For 2013, the Lexus ES sedan receives its first redesign since 2007, and for the first time in the model's history, the regular car, currently called the ES 350, is joined by a hybrid counterpart, the ES 300h. The ES 350 competes with the Acura TL, Hyundai Azera and Lincoln MKZ. The ES 300h goes up against the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid as well as hybrid and diesel versions of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The ES has grown an inch in length, and the wheelbase has increased by 1.8 inches. The new styling incorporates Lexus' new signature hourglass-shaped grille, which the company describes as a "spindle."
Though similar in appearance overall, the hybrid adds a subtle trunklid spoiler and replaces the ES 350's dual exhausts with a clean rear bumper. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard, and 18-inchers are optional.
The longer wheelbase has contributed to a 0.6-inch legroom increase for the backseat. Upgraded materials replace an interior that had fallen behind the times. Imitation leather upholstery is standard, and the real article is optional. Trim choices include piano black, bird's-eye maple and bamboo.
Lexus has resisted the move toward touch-sensitive panels, sticking instead with traditional buttons supplemented by the company's Remote Touch Interface, now in its second generation, which previous model years didn't include at all. It comprises a multifunction sliding pad controller and a dashboard LCD screen that incorporates entertainment, communication, optional navigation and other functions.
Options include a voice-activated navigation system, a backup camera and a premium stereo. A power rear-window shade, manual side-window shades and a one-touch trunk closer are also offered, as is ambient lighting.
Under the Hood
The ES 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Like the Toyota Camry Hybrid with which it shares a platform, the ES 300h employs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with electric motors and a high-voltage battery pack for an estimated 40 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
Both ES models provide different driving modes to maximize efficiency or sportiness to suit the driver's mood. The 300h includes an EV mode that allows electric-only driving for short distances at low speeds.
Standard safety features include 10 airbags, including knee airbags and seat-mounted side-impact torso airbags for the front and outboard rear occupants. Antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are also included, as is Lexus Safety Connect with a year's free subscription.
Safety options include a blind spot warning system, lane departure warning and precollision warning.
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