2013 ES 350 New Car Test Drive
The 2013 Lexus ES marks the seventh generation of the model that helped establish the Lexus brand and remains one of the marque's best-sellers. It is slightly larger outside and roomier inside, offers more features and for the first time there is a hybrid version. By all indications its popularity should remain intact.
Although the wrapper is new there are plenty of proven components updated from the last ES and the recently redesigned Camry, including engines and transmissions. As such we do not consider this an all-new car, often an advantage since any bugs were worked out long ago.
Literally the biggest change from the previous-generation ES is in the rear seat where legroom has increased by four inches leaving enough space for a 2013 ES to easily carry four six-foot-plus individuals.
Real leather is offered on most models, synthetic leather (vinyl) is standard, woodwork is genuine plank, and the hand-stitched panels play to the luxury ambience.
Styling on the new 2013 ES is more masculine outside and broader inside, though cleanly conservative is still the most common descriptor. Ten airbags and optional driver assists see to safety, while available features such as Enform telematics, a heated steering wheel and a sparkling 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system sate your inner sybarite.
The velvety-smooth 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and 6-speed automatic in the 2013 ES350 aren't the most mechanically sophisticated in class, yet they provide near best-in-class fuel economy with an EPA-rated 21/31 mpg City/Highway and more than adequate propulsion. The suspension and steering have been revised to make the 2013 Lexus ES a better performer and a more pleasurable drive. That goal has been met but the ES remains far more luxury sedan than driver's car; there is no sport model or special suspension package available, the sole performance upgrade 18-inch wheels with one-size wider tires. Also, the ES uses front-wheel drive. The rear-wheel-drive GS is the better choice for sporty handling.
The 2013 Lexus ES300h hybrid, which essentially replaces the lackluster HS250h in Lexus's lineup, combines all the good points of an ES with average fuel economy in the region of 40 mpg. Apart from a full-length glass roof, any feature available on the V6 is offered on the hybrid. The only downsides to the hybrid are the price premium and 20 percent less luggage space without a long-item pass-through. The Lexus ES300h hybrid employs a 156-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, electric motors, 245-volt NiMH battery pack and a continuously variable automatic transmission for 200 total system horsepower and an EPA rating of 40/39 mpg City/Highway.
The 2013 Lexus ES is quiet, uncomplicated, has a fair suite of appointments standard and available, delivers a reassuring ride, benign handling, decent to excellent fuel economy and an enviable reputation for reliability and the dealer experience. The ES insulates its occupants from the world outside and is easy to operate.
Lexus ES shoppers have plenty of other cars to choose from. We would name the front-drive Audi A6, Hyundai Azera, Acura TL, Lincoln MKS, Buick LaCrosse and Volvo S60 the primary competitors. If you don't need many of the ES's extensive options, a well-equipped Volkswagen Passat, Honda Accord, Nissan Maxima, Mazda6, Toyota Avalon or Kia Optima Limited may get the job done.
The 2013 Lexus ES is offered in two variants, the ES350 gasoline V6 and the ES300h gasoline-electric hybrid. Both are front-wheel drive; there is no all-wheel drive option.
The Lexus ES350 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, 17-inch alloy wheels. A panoramic sunroof and 18-inch wheels are available for ES350.
The Lexus ES300h 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 ES350 but adds a vehicle proximity notification system (for public awareness when running on electric only), rear spoiler, deeper rear valance, badging, slightly different instrumentation and bamboo interior trim.
Three major option packages are offered 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 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. Options include predictive rearview camera (included with any audio or navigation upgrade), blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, lane departure alert, and parking assist.