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#13

in Upscale Midsize Cars

MSRP: $39,500 - $39,500
Invoice: $37,000 - $37,000
MPG: 40 City / 39 Hwy
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Lexus ES Hybrid Performance

Test drivers say that the 2014 Lexus ES 300h doesn’t have as much oomph as the gas-only ES 350, but most agree that it offers enough power for most drivers. One reviewer adds that the CVT and the torque of the electric motor make the ES Hybrid feel peppy at city speeds. The ES 300h has Normal, Eco, Sport and EV (electric) drive modes, and some auto writers say that Sport mode makes the powertrain more responsive. The ride is geared more toward comfort than sport and reviewers say that for most Lexus shoppers, this won’t be an issue. 

  • "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." -- Edmunds
  • "The hybrid ES 300h has less power, but adequate acceleration, and here the ‘sport’ setting helps much more in getting the car up to speed." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)
  • "While the 2013 ES is certainly a more competent driver than the last-gen model, it's still a long way off from being classified as a sports sedan. And while that might be an issue in a car like the BMW 3-Series, it's perfectly fine in the ES." -- Left Lane News (2013)
  • "Though we might not have predicted as much going into this review, after driving both ES models back-to-back it's the hybrid ES 300h that comes off as the far more appealing car. It's not as quick as the V-6 -- the run to 60 mph takes a leisurely 7.6 seconds -- but in around-town driving its instant-torque electric motors and seamless CVT make it feel livelier (despite the hybrid weighing 161 pounds more than the ES 350)." -- Motor Trend (2013)

Acceleration and Power

The 2014 Lexus ES 300h has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that produce 200 horsepower combined. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) routes power to the front wheels. The ES 300h gets an EPA-estimated 40/39 mpg city/highway, which is better than the fuel economy of the BMW ActiveHybrid 3 and Infiniti Q50 Hybrid, but not as good as the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid’s fuel economy estimates.

Test drivers say that while the Lexus ES Hybrid is slower and less powerful than the gas-only ES 350, it still has adequate power for daily driving. One critic says the CVT is loud and unrefined and wishes there was more power in reserve, but most reviewers think the ES 300h’s superb fuel economy is worth the tradeoff.

  • "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." -- Edmunds
  • "True, the four-cylinder gas engine in the ES 300h can't match the ES 350's six for silkiness, but it's respectable. Overall, the hybrid simply comes off as the more modern and engaging machine." -- Motor Trend (2013)
  • "At full bore, the car hustles well enough, but it lacks the passing confidence deserving of a luxury badge, and the droning, here-it-comes CVT sounds anything but refined." -- Cars.com (2013)
  • "The hybrid offers surprisingly willing power, even for passing at highway speeds, and it launches the car from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 8.1 seconds." -- MSN (2013)
  • "With 200 horsepower on tap, the ES 300h isn't a slow car, but by no means is it quick, either." -- Left Lane News (2013)

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say the Lexus ES 300h has a smooth and comfortable ride but it isn’t very fun to drive. However, they point out that it’s not meant to be sporty. One test driver says the regenerative brakes have a nice pedal feel, which is a rare compliment for a hybrid. Another notes that the Lexus ES Hybrid is less composed around turns, with numb steering and a fair amount of body roll.

  • "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.” -- Edmunds
  • "Steering felt nicely weighted, and though the ES 350 entered a corner with a touch more alacrity than the hybrid, the ES 300h did not feel noticeably heavier." -- The New York Times (2013)
  • "The steering is light and slow, body roll is quite noticeable, and the tires howl like a dog baying at a passing ambulance when the car is pushed through a turn." -- MSN (2013)
  • "The ES 300h rides like a comfortable luxury car should, with the improved suspension allowing for a reasonable amount of gusto in the bends." -- Left Lane News (2013)
Review Last Updated: 5/13/14

Next Steps: Lexus ES Hybrid