2013 Lexus ES 350

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Key Specs

of the 2013 Lexus ES 350. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    24 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    6-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Exterior styling
  • Interior redesign
  • Bright instruments
  • No touch-sensitive panels
  • Works with internet radio, apps

The Bad

  • Touch-screen replaced by Remote Touch Interface
  • Leather upholstery optional

Notable Features of the 2013 Lexus ES 350

  • Fully redesigned for 2013
  • ES 300h hybrid joins ES 350
  • New exterior styling
  • Upgraded interior
  • 3.5-liter V-6
  • Front-wheel drive

2013 Lexus ES 350 Road Test

Kelsey Mays

The 2013 Lexus ES trades some substance for gimmicks with its all-new design, but it should draw interest for adventurous styling and a first-ever ES hybrid version.

Characterizing an ES has always been like trying to distinguish the flavors in oatmeal — a porcelain bowl of it from room service at the Hyatt, but oatmeal nonetheless. Lexus' best-selling sedan boasts incremental handling improvements and refined ride quality in its sixth-generation redesign, but the interior is a mixed bag, and so is my verdict.

Available as a V-6 ES 350 or first-ever hybrid ES 300h, the ES grew longer and taller for 2013. It now hails from the Toyota Avalon's longer platform rather than the Camry, with which it traditionally shared underpinnings. At a media preview, I drove both ES drivetrains alongside the prior generation.

The Sharpest-Looking ES Yet
The front-wheel-drive ES adopts Lexus' "spindle" grille — more of a fat hourglass — up front, drawing similarities to the recently reinvented rear-drive GS sedan. It's actually a touch longer than that pricier sibling, and its creased lines stand out like no ES before. There is no ground-hugging F-Sport Package, as Lexus offers on a few other cars, but the ES needs none: It looks dynamic enough. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard, with 18s optional on the ES 350.

How It Moves
The ES 350's 3.5-liter V-6 moves out with a muscular exhaust note if standing on the gas. A Lexus spokesperson told me it&apo...

The 2013 Lexus ES trades some substance for gimmicks with its all-new design, but it should draw interest for adventurous styling and a first-ever ES hybrid version.

Characterizing an ES has always been like trying to distinguish the flavors in oatmeal — a porcelain bowl of it from room service at the Hyatt, but oatmeal nonetheless. Lexus' best-selling sedan boasts incremental handling improvements and refined ride quality in its sixth-generation redesign, but the interior is a mixed bag, and so is my verdict.

Available as a V-6 ES 350 or first-ever hybrid ES 300h, the ES grew longer and taller for 2013. It now hails from the Toyota Avalon's longer platform rather than the Camry, with which it traditionally shared underpinnings. At a media preview, I drove both ES drivetrains alongside the prior generation.

The Sharpest-Looking ES Yet
The front-wheel-drive ES adopts Lexus' "spindle" grille — more of a fat hourglass — up front, drawing similarities to the recently reinvented rear-drive GS sedan. It's actually a touch longer than that pricier sibling, and its creased lines stand out like no ES before. There is no ground-hugging F-Sport Package, as Lexus offers on a few other cars, but the ES needs none: It looks dynamic enough. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard, with 18s optional on the ES 350.

How It Moves
The ES 350's 3.5-liter V-6 moves out with a muscular exhaust note if standing on the gas. A Lexus spokesperson told me it's a few ticks slower than the last ES — a tradeoff for better gas mileage — but crank the Lexus' Drive Mode Select to Sport mode, as opposed to Eco or Normal, and sharper accelerator progression renders an even quicker climb. Alas, the six-speed automatic transmission still suffers befuddling inconsistencies: Sometimes it kicks down a gear or two for immediate passing power; other times it hunts aimlessly for the right gear.

Sport mode reduces power-steering assist for palpably better steering feedback. The prior ES had a tendency for the wheel to snap suddenly back to center. Its successor steers more naturally, with quicker reflexes. A redesigned suspension with uprated shocks and additional bracing also has been added, but does little to quell the car's modest body roll.

Ride quality — a trademark of the previous car — remains sound. All ES models share the same suspension tuning. An adaptive suspension, which Lexus offered in two prior generations of the ES, is currently unavailable.

The ES remains front-wheel drive only with no all-wheel-drive option unlike competition from Acura, Infiniti, BMW, Audi, Cadillac and Mercedes. The Lexus GS does offer the option.

The hybrid ES 300h pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with two motor-generators and a continuously variable automatic transmission for 200 combined horsepower versus the ES 350's 268 hp. At full bore, the car hustles well enough, but it lacks the passing confidence deserving of a luxury badge, and the droning, here-it-comes CVT sounds anything but refined.

Like any full hybrid, the 300h can run on electric power at low speeds for short distances; an EV mode, activated via Drive Mode Select, raises the threshold where the car transitions to engine power. Drive Mode Select blocks EV mode if the car's nickel-metal-hydride battery power is too low or if you press the gas for too much power. Stand on the pedal, even in EV mode, and the ES 300h springs to full power in moments.

Thanks to lower curb weight and better aerodynamics, EPA mileage in the ES 350 is up to 21/31 mpg city/highway, an overall improvement of about 2 mpg over the last ES. That's near the head of the luxury competition, edging out the Acura TL, Audi A4 and Infiniti G37 by 1 mpg or more. The BMW 328i and four-cylinder Lincoln MKZ eke out another 1 to 2 mpg, however. One plus: The ES runs fine on regular gasoline; several competitors recommend or require premium.

No rating for the ES 300h has been given at this time, but Lexus says it expects the combined rating to be 39 mpg. That would make it the most efficient luxury sedan on the market, though the EPA has yet to give estimates for the redesigned Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

Roomy Cabin
The front seats have stiffer side bolsters, which became apparent alongside the prior ES. Where the prior car's front seats allowed too much sliding, these hold you in — without constraining on long-haul drives. Although it moved to the larger Avalon's platform, the ES' cabin room falls closer to that of the redesigned Camry: Total volume is 100.1 cubic feet, up 5.2 cubic feet from the last ES, which falls in line with a moonroof-equipped Camry. The biggest change comes in the backseat, which gains 4.1 inches of legroom and 0.7-inch headroom. It's roomy back there, with decent knee room and no center floor hump. Manual sunshades in the doors and a power rear shade are optional, but the rear shade requires hollering to the driver, as the deployment controls are up front only. Heated rear seats and a rear climate zone — both available in the Avalon — are unavailable.

Trunk volume in the ES 350 is 15.2 cubic feet, up 0.5 cubic feet versus the last ES. That's between the improved BMW 3 Series' 17 cubic feet and the Acura TL's surprisingly small 13.1 cubic feet. Typical of a hybrid, the ES 300h places its battery behind the rear seats, which lowers trunk volume to 12.1 cubic feet. Like the prior generation, the ES 350 gets a center pass-through but no folding backseat; the ES 300h has no opening at all. A power-closing trunk is optional.

Stop With the Gimmicks
Luxury touches include piano-black or genuine wood trim, with real bamboo in the ES 300h, and optional ambient lighting below the door and dashboard inlays. Lexus' NuLuxe faux-leather upholstery, offered in cars like the CT 200h, is standard. Last year's ES had standard leather. The NuLuxe feels synthetic, but it's softer than the often-stiff leatherette, aka vinyl, competitors serve up.

Heated and ventilated seats are optional, but the ventilation borders on useless. That's ironic since the Avalon has cooled seats that turned your chaps to ice. Similarly, the optional heated wood-and-leather steering wheel heats just the portions at 3 and 9 o'clock. Touch anywhere else and the wheel stays cold. I'm calling foul: If Chrysler can heat the wood portion of the 300's wheel, Lexus should, too.

The gimmicks continue with an optional panoramic moonroof. It's more like two small roofs separated by a massive divider, with clunky manual sunshades that short drivers won't like yanking. Others — the Hyundai Azera and Cadillac CTS — have near-continuous panoramic panels that let more light, with power sunshades to boot.

The cabin trades last year's chrome inlays for silver plastic, and the faux-leather dashboard trim is little more than a stitched veneer, which Lexus calls a stitched slush mold. Other entry-luxury cars, including Lexus' own CT 200h, have more-convincing dashboard stitching, and Chrysler's sedan can come wrapped in genuine leather. Similar stitching to the ES adds a classy vibe to the plebeian Camry, but in the pricier Lexus, it rings cheap.

The standard stereo includes USB/iPod compatibility, a six-CD changer — this is the brand that kept a tape deck long into the iTunes era — and Bluetooth phone operation. Options include a 7-inch display that works through a center-console knob or an 8-inch navigation system that works through Lexus' second-generation Remote Touch Interface. Both systems add HD radio and Bluetooth audio streaming, which ought to be standard — and the six-CD changer dumped.

Remote Touch plays out like a computer mouse, with haptic feedback to fast-track your pointer to the on-screen options, which include a suite of smartphone-tethered applications such as Yelp, Pandora and Facebook Places via Lexus' Enform system. While the ES lacks the stunning expanse of the GS' 12.3-inch system, it's intuitive enough to work when the car is stopped. Still, I find well-sorted knob systems — like Mercedes' Comand — easier to manage on the road. Mark Levinson audio is optional in navigation-equipped cars.

Safety & Features
The ES has not been crash-tested, but Toyota engineers said they expect Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a harder-to-get five stars out of five overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Standard features include head-protecting side airbags and brake-pedal override, plus the required antilock brakes and electronic stability system. New safety options include a blind spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic high-beam headlights. Lane departure warning — but not mitigation — is also optional. Per forthcoming federal requirements, the ES 300h has an audible warning to alert nearby pedestrians when the car is in EV mode below 12 mph.

Standard features on the ES 350 include keyless access with push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof, power front seats, a USB/iPod-comparable CD stereo, Bluetooth phone operation and faux leather upholstery. Real leather, heated and ventilated seats, front and rear parking sensors, a navigation system and a panoramic moonroof are among the options.

Lexus ES in the Market
As of this writing, Toyota's luxury division has yet to price the ES, which hits dealerships later this year. But the prior-generation sedan ranged from the mid-$30,000s to the mid-$40,000s as options ballooned. No competing luxury sedan has the ES beat across the board, but others chip away at its various weaknesses.

The ES is no tarted-up Toyota; the quality gains versus a loaded Camry are apparent, and its strengths are clear. This is the sharpest-looking ES in at least three generations, and the hybrid's 39-mpg EPA combined rating should all but guarantee more interest. But too many surprise-and-delight features fall flat. Lexus needs to take a page from Audi: Ax the ventilated seats and faux-leather dashboards and invest in consistent quality instead.

Send Kelsey an email  



2013 ES 350 Video

Lexus redesigned its midsize luxury sedan for 2013, bringing more attractive styling inside & out. A new hybrid model joins the lineup this year. Cars.com reviewer Kelsey Mays takes a look at the ES 350, which he says is not just a gussied-up Toyota.

Latest 2013 ES 350 Stories

What Drivers Are Saying

Exterior Styling
(4.6)
Performance
(4.7)
Interior Design
(4.5)
Comfort
(4.8)
Reliability
(4.8)
Value For The Money
(4.4)

Latest Reviews

(5.0)

Very high quality car

by Noledude from Bayonet Point FL on June 23, 2018

I bought this car three weeks ago as a Lexus CPO.....I am very pleased with it so far. It drives and looks like brand new and has an abundance of safety and convenience features. Read full review

(5.0)

Great Car - Best Car I have ever owned

by GT from Dallas, TX on June 16, 2018

This is an excellent vehicle, the design, comfort and performance are excellent. I have owned it for 2 years with no issues. I highly recommend the Lexus GS 350. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2013 Lexus ES 350 currently has 1 recall

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2013 Lexus ES 350 Base

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Front

Overall evaluation
poor

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    72 months / 70,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    48 months / unlimited distance

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Lexus

Program Benefits

Every L/Certified vehicle now comes with an unlimited-mileage warranty up to 6 years, complimentary maintenance plan. Each L/Certified Pre-Owned Lexus must pass a rigorous inspection and be thoroughly reconditioned to meet the same high standards as a new Lexus. Exclusively at a Lexus dealership.

  • Limited Warranty

    Unlimited Mileage Warranty Up To 6 Years

    Warranty is valid for a minimum of two years/unlimited mileage after the expiration of 4 yr/50,000 mile new vehicle Basic Warranty, or two years from L/Certified purchase or lease date, whichever occurs later.
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 70,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 161 point inspection and reconditioning.

    See inspection details.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The ES 350 received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker