2013 Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h: Up Close

By Joe Wiesenfelder  on April 3, 2012

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The Lexus ES 350 doesn't get much respect. It's never been snazzy looking, and it's the only Lexus car that's based directly on a Toyota, specifically the Camry. But the ES doesn't need respect because it gets something more valuable: lots and lots of buyers. The 2013 can only improve its success.

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The new Lexus hourglass grille, which the company curiously terms a spindle, looks good on this car — proving it's versatile enough for less aggressive applications. Even with the new front end, the ES isn't going to set anyone's heart ablaze, but both the gas-powered ES 350 and its new ES 300h hybrid version are classy, tidy packages from every angle.

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The newly redesigned 2012 Camry's top trim levels overlap the current ES in cabin quality, but I think the upgraded 2013's interior will help justify the luxury model's higher price. As in the Camry, the backseat is roomy — and felt all the more so because I just tried out the backseat of Chevrolet's new 2014 Impala, ostensibly a full-size car.

To buyers, quality isn't just about the materials inside a car; it's about how easy and pleasant the car is to use. Thankfully, Lexus hasn't fallen into the trap that's ensnared many other brands: the trap of "capacitive" touch-sensitive panels in lieu of real buttons.

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Sadly, the mouse-like Remote Touch Interface isn't as wise a decision. If I remember correctly, the first iteration of this controller had exactly one fan on the Cars.com staff: me. But in this car and the newly introduced GS, Lexus replaced the pivoting joystick-like pad with a sliding version. And with this, they've lost me, too.


Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder, a Cars.com launch veteran, leads the car evaluation effort. He owns a 1984 Mercedes 300D and a 2002 Mazda Miata SE.  Email Joe


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