KBB Editors' Overview
By Matt Degen
- Updated Date: 8/9/2012
The 2013 Lexus ES 350 marks the sixth generation for the luxury automaker's mid-size sedan, its number two best-seller behind the RX SUV. The car has been revamped outside and in, and is available for the first time as a hybrid – the ES 300h. The sedan's base engine is a V6 that carries over from the previous generation yet is still potent enough to effortlessly move this 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive car. The new design gives the 2013 Lexus ES a more aggressive exterior, but its ride still heavily favors comfort rather than the sporting nature of a BMW 5 Series, Cadillac CTS or Acura TL. Strong reliability and above-average predicted resale value bolster the ES' good reputation.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you want a mid-size sedan that's quiet, comfortable and filled with amenities, the Lexus ES is among the top in its class. The 2013 ES further benefits from the strong reliability record of its parent, Toyota, and the availability of a high-mileage hybrid model.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Want your luxury sedan to offer some thrills on twisty roads? A better choice would be the BMW 5 Series, Acura TL or Cadillac CTS, which have tighter driving dynamics than the cushy Lexus ES. Those looking for even more value should consider the Buick LaCrosse.
What's New for 2013
For its 6th-generation debut, the 2013 Lexus ES has a slightly larger design with fresh sheet metal, more interior amenities, better fuel economy, and a hybrid model named the ES 300h that uses a 4-cylinder gasoline engine and battery-powered electric motor to achieve up to 40 mpg.
The 2013 Lexus ES 350 drives much like its predecessors, which is to say marshmallow-soft and very quiet. If you seek a car that acts as a cocoon from the outside world, the 2013 ES 350 and 300h hybrid should be on your shopping list. With its 268-horsepower V6, the ES 350 has a 0-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds, which means it can swiftly get up to speed on freeways and has good passing power once there. That, though, is pretty much where its dynamic driving behavior ends. Even when the car is set to "sport" mode via a new rotary dial, the ES feels soft. The hybrid ES 300h has less power, but adequate acceleration, and here the "sport" setting helps much more in getting the car up to speed. Transitions between the hybrid's electric motor and gasoline engine are very smooth, except when in "eco" mode, in which the throttle response feels muted and the powertrain nervous. Both cars are exceptionally comfortable.
The 2013 Lexus ES 300h hybrid essentially replaces the HS 250h, but the ES 300h's powertrain is much more refined. The car is rated at 40 mpg combined, and from our experience that number is realistic.
The Lexus ES has a host of options that can make it an oasis on wheels. Some of our favorites include the heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and Mark Levinson audiophile sound system that pumps out 835 watts through 15 speakers.
No Lexus is Spartan when it comes to interior amenities, and for 2013, the ES has upped the ante. The cabin's design is much improved over the prior model, which was starting to appear dated. The more contemporary design boasts clean lines and soft surfaces. All models now receive a dial above the shift knob that can set the car to "normal," "sport" or "eco" modes, and hybrid models have a button that allows the car to drive a short distance on battery power alone, similar to the Toyota Prius. The seats are comfortable for four adults thanks to a roomier back seat.
One look at the front of the 2013 Lexus ES is all it takes to know this is a new car. It is there that you'll see the spindle grille that is defining new models in the Lexus lineup. On the sides, flared fenders and a high beltline give a slightly aggressive impression. Around back, the snubbed trunk flows smoothly from the C-pillars. The ES 350 has twin tailpipes peeking from beneath the bumper, while the ES 300h hybrid has just one that is hidden below a spoiler running under the bumper. The Lexus ES rides on low-resistance tires and 17-inch alloy wheels, with larger wheels optional.
Notable Standard Equipment
Even a base model of the 2013 Lexus ES comes well equipped with push-button start/stop, dual-zone automatic climate control with air filter and smog sensor, a moonroof, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, HomeLink garage door opener, and an 8-speaker AM/FM/6-CD/satellite radio audio system with USB and iPod inputs. Seats are now trimmed in Lexus' NuLuxe material, with leather optional. On the safety front, the 2013 ES has 10 airbags, a backup monitor, and a service that offers emergency assistance at the touch of a button, and Lexus' Automatic Collision Notification in the event of an accident.
Notable Optional Equipment
The Lexus ES can go from good to grand via a handful of packages or by checking off the boxes on individual options. Among the amenities you can add are a navigation system, heated and ventilated seats, a panorama glass roof, a power rear sunshade, and a Mark Levinson premium sound system. Drive-centric options include lane-departure warning system, radar-based cruise control, parking assist, and blind-spot monitoring.
Under the Hood
Lexus ES 350 models use a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes an ample 268 horsepower and is connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Though this is the same engine and transmission as the prior model, fuel economy has improved through the use of low-friction materials. ES 300h models use a hybrid powertrain consisting of a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and battery-powered electric motor that creates a total of 200 horsepower. The hybrid model uses an automatic, continuously variable transmission (CVT). Both models can run on regular 87-octane gasoline.
Lexus ES 350
268 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/31 mpg
Lexus ES 300h
2.5-liter inline-4 + hybrid electric motor and nickel metal hydride battery module
156 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm (gasoline engine); 200 total horsepower
156 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm (gasoline engine)
EPA fuel city/highway fuel economy: 40/39 mpg
The base manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for a 2013 Lexus ES 350 is $36,995, including destination charge. In a stray from the norm, that price is actually 1.7 percent lower than the outgoing model. The MSRP on a 2013 Lexus 300h Hybrid is $39,745. At these prices, the Lexus ES is comparable to the Acura TL and Cadillac CTS, higher than the Buick LaCrosse, and below the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Infiniti M. Be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price to see what buyers are actually paying for the 2013 Lexus ES in your area. Down the road, resale value of the 2013 Lexus ES is expected to remain strong.