Read the complete 2013 Lexus ES First Drive Review and watch the Video Review at AutoGuide.comWith added style and size, 2013 ES charts new course as a legitimate luxury sedan
By Colum Wood
With the all-new 2013 ES, Lexus is taking advantage of its unique situation. While its German rivals may have a long list of niche segments that the Toyota luxury division doesn’t compete in, none of them have a car like the ES, and due to European preferences, aren’t likely to any time soon – if ever.
Now moving into its sixth generation, for the first time the ES clearly breaks with tradition and is different from all past cars in several respects. Yes, it’s still a front-drive machine, but it’s larger, trading its Camry-sourced platform for one derived from the full-size Avalon. It’s also, for the first time in its history, available with a hybrid powertrain – another area where the Germans can’t touch.
ES SAVED BY STYLING, CHINESE MARKET DEMANDS
The ES redesign comes at a critical time in the company’s history. Had it happened two years earlier it might still look like a gussied-up Camry with no road presence to speak of. Now, however, it gains the brand’s aggressive new spindle grille plus LED daytime running lights. With just the right amount of exterior chrome, ES350 models get a sporty dual exhaust and hybrid versions a rear decklid spoiler, and thanks to a raised beltline the new car looks remarkably similar to the flagship LS sedan from a profile.
It also feels like the LS from the back seat, with an added four inches of legroom. An obvious nod to the growing Chinese market where extended wheelbase models are the rage, the limo-like space will be appreciated by passengers here at home.
Surprisingly, while the space has grown so much, the car hasn’t. Only two inches have been added between the wheels and in total it’s just one-inch longer overall. The result is less overhang which helps mask the increased size and even help improve the driving dynamics.
Still, it’s bigger than ever and while that can easily translate into a steady and smooth highway cruiser, handling can be easily compromised. And yet it’s not. While far from engaging, the ES leans less than you’d expect and the biggest issue is just getting used to its size.
The steering is light though reasonably precise. One odd trait, however, is that while this new electric system builds boost progressively in the corners it doesn’t like to unwind and is missing that natural return-to-center feel once the road begins to straighten out.