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2014 Lexus ES 300h Preview

Pros: The Lexus lineup is undergoing a rejuvenation, and that includes the Lexus ES. Styling has been revised so as to make the car look much sleeker and more organic than in years past. The interior has benefited from significant upgrades, too, not to mention extra rear-seat legroom. On the road, this Lexus remains super-smooth and reliable. In hybrid configuration, it's also more fuel-efficient than ever.

Cons: All is not roses and sunshine with the ES 300h. The mouse-like Remote Touch controller is hardly what I'd call ''user-friendly'' -- why not a conventional touchscreen instead? Also, beware of limited trunk space (due to the battery) and pricey options.

2014 Lexus ES 300h Price: Speaking of which, a single trim level appears on the ES 300h menu, and it starts at $44,100. However, buyers can select 1 of 3 different packages including Leather ($5,050), Navigation ($1,800), and Technology ($9,250).

Photo: Lexus

2014 Lexus ES 300h Fuel Economy: Despite weighing nearly 1,700 kilos, the Lexus ES 300h boasts impressive ratings of 4.7L/100km in the city and 5.1L/100km on the highway -- significantly better than the gas-only ES 350.

Improvements and Changes: The Lexus ES 300h is a new addition to the ES lineup for 2014.

2014 Lexus ES 300h Powertrain: As part of the Lexus Hybrid Drive system, the smooth 2.5L DOHC Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine under the hood of the ES 300h teams up with an electric motor to produce 200 net horsepower through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Cargo Capacity: The large battery reduces trunk space from 430 to 342 litres, which is still commendable.

Safety: Standard features include stability and traction control, disc brakes with ABS, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, as well as smart stop technology, which automatically cuts engine power and allows the brakes to take precedence over the accelerator when both pedals are pressed at the same time. Let's not forget the 10 airbags and available technologies like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.

Comparing the 2014 Lexus ES 300h: Midsize sedans with a focus on luxury and especially fuel economy include the Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, and Volkswagen Passat TDI.