Reader Review: 2014 Lexus ES 300h

While the 2014 Lexus ES 300h isn’t anything close to a sports car, it’s also not a living room sofa on wheels.

This is according to Calgary driver Warren Oneski, who spent a week with the ES 300h luxury hybrid. There were not any faults that he could find.

“It’s not a wallowing luxury car. It’s not a sports car, either. But, you wouldn’t get bored driving it,” Oneski said.

He was also impressed with the Lexus Hybrid Drive system, and said he’ll be seriously investigating the option the next time he’s shopping for a vehicle.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.
Crystal Schick, Calgary Herald

The Lexus ES four-door was introduced in 1989 as a compact car, and over the next four generations morphed into a mid-size sedan. In its sixth generation, which appeared in 2012, the ES 300 was stretched a further 50 mm, increasing passenger and cargo space.

Available as the gasoline-powered V6 ES 350 or the hybrid ES 300h, both models appear almost identical on the outside. It’s under the hood where the differences appear.

The ES 300h was introduced for the 2013 model year, and the powertrain consists of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission. There are actually two electric motors – one is a motor/generator that actually charges the storage battery, and the other a source of motive power plus a generator to capture energy through regenerative braking.

The entire gasoline/electronic symphony is orchestrated by the Lexus hybrid management system, and the automaker says the powetrain produces 200 net horsepower.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.
Crystal Schick, Calgary Herald

A well-equipped base model ES 300h is $44,100, and there are three optional trim packages to add to the mix. There’s a Navigation Package, a Leather Package and a Technology Package.

Oneski’s Lexus ES 300h was top-of-the-line at $55,471.25, including freight and PDI, but not the GST. His car boasted the Technology Package that includes all of the pieces from the navi and leather packages, plus a pre-collision system, lane departure alert, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, power driver’s seat variable-length cushion, seat memory, dynamic radar cruise control, clearance and back-up sensors and an automatic open/close trunk lid.

And that last item was enough in itself to impress our Oneski.

“With that power trunk, you’d never have to touch it at all during the messy winter months, and that’s a great feature,” he says.

And he’d know about messy winter months. Born and raised in Calgary, Oneski’s seen how much road grime accumulates on a vehicle that plies our often-messy roads.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.
Crystal Schick, Calgary Herald

Starting at 14 with a scooter, Oneski hasn’t been without wheels since. He had old clunkers in high school, and his first new car was a 1968 Chevrolet Impala purchased at Jack Carter Chevrolet. Over the years, the family progressed from sedans to minivans to SUVs.

Currently, there’s a 2010 Acura MDX in the driveway. Now retired, the Oneskis add approximately 15,000 to 20,000 kilometres a year driving around the city on errands or to destinations such as Canmore, Invermere, or Phoenix for relaxation.

Oneski’s back has been giving him some trouble, so he thinks he’ll be sticking with SUVs for the near future. When shopping for a vehicle, he takes into consideration seating position and comfort, ability to easily load luggage, and, finally, overall “fun to drive” factor.

If he had any preconceived notion about driving the ES 300h, Oneski simply said he expected the vehicle to be built to a high standard for the money. He also had no notion of what to expect from the hybrid powertrain.

Upon picking up the ES 300h, Oneski said he immediately liked the car.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.
Crystal Schick, Calgary Herald

“I was taken with the styling of the front end, and the grille has a great shape to it,” he said. “For a good-sized four-door car, I also think it had an overall sporty and appealing look.”

Exterior fit and finish, in Matador Red Mica, was rated excellent. All fender, hood, trunk and door panels and their gaps were “flawlessly executed”.

Inside, the ES 300h was fitted out in parchment-coloured premium perforated leather, and once ensconced in the car, Oneski liked what he found.

“Overall, it felt bright and airy and spacious, and it had a great woodgrain trim accent,” Oneski said. “The wood and leather steering wheel felt good in the hands, and the instruments were all very easy to see.

“I left the sunroof shade open for the most part, and there’s a lot of glass in that car – there are no blind spots that I could find. I also quite liked the power rear sunshade, that’s a great feature.”

2014 Lexus ES 300h.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.
Crystal Schick, Calgary Herald

Oneski thought it would take him some time to get used to all of the technology packed into the ES 300h, but that wasn’t the case.

“Basically, the car was very user friendly, and the hybrid powertrain functioned just like a normal V6, I couldn’t tell a difference,” he said. “It’s not a race car, but the power’s there to pass when you want it.

“I also really liked the CVT transmission, with its smooth power delivery. I tried the car in Sport and Eco modes, but mostly left it in the Normal mode – it just suited the car.”

Brakes were good and powerful, Oneski said, with a firm feel at the pedal. The ES 300h handles “flat”, he added, with no body roll in the corners, while the ride was quiet and semi-firm.

Oneski drove the car to Canmore with a group of friends, and indicated everyone found the car easy to access and comfortable.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.

2014 Lexus ES 300h.
Crystal Schick, Calgary Herald

“I drove this car just like I drive everything else, and I didn’t try to get the best mileage out of it,” he said. By his calculations, he drove the ES 300h 730 km and the car returned 6.7 L/100 km city and highway combined.

Oneski appreciated the technological driving aids, reserving the most praise for the adaptive cruise control.

“The car isn’t really meant for someone who is 20 years old,” Oneski said. “I think it would best suit anyone, though, who has kids and is over 35 who doesn’t want a minivan or SUV – there’s so much room in there.”

Oneski concluded, “The Lexus hybrid/CVT system worked very well, and I really did like it. I’d definitely recommend the car, and don’t think you could go wrong.”

The Specs 

Type of vehicle Mid-size luxury sedan
Engine Atkinson-cycle 2.5L four-cylinder gasoline w/Lexus Hybrid Drive
Power Net 200 hp
Transmission CVT
Brakes Four-wheel disc w/ABS and regenerative braking
Tires P215/55R17
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km) 4.75 city, 5.1 highway, 4.8 combined
Price (base/as tested) $44,100/$55,471.25 including freight and PDI
Destination charge $1,995
Standard features A/C with dual zone auto climate control, electronically controlled brake system w/ABS, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, push button start/stop, power moonroof, 10-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats w/driver seat memory, eight-speaker Lexus audio system, Bluetooth
Options Technology Package includes voice activated navigation, heated wood steering wheel, rain sensing wipers, premium leather seat surfaces, 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, power rear sunshade, lane departure alert, dynamic radar cruise control, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, parking assist, power trunk with one touch auto open/close

Driver’s Journal

Day One: Picked up Lexus ES 300h. Red flecked paint on this car really popped! Nice parchment colour interior with woodgrain accents looks upscale. Fit and finish was outstanding. The car was very smooth and quiet, you cannot detect when the hybrid system is selecting power from the gas engine, electric power or both, although a large gauge next to speedo keeps you informed at a glance. CVT transmission is seamless in its power delivery.

Day Two: Drove Lexus around town running errands and was impressed with navigation system, it is easy to use. Good menus are displayed on a large screen and accessed by a mouse style controller located on front of console. Voice command worked OK but could be a bit frustrating at times, preferred the mouse.

Day Three: Linked phone very easily and voice activated menu worked well. Drove out to Bragg Creek and was really impressed with the radar assisted cruise control on the 300h. Very intuitive, simple to use and really effective. I liked the way it shows your selected speed and the car will keep pace with the traffic ahead. Another great feature of the cruise control is you can set the distance; the radar detects the car ahead. Using this in conjunction with the lane departure assist makes for a very safe drive.

Day Four: We took our granddaughters, Jordan, Danika and Taylor, for ice cream and there was plenty of room for the three of them in the back, even with two booster seats. If needed there are three built-in anchors for child car seats. The girls were impressed with the sunroof, separate climate controls in the back and great visibility out of the side windows along with manual side window shades to block the sun.

Day Five: Ran errands and noticed how often only the electric mode was being used up to around 60 km/h. The engine turns off at every stop, it is seamless in its operation. Went grocery shopping and the trunk was huge, no problem fitting lots of groceries, packages or suitcases in it. Power operated trunk is a great feature. This car has a lot of features, the heated steering wheel, heated and cooled seats, power rear window shade and both driver and passenger power seats with three position memory all make for great value.

Day Six: Took a road trip with friends to Canmore for lunch. Ginette and Michel were very impressed with the leg and headroom and comfortable seats with arm rest and cup holders in the back. They felt that the back was more comfortable than most cars’ front seats. The climate control is fully automatic with separate zones for individual comfort. The stereo system in the Lexus is a Mark Levinson with excellent sound. The on-screen menu accesses satellite radio, CD player and iPod.

Day Seven: Drove to Cochrane, noticing that the gas gauge is still over 1/2 full. Great mileage! The car glides over the rough roads, very stable and responsive. The exterior has smooth lines, a great looking grille and headlights, the aluminum wheels really complement the car. The overall look and feel of this car is very luxurious and refined, a very good option for anyone wanting a fully loaded hybrid. Had to return the car, but really enjoyed my time with it. Gassed it up with regular and found I averaged 6.7 L/100 km over 730 km of mixed driving. I would definitely recommend this car.

About Greg Williams