2014 Lexus ES

By May 27, 2014
2014 Lexus ES

The recently redesigned Lexus ES 350 gets a couple of technology upgrades for 2014 and offers several new interior options, including bamboo trim.

The seventh-generation Lexus ES was launched as a 2013 model boasting a roomier rear seat with enough space to easily transport four six-foot individuals. The lineup includes the Lexus ES 350 and Lexus ES 300h hybrid.

The 2014 Lexus ES 350 gains LED fog lamps along with its high-intensity discharge headlamps. Along with other models in the 2014 Lexus lineup, the 2014 ES 350 integrates Siri Eyes Free Mode, with technology licensed from Apple. New options for the 2014 Lexus ES 350 include Bamboo interior trim selection and heated/ventilated front seats with 12-way power adjustments.

We found the Lexus ES quiet and comfortable and easy to operate. On the road, it’s smooth and quiet, a good car for commuting to work while listening to music.

The Lexus ES 350’s 3.5-liter V6 is smooth and quiet and generates 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Combined with the 6-speed automatic, the 3.5-liter V6 yields EPA ratings of 21/31 mpg City/Highway.

The Lexus ES 300h hybrid mixes the good points of an ES with fuel economy in the region of 40 mpg. It shifts seamlessly between battery and engine power.

Lexus ES shoppers have plenty of other cars to shop in this equipment and price range. Audi A6, Hyundai Azera, Acura TL, Lincoln MKS, Buick LaCrosse, and Volvo S60 are the primary competitors. If you don’t need many of the ES’s extensive options, a well-equipped Volkswagen Passat, Honda Accord, Mazda6, Toyota Avalon or Kia Optima Limited may get the job done.

Model Lineup

The 2014 Lexus ES is offered in two variants, the Lexus ES 350 gasoline V6 and the Lexus ES 300h gasoline-electric hybrid. Both are front-wheel drive.

The Lexus ES 350 comes with a 268-hp 3.5-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic. Standard features include NuLuxe synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, piano-black cabin trim, moonroof, power front seats, smart key/pushbutton start, power windows and locks, power heated mirrors, AM/FM/CD/MP3/iPod/USB audio, Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels. For 2014, Lexus has integrated into the ES 350 Siri Eyes Free Mode, with technology licensed from Apple. Bamboo interior trim is available.

The Lexus ES 300h hybrid employs a 156-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, electric motors, 245-volt NiMH battery pack and a continuously variable automatic transmission. It is equipped much like an ES 350 but adds a vehicle proximity notification system (a noisemaker for public awareness when running on electric-only power), rear spoiler, deeper rear valance, badging, slightly different instrumentation and bamboo interior trim.

Options are ganged into three packages available for both models: The Premium package upgrades to leather seating, maple wood trim, driver memory system, and power tilt/telescope steering wheel; Premium requires an audio or navigation upgrade. The Luxury package builds on Premium with HID low-beam headlights, leather interior trim, heated/ventilated front seats, power rear sunshade, and park assist. The Ultra Luxury package further adds a panoramic glass roof, rain-sensing wipers, heated wood steering wheel, passenger seat memory, driver’s seat cushion extender, ambient lighting, manual rear-door sunshades, and power trunk lid. Standalone options include many of the items in packages, plus 17- and 18-inch wheels, radar cruise control with pre-collision system, blind spot/cross traffic alert systems, and lane departure assist/auto high-beam.

Safety features on all Lexus ES models include 10 airbags including front knee and rear-seat side that are compatible with properly installed child seats, plus electronic stability, braking and traction controls. Optional safety features include Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which helps detect vehicles in side blind spots and alerts the driver to rear cross traffic when backing out of a parking spot.

Walkaround

At a glance, the Lexus ES is clearly a Lexus, whether you first see the large L logo and family grille or the wraparound taillights. If you don't notice the longer nose or where the rear door opening meets the window frame you could easily mistake it for a Lexus GS.

The most daring aspect of the design is the pinched grille, and daring is a word that has never been applied to an ES before. Lexus dubs that pinched grille spindle, and you will see it on the newest Lexus models. The grille fairs into an arched hood we're thinking was influenced by pedestrian impact standards; the emphasis of the shape is such that from some angles it appears the hood tapers down to the windshield base.

Framing the grille are cleaner lights that sweep rearward, with fog lights in modest chrome rings rather than the predecessor's chrome plates. Down and inward pointing arrowhead LED daytime running lights are standard, the optional HID headlights low-beam only where the European competitors would offer low and high beam HID (aka bi-xenon) lights.

Whether it's on 17- or 18-inch wheels, the added sheetmetal curvature encircles the tires and provides a lower, more hunkered-down profile, this despite a proportionally greater increase in height than in length. Ample mirrors are well off the window surface, mounted on pylons to help quell wind noise; numerous small fins outside and underneath improve airflow. Side panels are free of ornamentation and the only significantly creased character line is along the door sills and sweeps upward to the rear wheel. On ES 300h there are hybrid badges we think detract from the simple lines.

Horizontal taillights are pinched at the inner edges, echoing the grille. They offer good wraparound visibility, and the trio of nicely curved lines rising at the corner could have come from BMW or Hyundai but these are better done. Dual exhaust outlets on the ES 350 are dropped on the ES 300h, which gets a single pipe hidden behind the deeper bumper panel and an added lip spoiler on the trunk. Although the changes drop the coefficient of drag by only a few-thousandths of a point it is enough improvement to add one mpg to the EPA Combined rating.

All ES models come with a conventional moonroof and a shark-fin antenna at the trailing edge of the roof. The ES 350 offers an optional full-length glass panel panoramic sunroof, but unfortunately that layout isn't very compatible with satellite-radio antennae, so cars with the big sunroof and XM radio have a second, smaller antenna on the trunk as well.

Interior Features

The Lexus ES offers comfort and features, a quiet haven to escape the noise and drudgery that some people find driving. The interior is inviting and functional. The basic NuLuxe upholstery is fine though we expect the majority of ES will go with leather.

Power heated front seats accommodate the majority of the population, with further options of ventilation, position memory and a moderate thigh extender for the driver's seat cushion. Door and center armrests are useful though tall occupants may not find the curled surface of the door rests ideal.

Rear-seat occupants will find ample room and comfort. The rear seat gets reading lights, assist handles, two center vents and optional window shades but on the down side those taller passengers again found the aft edge of the door armrests uncomfortable and toe space under the seats is compromised. The panoramic roof, with individual manual-slide shades, makes rear-seat headroom the limiting dimension.

A nicely shaped three-spoke steering wheel, often wood and perhaps heated, gives a good view of the gauges: electroluminescent speed, revs (or electric power/charge on 300h), fuel and engine temperature instantly familiar to any Lexus driver. Ancillary switches for auto high-beam or blind-spot functions are to the left, with plenty of blanks even on a fully-loaded model, while the hood, trunk and fuel door release are at the bottom under a small pop-out tray.

Around the middle of the dash a dark silver panel pinched at the sides like the grille controls primary audio functions, with climate control below. This appears offset to the right of the car's centerline and armrest, with the subdued analog clock above it further off-center and the nav screen slightly to the left. It didn't affect function but the lack of linearity was obvious.

Seat and wheel heat switches line the leading edge of the console, with the drive-mode selector on the left and a cupholder on the right. A gated shifter on the left side has a cupholder behind it where a tall container might interfere with your arm, and the central controller is right of the shifter where the passenger's arm might rest. Piano-black or wood trim surrounds this area, both glossy enough to reflect some glare.

Already a fixture in the Apple iPhone

Driving Impressions

The Lexus ES 350 uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine we found smooth and quiet. The V6 generates 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque with EPA fuel economy ratings of 21/31 mpg City/Highway.

Hyundai Azera's 3.3-liter V6 yields 293 hp and 20/29 mpg; Audi's A6 front-drive 2-liter four-cylinder has 211 hp and 25/33 mpg but more torque than the ES; Acura's TL is 280 hp and 20/29 mpg; Volvo's S60 is 250 hp and 20/30 mpg with more torque. All offer similar or better outright performance than the ES but none is as smooth nor as quiet.

With EPA numbers of 40/39 mpg City/Highway for the 2014 Lexus ES 300h hybrid, the only similar cars remotely close are the Buick LaCrosse eAssist, a mild hybrid rated at 25/36 mpg, a fully optioned Volkswagen Passat TDI (30/40 mpg), or a loaded Toyota Camry hybrid (43/39 mpg).

The Lexus ES 300h transitions between gasoline and electric power almost seamlessly. You can tell this is not Toyota's first hybrid. The Lexus ES 300h will run in electric-only mode at gentle rates to 25 mph, distance dependent on battery charge, nice in heavy traffic. And while 0-60 mph performance is claimed one second slower than the ES 350 gas engine, the effortless urge doesn't really feel it. At wide-open throttle you hear the ES 300h engine a bit more than in the ES 350 with its V6 but from the back seat it was barely audible over freeway noise.

The brake pedal is touchier in the ES 300h than in the ES 350 because it triggers regeneration (to charge the battery). Manually downshifting for downhill grades also charges the battery but to a much lesser extent.

An ES 350 console switch rotates for Eco and Sport modes. In Eco mode, response is muted to improve mileage, and the car restarts in Eco. In Sport mode, pedal response and transmission behavior are tuned for quicker reflexes and it reverts to Normal at restart. Sport mode does up the ante if you're in a hurry, and that will lower fuel economy.

On the road, the Lexus ES is quiet and comfortable. Most impacts are limited or eliminated, without any wallowing or float-like sensations. When pushed hard, grip was better than expected and everything was stable, but bumps in hard corners suggest most of the suspension travel was already in use.

On the wider 18-inch tires, the ride is firmer and we do not recommend them for areas with marginal infrastructure (which leaves very few areas of the country). The 17- and 18-inch tires we sampled were the same except for size and speed rating (the 18s were rated V, while the 17s were rated H) and the cabin is well isolated, so our ears couldn't detect any noise penalty with the 18s. So it's a ride-quality and looks decision.

Electric rack-and-pinion steering responds quicker than before, needing less wheel rotation to effect directional change.

We can't say the Lexus ES is the quietest car in its class but it's certainly among the leaders. If you prefer racking up miles in audiophile bliss or merely talking to your navigation or phone, the cabin environment is subdued.

Summary

The Lexus ES will get you and three adult friends comfortably, calmly and reliably to your destination with minimal distractions from the outside world. It is roomy, safe, easy to drive and well finished in attractive materials. It is a compelling choice among near-luxury sedans.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report from Southern California.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:Lexus ES 350 ($36,620); ES 300h ($39,500)
Engines:3.5-liter V6; 2.5-liter I4/electric hybrid
Transmissions:6-speed automatic; continuously variable transmission
Safety equipment (standard):frontal airbags, front knee airbags, front/rear side impact airbags, front/rear side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, antilock brakes, traction control, tire pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional):blind spot monitors with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure alert, parking assist, rearview camera
Basic warranty:4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in:Kyushu, Japan
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Lexus ES 350 ($36,620)
Standard equipment:NuLuxe synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, moonroof, 10-way power front seats, power windows/locks/heated mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels, AM/FM/CD/MP3/iPod/USB audio, Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights, pushbutton start, piano black trim, trip computer
Options as tested (MSPR):Ultra luxury package (leather interior, wood trim, driver and passenger seat memory, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats, HID headlamps, park assist, power rear sunshade, manual rear door sunshades, ambient lighting, power trunk lid, rain-sensing wipers, heated wood steering wheel, panoramic sunroof), Mark Levinson/navigation, 18-inch wheels
Destination charge:$910
Gas guzzler tax:
Price as tested (MSPR):$37530
Layout:front-wheel drive
Engine:3.5-liter DOHC V6
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):268 @ 6200
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):248 @ 4700
Transmission:6-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:21/31 mpg
Wheelbase:111.0 in.
Length/width/height:192.7/71.7/57.1 in.
Track, f/r:62.6/62.0 in.
Turning circle:37.4 ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:37.5/54.8/41.9 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m: in.
Head/hip/leg room, r:37.5/53.8/40.0 in.
Cargo volume:15.2 cu. ft.
Payload: Lbs.
Towing capacity: Lbs.
Suspension, f:independent, MacPherson strut, antiroll bar
Suspension, r:independent, coil strut
Ground clearance: in.
Curb weigth:3549 lbs.
Tires:P225/50VR18
Brakes, f/r:vented disc/solid disc, ABS, EBD, brake assist
Fuel capacity:17.2 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of May 27, 2014.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 800-255-3987 - www.lexus.com