By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Newberg, Oregon — In previous generations the Lexus ES has mostly been a gussied up version of the Toyota Camry.? That?s certainly not a bad thing, because the Camry is an excellent car and great base to build from. ?If there was any problem, it was that the two models were very close with the top level Camry XLE being nearly as luxurious as the Lexus ES.
The?2013 Lexus ES takes on more of the Lexus family signature design and at first glance can even be confused with the larger new Lexus GS.? However, it?s now much easier to distinguish the Camry from the ES.?? After more than 20 years on the market, the sixth generation is now available in two distinctive models, the ES 350 and the all-new ES 300h hybrid version.
Inside, both models use the same luxurious design elements and craftsmanship including nice touches like the hand stitched dash covering.? The interior is accented with wood and brushed aluminum accents and a wood and leather steering wheel (optional) complete with multiple redundant controls.? The spacious interior of the new ES includes an additional four inches of rear legroom and 2.8 inches of knee room.
Controls and displays are large and well placed for driver convenience, and we love the Remote Touch Interface (RTI) that is used to control the climate, audio, phone and optional navigation system.?? We think it is the best control system in the business, because it works just like your computer mouse.
The front-wheel drive ES 350 is powered by a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. ?It is mated with a six-speed electronically controlled transmission and the pair makes a 0 to 60 mph run in 7.1-seconds with fuel economy of 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
The ES 300h gets its power from the Lexus Hybrid Drive system, which uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine and electric motor.? Combined the pair produces 200 horsepower. ?The ES?300h is expected to earn EPA fuel economy ratings of approximately 40 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 39 mpg combined.? The system uses a sophisticated power management system, high (12 .5:1) compression ratio and the gas engine has no drive belts.? Rather the ES 300h is equipped with an electric water pump, electric power steering and an integrated hybrid electric motor/generator. ? The hybrid uses a high efficiency electronically controlled CVT (continuously variable transmission).
The electric motor drives the ES 300h at low speeds while the battery is charged and when the vehicle is in the EV mode at low speeds.? The instrument panel adjusts automatically to the drive mode ?when the car is in the Sport mode the IP shows a tachometer, when it?s in the electric mode it shows the hybrid power monitor.? Like most hybrids, the ES 300h battery charges from regenerative braking.
Both ES model have a stiffer body structure than the previous generation and ride on a four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts front and rear.? They both also have four-wheel disc brakes and all the electronic safety assists like anti-lock, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution and vehicle stability control.
New for the 2013 Lexus ES?are a variety of available safety features and drive aids, including blind spot monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert to detect vehicles passing behind the car when the car is backing out of parking spot — unfortunately, the system doesn?t work for people or animals.? It also has an available a Pre-Collision System (PCS), which uses input from a radar system to detect certain obstructions ahead, and prepares the vehicle for potential collisions.?? It also has a class-leading 10 airbags as standard equipment.
Available in dealerships in August, the new ES 350 has a base price of $36,995, including the destination charge.? That?s a decrease of 1.7 percent from the previous
generation.? The 2013 Lexus ES 300h luxury hybrid pricing is only $2,750 more than the gas version with pricing at $39,745.
Both new entry-level luxury sedans offer a high level of luxury features, safety equipment and value in a good-looking body design.