The 2013 Lexus ES 350 has undergone a significant redesign — its first since 2007. The new look is an attempt to appeal to shoppers who tend to lean German in their vehicular preferences. That means the ES is sportier and more muscular, but does it muscle out families? Mostly, the answer is no.
The 2013 Lexus ES 350 is a spacious sedan that will dazzle not just with features and technology, but with customization and connectivity.
This full-size sedan's 3.5-liter V-6 engine has plenty of power and made use of it smoothly and effortlessly. If I wanted to ramp up the driving experience, I could switch from Normal to Sport mode with the twist of a knob. If I wanted some fuel savings, I could use the Eco mode. Ease and simplicity has a place, and the ease of driving the ES 350 made up for a lot of the interior's complicated technology.
The 2013 ES 350 has a starting price of $36,995, including an $895 destination charge. My test car's optional packages added nearly $10,000 to the ES for an as-tested price of $46,004. The ES 350 takes regular gas, so that helped with the sticker shock. A little.
The redesigned ES' spindle grille looks sharp and aggressive. The sculpted lines leading back to the trunk lid make this five-seater look cool in the school drop-off lane, yet the overall appearance is not as committed to looking as mean as its competitors. That's OK because not everyone wants to drive around looking for a fight.
This car is really kid-friendly when it comes to getting in and out of it; the rear doors are lightweight and the step-in height is low. My school-aged kids found them easy to open, but younger kids will need help with the door handles because they're placed high up on the car's body. Yes, the sloped roofline will be hard on your back, and yes, you will be prone to head bonks as you get the kids into their child-safety seats. But that's only for four or five years until they can climb in and buckle up by themselves.
Handily, the ES 350 had a power trunk lid. You scoff. I know it seems a bit ridiculous for a sedan to have a power trunk lid, but let me tell you, arms full of gear appreciate any help they can get, sedan or not. And if you live with one for a week, you will be sad when someone takes it away. The trunk had room for my son's bulky hockey bag. It will fit a small stroller. It will fit a large grocery shopping trip, including a box of diapers. However, it won't fit the hockey bag, a large grocery shopping trip, a stroller and a box of diapers all at the same time.
The 2013 ES 350 has a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. It gets an EPA-estimated 21/31 mpg city/highway and uses regular gas. The hybrid version, the ES 300h, gets 40/39 mpg.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great, for smaller ones
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The ES 350's interior is a bit like an executive space shuttle. From my test car's cockpit, I mean driver's seat, technology abounds with an optional voice-activated navigation system with the Remote Touch mouselike controller, Lexus Enform multimedia system and Bluetooth connectivity.
If all this seems a bit intimidating, it is. Conceptually, it's wonderful. Using the touch-screen and the mouse, I could control the navigation system, stereo and more. If that's not enough, all kinds of applications are available in the ES 350 using Enform's App Suite. Pandora, OpenTable, iHeartRadio and more are offered, but it will needs your mobile phone's data plan to work. Details, details. Unfortunately these systems still required me to take my eyes off the road more often than I'd prefer when driving.
In the backseat, my kids, ages 10 and 8, had lots of room. The seats are deep and not too bolstered. There are vents for the backseat, so occupants stay comfortable no matter the weather. In addition, there are sunshades not just on the rear window and side windows, but also the tiny triangular windows. Did I mention the optional panoramic moonroof? It's a major plus for families; my kids particularly enjoyed car washes and night-time driving because of it.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2013 ES 350 has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It earned the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. It also received the highest overall safety score of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received five stars out of five in frontal and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover crash test.
There are two sets of lower Latch anchors in the ES' outboard seats. However, they're somewhat buried between the seat cushions. Rear-facing child-safety seats had plenty of room in the backseat, and a booster seat fits well in the wide seats. Find out how the ES did in Cars.com's Car Seat Check.
The ES 350 has standard front-wheel drive, antilock brakes, an electronic stability system with traction control and 10 airbags, including knee airbags for the front row and side-impact airbags for the front and rear outboard passengers. Lexus' Safety Connect emergency communication system program — including collision notification, stolen vehicle location, emergency assist and enhanced roadside assistance — is also standard.
Optional safety features include a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, Intuitive Parking Assist and a precollision warning system.
Get more safety information about the 2013 Lexus ES350 here.
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