Today we spent some time in the new 2013 Lexus ES-350 sedan. Our drive comes on the heels of a brief test drive last fall at the media launch, and recently the more sporting IS-350 sedans.
Lexus offers three options in the entry-level luxury car arena. Their strategy aims to hit all three buyer types, those looking for ultra-efficiency with the CT-200 Hybrid, those wanting a sport sedan with the IS-250/IS-350, and those who want room and sensibility, the ES-350.
All start well under, $40,000 and each offers its own recipe of Lexus lusciousness. The ES-350 is front-wheel drive and shares its chassis architecture with the Toyota Avalon. In fact soon, it will be built at the same assembly plant here in the United States.
The ES-350 however is much more luxurious than the Avalon, offering more standard amenities, interiors with genuine wood accents, lots of sound deadening, leather seats, and all of the Lexus design touches that the brand has become famous for. It’s comfortable and predictable, but make no mistake not a driver’s car. If you want that, choose the IS-Line.
All new for 2013, the ES-350 comes with a very smooth and creamy 268 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 engine mated to an equally velvety 6-speed automatic transmission. We found it to be quiet and strong, fitting nicely in the luxury theme here. Even at full throttle it remains sewing machine smooth and has a nice tone.
It’s 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway EPA rating makes it appealing to most buyers in this arena. Our time with the ES-350 netted us an average of 27 mpg combined which is commendable for what is a fairly large sedan.
The interior for 2013 got a dramatic new design which takes on the latest Lexus interior themes. A large flat center console features a drive mode selector which allows for ECO, Normal, and Sport settings. A mouse puck controls the optional navigation and interface screen with wonderfully tactile feel and ease.
Our ES-350 was optioned with the Ultra Luxury Package with semi-Aniline leather seating. The standard ES comes with NuLuxe which is a synthetic leather that is actually pretty nice in its own right. We however love the genuine wood trim and smell of natural hides. The seats were heated and ventilated in this package as well.
Also optioned was the Lexus exclusive 835-watt Mark Levinson audio system among other things. Whenever you buy a Lexus, we recommend this pick as the sound quality is phenomenal and really finishes the package for a car like this. When you have a cabin this hushed and lined with luxury, top-drawer sound is a must.
On the road the ride as mentioned is as quiet and isolated from reality as they come. Wind noise is at a minimum as is road noise. The ride is smooth but not floatacious and response from the electric power steering is good overall, but not communicative as you’d expect in a sporting sedan. Given this car’s cruiser mission in life, it will more than satisfy most buyers who choose it.
The base MSRP for the ES-350 is $36,100. Ours had the Ultra Luxury Package at $2,935, the Mark Levinson/Navigation Package at $3,745, 17” alloy wheels at $110, High Intensity Discharge HID headlamps $515, the one-touch power trunk lid at $400, Intuitive Park Assist for $500, rain sensing wipers at $155, heated wood steering wheel and wood shifter at $480, and a cargo net & trunk mat for $169, all bringing the total for our ES-350 to $46,004 including destination.
At this price we found gripe in the doors and a trunk that don’t slam with the solid thunk you’d expect in this price range. Missing also were some features we come to expect like blind-spot warning and radar based cruise control. Yes they are optional, but at an as tested price of $46,004 with several option packages these things just seemed absent.
Granted these are small quibbles in the larger picture. The 2013 Lexus ES-350 is largely a value argument compared to many cars its class. It offers entry-level buyers who don’t need the sporting intended expense of rear-wheel drive a way to get all the bells and whistles, room and economy at a slightly lower price.