How The Lexus ES 300h Isn't Just A Re-Badged Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Lexus ES 300h
The 2014 Lexus ES 300h.
Choice is among the things that make America great.  It can also make life difficult, or at the very least confusing.

A wonderful example is the Lexus ES 300h.  Based on the same platform as the Toyota Avalon Hybrid of which Michael is enamored enough to buy, given the wherewithal, powered by the same hybrid system of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a High Output Permanent Magnetic Drive electric motor with a continuously variable transmission and promising the same EPA fuel economy rating of 40 miles per gallon city, 39 highway, it has a base price $2,050 lower than the Avalon Hybrid, a nicer interior and a more prestigious nameplate.

Why would you buy the Toyota?

There are two reasons.  One is the optional Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that is not available, even as an option, on the Lexus. Set a speed, select one of three distances to maintain between you and the nearest vehicle in front of you and it does that.  If you are at 65 miles per hour on the freeway, have five car lengths between you and the car in front of you, and that car slows to 30, so do you...automatically.

Rear 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus ES 300h
2014 Lexus ES 300h.

Second is that while the Lexus ES 300h begins at a significantly less expensive price point than the Toyota Avalon Hybrid, it would be almost impossible to find one equipped that way on a dealer's lot.  Most likely, it would be bathed in options, as was our test vehicle. Six thousand, one hundred ninety-nine dollars worth, in fact.  So the actual as-tested price difference between this Lexus ES 300h and the Avalon Hybrid Michael tested was $4,299. And there's the point.  The Avalon is, fully optioned, an almost 45-thousand dollar car. The ES 300h at the same level is an almost 50-thousand dollar car.

So, is it worth it?  Well, again, you do get the Lexus name, a vastly improved interior both in terms of aesthetics and materials used, and some Lexus-only features. To a base price of $39,350, $500 was added for a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert...very good at spotting cars you cannon see when you are backing out of a parking space. $965 brought a lane departure alert system with intelligent high-beam headlamps.  For $2,625, a hard-disk navigation system with backup camera, an 8-inch screen, voice command, a single DVD/CD player and Lexus' Enform information and entertainment app suite.

A power trunk closer was $400.  Intuitive parking assist, $500. Rain-sensing wipers with a de-icer was another $155. $64 for a cargo net, $105 for a trunk mat.

Interior view of 2014 Lexus ES 300h
2014 Lexus ES 300h interior.

The big items, and the ones that took the already-beautiful ES 300h interior to a higher level, were in the Ultra Luxury Package. For $2,435, the car gets a bamboo trim interior, driver and passenger memory seats which are heated and ventilated in the front, manual sunshades for the rear doors and a power one for the rear window, a driver's seat power cushion extender, ambient lighting and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.  Another $450 adds the bamboo and leather-trimmed heated steering wheel, which caps off the interior with a look and feel of luxury.

Equipped like that, and again, most examples of the ES 300h you will find on dealer lots will be equipped like that, this is a very different automobile from the Avalon Hybrid on which it is based. Your taste for luxury will determine if the difference is worth the $4,299 premium.

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