2013 Lexus ES 350 BaseView Vehicle Profile
2013 Lexus ES: Stiff sedan gets a sporty makeover
Newburg, Ore.—The Lexus ES has made decent business out of being a gussied-up Toyota Camry. While there is no shame in that, this statement will probably have the Lexus PR types squirming in their loafers. At the international 2013 Lexus ES launch just outside of Portland, the C-word (Camry) was definitely off the script.
In fact, I don’t even think waterboarding would have drawn an utterance out of them.
Nonetheless, since its Canadian introduction in 1990, the Lexus ES has been a strong seller, largely because it is based on Toyota’s proletariat front-drive mid-sized sedan that does its business in such a quietly competent way.
To be fair to Lexus, this sixth-generation 2013 ES distances itself further from the Camry with fresh styling and a new platform. A first for the ES is a hybrid drivetrain, lifted from, (you guessed it) the Camry Hybrid.
The 2013 ES 350 starts at $39,500 (down about $3,000 from last year’s model) and the hybrid ES 300h carries a list of $43,900.
The 2013 ES platform gets a 45 mm wheelbase stretch while both front and rear tracks are increased 10 mm. This translates to a significantly roomier cabin with real NBA-grade legroom in the back that exceeds even that of the Mercedes S-Class. Despite its larger footprint, this new ES is stiffer and comes in 40 kg lighter thanks to the extensive use of high-strength steel.
The ES 350 carries on with Toyota’s smooth and free-revving 3.5L V6 that makes 268 hp and 248 lb.-ft. at 4700 r.p.m. It’s hooked to a six-speed auto. This is one of the better naturally-aspirated bent-sixes on the market and it pulls the ES along in a strong and linear fashion. Put your foot in it off the line and you’ll chirp the front tires and even feel a tug of torque steer.
Electric steering with a quicker ratio replaces the previous hydraulic system, and the car gets sportier suspension tuning with a new rear dual-link strut setup. Turn the new standard Drive Mode Select dial to Sport (Normal and Eco and the other settings) and both throttle response and steering feel sharpen.
Certainly you won’t mistake the ES for a BMW 3 Series, but on the smooth rural roads of Oregon it showed decent body control and a new-found willingness in the curves. As expected, the ride is compliant and the cabin quiet, although there was more road noise than expected from the optional 18-inch wheels.
The new interior has a pleasing, flowing design that incorporates a 3.5-inch TFT colour screen display in the sculpted upper dash on the base model. The ES 350 comes in five trim levels, and I drove the top tier Technology Package featuring navigation with 8-inch screen, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, back up camera, 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio, moon roof, HID headlights and a host of safety kit comprising of Advanced Pre Collision System, Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and auto-dimming headlights.
Previously, when buying the base ES, the signature creamy hides of the Lexus experience were a given. Now the base model gets NuLux, a synthetic leather that touts its light weight and eco-friendliness. It’s OK, but it doesn’t feel that “Lux” to me. Count on most buyers checking the Leather Package box that adds most of the Tech package without the advanced safety systems.
Outside, the 2013 ES gets the new Lexus “spindle” grill. Unlike its big brother GS, that looks as though the designers of either end weren’t on speaking terms, the ES has a pleasingly cohesive flow.
You can spot the hybrid ES 300h by its rear lip spoiler, unique 17-inch alloys and hidden exhausts. One in five Canadian Lexus sales are hybrids, so it’s a safe bet the 2013 ES 300h will do well. And in many ways, the 300h makes for a better ES.
The 17-inch tires gave a smoother and quieter ride than the optional 18-inchers on the ES 350, and while the combined output of the 2.5 L four and electric drive is a modest 200 hp, initial step-off is effortless thanks to the instant torque of the electric motor. And of course, having the ability to silently motor about in full EV mode for short stretches is oh-so-Lexus.
Usual hybrid annoyances like uneven regenerative braking and CVT (continuously variable transmission) — induced droning are barely present and according to the on-board computer, my 300h returned a stellar 6.1 L/100 km following an afternoon of secondary road and highway driving. Official figures for the ES 300h are 4.7 L/100 km city and 5.1 L/100 km highway.
The Lexus ES 300h will likely show a significant price bump over the base gas model, but this also nets you the second tier Premium trim that adds heated wood steering wheel, 7-inch display, rain sensing wipers and bamboo trim.
Considering the ES accounts for 25 per cent of the maker’s global sales, Lexus is not going to mess with this ultra-conservative formula that trades on luxury, value and Toyota’s legendary reliability. Yes, there is much trumpeting of the ES’ new-found “sportiness” with the hope of dropping the sedan’s median buyers age, currently 63, down a decade or so.
Don’t see that happening. This 2013 model is still an ES through and through. It’s just a better one.
2013 Lexus ES 350/ES 300h
BASE PRICE: $39,500/$43,900
ENGINE: 3.5L V6/ 2.5L Atkinson-cycle four and two electric motor/generators
FUEL CONSUMPTION: ES 350 9.9 L/100 km city, 6.4 L/100 km hwy.; 300h 4.7 L/100 km city, 5.1 highway
POWER/TORQUE: 268 hp; 248 lb.-ft./ 200 hp
COMPETITION: Buick Lacrosse, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, Cadillac XTS, Acura TL, Hyundai Genesis 3.8, Infiniti G37
WHAT’S BEST: smooth drivetrains, massive rear legroom
WHAT’S WORST: 300h loses trunk space and the pass-through thanks to the metal-hydride battery pack.
WHAT’S INTERESTING: this platform underpins the new Toyota Avalon
Travel for freelance writer Peter Bleakney was provided by the manufacturer. Email email@example.com.
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