2013 Lexus ES350
Date Posted: May 31, 2012
By Zack Spencer
The Lexus ES is the brand's second best selling product behind the RX crossover. For 2013 it gets a facelift and a hybrid
''Traditional luxury'' is a term that describes the smooth, quiet and refined ride that buyers of cars built in the 70s and 80s would appreciate. Cadillac and Lincoln cars of that era had a lock on this segment of the market but when Lexus and other import luxury brands emerged in the early 90s, many of these buyers migrated to the higher quality offerings that were lacking in domestic vehicles at that time. Lexus was a big beneficiary in the United States as they are now the number one luxury brand in that country. Canadians often look across the Atlantic to European makers when choosing a luxury car but Lexus is still a force in this country. The best seller in the Lexus line is their RX crossover but the mid-to-full-sized ES is the second best seller. For 2013 Lexus is trying to maintain their traditional luxury buyer but also engage new prospects with a slightly more engaging and sportier ES.
Lexus has been systematically upgrading the look of all their products to a more aggressive and stylish design. Called ''progressive luxury'', Lexus is trying to move the brand into a new space that will appeal to more buyers. The exterior dimensions of this new 2013 model are almost the same as the outgoing model but the wheelbase has been stretched by 4.5cm to provide more interior space but the visual effect makes the car look more graceful. At first glance the ES has a more than passing resemblance to the GS sedan and that is a good thing. The grille has been successfully updated to include the same ''spindle'' grille and the edges of the car have a more angular approach. The sum total is the best-looking ES to date. For 2013 Lexus has included a hybrid model called ES 300h with different wheels and rear skirt to hide the exhaust pipe.
By adding an additional 4.5cm to the wheelbase, the ES now has limo-like rear seat dimensions. The front seatbacks are thinner and the roof-liner has been trimmed, which provides an additional 10.5cm of legroom and more headroom. Front seat passengers are treated to standard heated and power seats that are covered in a new faux leather material. This material is only available on the base model, all other trim levels come with leather. The price has not been announced for this new 2013 model, look for that closer to the August launch, but the price better be less expensive than the current $42,150 if Lexus plans to eliminate standard leather seats! Another point of interest is the large and easy to use centre console with big buttons and easy to read graphics, which will be helpful to the older baby boomers that traditional buy this car. The layout is simple and easy to use but the centre console is covered in hard and easy to scratch plastic, the soft touch materials are kept for the upper section of the dash.
In a constant effort to reduce fuel consumption auto manufacturers are shedding weight and the ES is now 40kg lighter than the 2012 model. The smooth ride is accentuated by the longer wheelbase but an effort was made to provide a slightly more dynamic feel. The steering ratio is tighter and the ES can be driven in three modes from eco to normal and sport. Each changes the transmissions shift patterns to either effect efficiency or a more engaging drive; the steering also firms slightly in sport mode. The 268hp 3.5L V6 engine has been carried over and is matched to a 6-speed automatic. This combination is very effective at all speeds; it moves away from a stop sign with ease and is a very competent cruiser. The hybrid model uses the same 4-cylinder and electric combination found in the Camry hybrid with slight modifications for this larger car. The smoothness of the continuously variable transmission in this model makes the ES and even an even more luxurious car. Combined output from the gas and electric motors is 200hp.
Lexus chose picturesque Oregon wine country as a perfect setting to test this new Lexus. The rolling hills and smooth roads are worth a drive to this pretty state in a Lexus or any car.
The Lexus ES has been a big seller for Lexus because there are very few direct competitors in the mid-to-full-sized luxury segment. To buy similarly sized cars from Europe, the price is much higher, which leaves the Nissan Maxima, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac XTS, Lincoln MKS and VW Passat as alternatives. The VW and Nissan are not luxury brands; the Cadillac and Lincoln are more expensive so the only real alternative is the Buick LaCrosse, a car that also delivers traditional luxury. Lexus knows their buyers and this new ES will not alienate their existing clientele but the changes to this car are not substantial enough to pull a large number of buyers from established brands. The biggest differentiator is the inclusion of a hybrid model, which is a good complement to this car. Prices have not been set and the fuel consumption numbers have also not been announced but Lexus is confident that the hybrid model will produce ''best in class'' fuel consumption. Traditional luxury is now better looking and more efficient.
The Good, The Bad
A bigger interior, better styling and now a hybrid option.
The dash looks good but the centre console feels too plastic.
Power: 3.5L V6 with 268hp
Sticker price: N/A