have those additions, but they are pick-and-choose enough that you can snip away at that final price tag by excluding many of them.

Under the Hood of the 2014 Lexus ES 300h

2014 Lexus ES300h - engine - AOA1200pxThe ES 300h uses the same 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and electric motor combination as several other vehicles in the Lexus/Toyota lineup. Together, the gasoline-electric powertrain produces 200 horsepower in a front-wheel drive configuration. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is added for further efficiency gains.

Together, this combination produces EPA estimates of 40/39/40 – city/highway/combined. In our real-world driving, we got very close to those numbers despite relatively higher speeds (freeway speed limit here is 80mph) and high altitude (roughly 5,200 feet).

On the Road in the ES 300h

The interior of the Lexus is roomy and comfortable, with plenty of space for people of nearly any size. My large frame and tall height was not a problem for the driver’s seat or the rear seating. One thing to note is that the position of the battery pack, which allows all-electric driving at low speeds, also means that the trunk is slightly smaller than non-hybrids in this class and the rear seats do not fold down to allow larger cargo space when required.

As for drive, the 2014 Lexus ES 300h delivers a very refined experience that is both quiet and relaxed. It moves smoothly, gives the driver excellent confidence and awareness, and has no acceleration lag or sluggishness. This is one of the new breed of hybrid in which the braking changes between regeneration and actual physical brakes smoothly and in phases, without driver input.

The cabin is very quiet, even at highway speeds with a crosswind, and the suspension absorbs the road very well, no matter its minor hazards. Drivers who prefer a lot of road feel may be disappointed here, but not overly so. The ES 300h sedan delivers a nice balance of feedback and comfort.

2014 Lexus ES300h - park 5 - AOA1200px

Competition

Competition would include the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, the top-fitted Toyota Avalon Hybrid, and a host of non-hybrid midsize luxury sedans. The MKZ no longer returns better fuel economy (read about that here) and doesn’t have the same trim excellence nor the fine ride of the 300h. The Avalon Hybrid is a beautiful car and delivers much of what the ES 300h has, though at a lower price point (they share many common components), but is, in the end, not quite as lovely on the eyes inside and out as is the 300h.

Strong Points

Beautiful exterior look combines with a refined interior.

Extremely smooth driver with very high fuel economy to boot.

Weaknesses

Some minor glare in the side mirror with the bamboo finish.

Ventilated seat option is loud.

Conclusions

All together, the 2014 Lexus ES 300h is definitely one fine automobile. Little else can be said about it. One of the best drives we’ve had this year.

Test Period Length and Limitations
Our 300h was a press loan from the manufacturer and was driven for about a week as a daily family car. During this time, we put about 372 miles on the vehicle in varied conditions with a varying number of occupants and cargo.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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