2013 Lexus ES 350 Review Behind the Wheel ZipRage

The Lexus ES is one of those rare nameplates with real staying power, it was there all the way back in 1989 when the brand launched and it’s now entering its seventh generation 24 years later. The ES has learned a thing or two over the years and the 2013 iteration is no exception with the ES changing up its winning formula in favor of some new styling, more size and most importantly a hybrid offering.

The ES is nearly all-new for 2013 and the most noticeable change is its styling. The ES has adopted a lot of its new look from the Lexus L series including the signature spindle front grille design that has made its way onto the GS, RX and LX. The ES 300h hybrid is very simliar looking to the V6 ES 350, with just a few differences. The 300h’s trunk is adorned with a low profile spoiler and a set of unique 17-inch wheels cover the four corners. Overall the 2013 ES is a very handsome vehicle and much sportier looking.

2013 Lexus ES 350 Review Behind the Wheel ZipRage-3The ES interior is also new, cleaner and more contemporary looking. The awful oval-shaped center stack is gone and a much more modern upscale design is in its place. The new steering wheel is also a great upgrade and the ES can now be optioned with a heated unit. Beyond the steering wheel you will find a gauge cluster that glows blue when you drive efficiently and a gauge that displays how much power you’re using. In sport mode the dash glows red and the left hand gauge morphs into a tachometer. Atop the center stack is a standard 7-inch display (8-inch unit optional), below that is the signature analog clock. Throughout the cabin you will find real bamboo accents which lend a lot of color and brightness to the interior and add to the eco-friendly vibe.

Beneath the handsome skin the ES 300h houses the latest version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology. For the ES, that equates to a 2.5-liter four-cylinder good for 156 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque paired with a small electric motor that bring the total to 200 horsepower. Power is transferred to the wheels via a CVT. The ES’s nickel-metal hydride batteries sit behind the rear seats, taking up a little trunk space, but a generous 12.1 cubic feet of cargo room is still up for grabs. In pure electric mode the ES can travel 1.5 miles at up to 25 mph.

Because the ES is now on a platform more closely related to the Toyota Avalon then the Camry its wheelbase has grown by two inches, overall length is up about an inch. Oddly enough the ES is actually longer than its big brother the GS. Rear-seat passengers get the majority for the stretch benefit as legroom has grown be nearly four-inches.

The 2013 aims to be more of a drivers car with upgrades like a revised suspension and side seat bolsters. While the ES 300h is certainly more competent on the road than its predecessor, don’t let the upgrades trick you into thinking this is a sporty sedan. The ES 300h rides exactly the way it should, comfortably. With 200 horses on tap the 300h isn’t slow, it will pass and merge competently, but it certainly isn’t quick either. A slower car does, however, come with the massive economic benefit of sipping liquid gold. Specifically, the ES 300h is good for 40 mpg combined, I averaged 39 mpg.

In a market filled with countless sport luxury rear-wheel vehicles the ES 300h may just fill a very much needed niche. The ES 300h is the perfect combination of comfort, luxury and most importantly outstanding fuel economy.