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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.