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2013 Lexus ES350 Review & Test Drive

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‘MORE REFINED AND LUXURIOUS’

Lexus brings their entry-level ES 350 sedan up to higher levels of refinement and luxury, just like the larger GS 350 and LS 460 sedans.  The styling is more refined and sleeker, the longer wheelbase gives the interior more room and it is quieter and more luxurious.   The retuned steering and suspension system delivers a crisper and more confident driving experience.  I tested last year’s ES 350 and you can see and feel the difference.

The introduction of the all-new 2013 ES 350 marks the sixth generation of Lexus’ popular luxury sedan since its initial introduction in 1989.    Featuring the signature Lexus spindle grille, the new progressive design is highlighted by a lower profile, clean styling lines from front to rear.  All four corners are pulled tightly inward to the wheel arches, creating distinctive proportions.  The wheelbase has been lengthened by 1.8 inches, while the overall length of the vehicle has grown by one inch, resulting in shorter overhangs and a more spacious interior.  The new ES bears the new face of Lexus with its distinctive, spindle grille.  The sleek ‘L’ finesse design motif is reflected in the LED daytime running lights, combination rear LED lamps and the six window design.  Foglamps are integrated into the sculpted lower front bumper fascia.  The silhouette shows a low front end, steeply raked A-pillars, aerodynamic power/heated sideview mirrors, six windows surrounded by a full-perimeter chrome strip giving it a longer more luxurious look.  Out back is a rear that is shorter with a slight upturn at the end to add downforce, rear wraparound LED lamp clusters are thinner featuring a thick chrome strip that attaches to both, and a seamless rear bumper featuring a diffuser down below with dual, polished stainless steel exhaust finishers.  The all-new ES 350 rides on standard 17X7 in. cast aluminum wheels wrapped with all-season tires nicely filling the wheel-wells.  My test ES 350 came with 18X7.5 in. cast aluminum liquid graphite wheels wrapped with Michelin 225/45R18 in. MXM4 Primacy low-profile high-performance tires for excellent traction and a smooth, quiet ride.  The new look is easily recognizable as I was once stopped in a parking lot by a gentleman and his family driving an older ES who asked me if this was the all-new model and that he was shortly going to trade his later model for the all-new model.

The ES 350 is powered by a 3.5 liter V6 engine all aluminum, DOHC with Dual VVT-i that delivers 268 hp at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb.ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm.  The six-speed sequential-shift automatic Electronically Controlled Transmission with intelligence provides enhanced driving performance, fuel efficiency and very smooth, seamless shifts.  Low friction materials further improve efficiency and help with the ES 350’s EPA fuel economy estimates of 21 mpg/city and 31 mpg/highway.  Giving you a choice of driving dynamics, the ES 350 features a Drive Mode selector located on the center console.  By turning a large dial to Normal mode provides a blend of performance and efficiency that is suited to everyday driving, while Eco mode favors fuel economy.  Sport mode increases powertrain and steering responsiveness for a more sporty drive.  This new system makes driving the new ES even more fun and exciting.   In Sport Mode the all-new ES 350 blasts out to 60 mph from a standstill in just 7.1 sec.

That is also made possible by the new front and rear suspension geometry featuring front and rear MacPherson struts plus the front setup employs opposite-wound coil springs to help enhance straight-line stability.  Revised rear suspension and improved shock absorber damping characteristics enhance ride comfort and control.  The new electric rack & pinion steering gear ratio has been reduced from 16.1:1 to 14.8:1 to help deliver a more responsive and direct steering feel.  Increased body rigidity is achieved through lightweight, high tensile strength steel, added bracing and more spot welds.  Front and rear stabilizer bars help keep body lean in the curves to a minimum.  Airflow is smoothed beneath the vehicle improving stability and fuel economy and reducing drag.  The drag coefficient is now 0.27.

Quickly and safely slowing the new ES 350 down from speed are larger power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes.  Up front are 11.6 in. vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers while 11 in. solid discs are clamped with single-piston calipers in the rear.  Your maintain control during hard cornering and when driving on wet or slick pavement with standard ABS, EBD, BA, Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control systems all working together for your safety and security.

On the inside, the ES features enhanced sightlines and visibility, logically placed controls, a new cabin materials that express a high level of craftsmanship.  These include, in the optional Premium Package that I tested-Lexus Memory System for the driver’s seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel, power tilt/telescope leather-wrapped and wood steering wheel, leather and dark brown bird’s-eye maple wood interior trim along with piano black trim on the center console, aluminum and chrome trim pieces, plus remote keyless entry-linked memory.  Greater rear seat legroom and knee room are the hallmark of the redesigned, more spacious passenger cabin.  Rear headroom is increased by 0.8 in, knee room is increased by 2.8 in, and legroom is lengthened by 4.1 in.  Additional foot room below the front seats enhances rear passenger comfort.

A newly sculptured 10-way power adjustable seat is standard and an available 12-way power seat allows the seat cushion to extend by 1.4 in. for better leg support.  In addition, the steering wheel angle has been reduced from 24 degrees to 22 degrees for a more natural control position.

The cockpit features separate display and operation zones to help keep your eyes on the road.  The instrument panel, with its long, layered look, places the main information display directly in your line of sight, supplemented by a center-mounted 3.5 in. color TFT multi-information display screen or an optional navigation and multimedia system.  Below the center display is a self-illuminating LED analog clock.  The center console features dual cupholders, a deep storage bin with padded armrest.  The second-generation Remote Touch Interface (RTI) allows you to operate the dual-zone climate, audio, phone controls, optional navigation system and more.  The screen menus are selected with a controller located on the center console.  RTI also reduces eye and hand movement, helping to decrease effort and distraction.  The ES features enhanced NuLuxe seating surfaces, developed to help reduce environmental impact.  Genuine leather is available as is semi-aniline leather that was included in my test ES, for a more refined look and feel.  Interiors are available in black, light gray and parchment.  Trim color and materials include piano black trim, like in my test ES, and espresso Bird’s-eye maple.  The optional HDD navigation system includes voice command, an integrated backup camera, an eight inch screen, and the next generation Lexus Enform system with App Suite.  Lexus Enform system provides seamless connectivity with Bing search, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com OpenTable, Pandora, Yelp and Facebook Places through compatible smart phones.  Apps are updated through over-the-air downloads, so new apps and content can be added as they become available.  The standard Lexus Premium Sound System features eight speakers with automatic sound levelizer, in-dash CD player, USB/iPod connectivity and an integrated Sirius XM satellite radio receiver.  The optional Display Audio package adds seven-inch screen, HD radio with iTunes tagging, Bluetooth, phone transfer, a vehicle information display and rear backup camera.  An optional Mark Levinson audio system features an eight-inch screen, 835-watts, 15-speakers, DVD audio/video and a Sirius XM satellite radio receiver.  Standard safety features include dual front airbags, dual front knee airbags, front/rear side curtain airbags, 3-point safety belts with front/rear outboard pretensioners/load limiters, smart stop technology, energy managing crumple zones, height-adjustable front shoulder belt anchors, side door beams, theft deterrent system, tire pressure monitor, engine immobilizer, Safety Connect Automatic Collision Notification, and LED daytime running lamps.

Standard equipment inside not mentioned above includes push button start/stop, self-dimming rearview mirror, electrochromic/heated outside mirrors, one-touch open/close sunroof, all express one-touch windows, power door locks, grab handles above each door, rear pass thru, rear pull-down armrest/dual cup holders, rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers/washers, dual map lamps, dual lighted vanity mirrors, map pockets behind the front seatbacks, cruise-control, front/rear floor mats and thick cut-pile carpets, contrast stitching on instrument panel, leather/wood wrapped shifter, tool kit, tool kit, air vents at the rear of the center console,  heated front seats, Blind Spot Monitor with Cross Traffic Alert, remote fuel filler door and remote trunk release. The all-new interior is very refreshing, comfortable, ergonomic and high-tech.  It was a pleasure driving the car for my seven day test drive.  It is a true Lexus luxury sport sedan, no longer a dressed-up Toyota Avalon.

COPYRIGHT: 2012: HARVEY SCHWARTZ

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Price: Base ES350 $36,100.00 / As-Tested $42,789.00
  • Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V6 268 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm / 248 lb.ft. of torque @ 4,700 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 111 in.
  • Overall length: 192.7 in.
  • Overall width: 71.7 in.
  • Overall height: 57.1 in.
  • Track: f/r-62.6/62 in.
  • Headroom: f/r-37.7/37.5 in. with glass sunroof
  • Legroom: f/r-41.9/40 in.
  • EPA passenger volume: 100.1 cu.ft.
  • EPA cargo volume: 15.2 cu.ft.
  • Curb weight: 3,549 lbs.
  • Fuel tank: 17.2 gallons
  • Turning radius: 18.7 ft.
  • 0-60 mph: 7.1 seconds
  • EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg/city/31 mpg/highway

 

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