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The Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h hybrid are the bigger, more mature companions to the compact, sporty Lexus IS. Based on the Toyota Avalon architecture, the ES these days has adopted a more interesting shape and more engaging road manners, along with a new hybrid model.Following a full redesign last year, the 2014 Lexus ES does a decent job of appeasing both of those customers–especially those who are in tune with the options available on modern premium sedans today. Unless you're in the 1 percent of canyon-carving driving enthusiasts, we think think that both the V-6 ES 350 or the ES 300h hybrid will handle well enough to satisfy.
While the 2014 ES models look pretty conservative on the outside—the new Lexus hourglass grille and a newfound curviness at the rear flanks are the exceptions—there's a lot to love inside. The ES's cabin has been completely redesigned, with a new sense of airiness and spaciousness thanks to a shelf-like horizontal design, and corners that have been pushed out (in a sort of anti-cockpit design). It resembles what Lexus did with its GS sport sedans, only it feels better done here, with the navigation system's screen fitting nicely mid-contour.
Of course there is a difference in how the two ES models accelerate accelerate; the V-6 models are still the quickest and smoothest, surely, but the ES 300h—which pairs a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with an electric motor-generator system—is surprisingly fleet-footed. With Lexus' incorporation of Drive Select modes (Eco and Power), you have a choice in how the hybrid system responds, and there's even now an EV-only mode. The big payoff comes at the pump, where the new ES 300h returns an EPA 40 mpg city, 39 highway (much better than the ES 350's 21/31).The ES isn't riding on the same wheelbase as the Camry; its wheelbase is now a couple of inches longer—think Avalon, lengthwise—which pays off in back-seat space. Thanks to its additional back-seat space, we might as well call it a large sedan. There's now enough room for three adults back there, if you need it, while in front, for the first time, Lexus is offering an available extendable thigh support for taller drivers (cushions are longer, too). Ride quality is slightly firmer, but the outside world, engine noise, and the road surface are all still supremely isolated from the cabin.
In addition to active-safety features like Rear Cross Traffic Alert and a Pre Collision System, the ES offers a host of high-tech entertainment and premium-luxury goodies on top of its standard kit. Major options for the ES include a hard-drive-based navigation system with voice command, Mark Levinson audio, upgraded leather and trims, a built-in backup camera system, and a next-generation Enform with apps. The only down side to getting the audio upgrade, or navigation, is the mandatory, mouse-like Remote Touch controller, which requires you to follow a pointer on the screen to make selections. For 2014, LED foglamps are now standard, the hybrid model's bamboo wooden trim is now offered on the ES 350, and the faux-leather NuLuxe seats can be both heated and ventilated. Lexus has also partnered with Apple to offer "Siri Eyes Free Mode" on 2014 models.