2013 Lexus ES 350

By Tom Crosby

For more than two decades Lexus has enjoyed success with the ES mid-size luxury sedan.

Lexus has made major changes for the sixth time for 2013, improving interior comfort, providing more responsive handling and reducing the price of some options that are needed to enjoy this front-wheel drive, upscale entry-level five-passenger car.

The 1.8-inch increase in the wheelbase boosts rear-seat legroom by 4.1-inches, headroom by one inch and knee room by 2.8-inches, making the back seat as roomy as some full-size sedans.

While the V-6 engine remains the same, curb weight was decreased slightly by 50-plus pounds, and structural rigidity was improved using lightweight, high-tensile strength steel.

Steering ratio was lowered creating a surprisingly good turning radius under 19 feet. The front suspension was tweaked for straight-ahead bias and rear suspension damping improved. Independent MacPherson strut-type suspension is used in front and rear making the ride smooth, whether choosing Normal, Eco (to reduce rpms and climate control) or Sport mode (which provides a little more road feed-back).

Lexus also allows drivers to personalize some functions to meet their driving and comfort preferences and offer several comfort and performance options.

ES models come in the ES350 – gas-powered with an average 24-mpg – and ES300h, a hybrid introduced this year with an average 40 mpg.

Our test drive added more than $6,000 in options to customize the vehicle– some several hundred dollars cheaper than in 2012. The pricier ones were the Luxury and Hard Drive Navigation packages totaling almost $4,000 but adding needed interior leather trim, birds-eye maple wood trim, heated/cooled front seats, voice navigation commands, Sirius XM (one year free) and other features.

Strong standard safety features include 10 air bags, with knee and rear side air bags, and top federal crash test ratings of five stars.

A $500 blind spot monitor and cross traffic alert, which works also with the rear camera view, is a safety add-on worth every penny. Fit and finish is to-notch inside and out.

Gauges are large and easily read. Many functions are controlled with a toggle switch to find categories on the 8.1-inch dashboard screen. It felt jumpy and hard to position correctly, which was distracting when driving.

Nice touches include a full spare tire, first aid kit and puddle lights.

ES 350 is built on the same platform as the Toyota Camry and bears a slight resemblance in the profile (the Lexus spindle grill is the frontal telltale difference) but not in the luxury.

LIKES: Luxury, occupant comfort, power, ride, quiet
DISLIKES: Jittery toggle
BOTTOM LINE: Redo will only increase ES 350’s popularity and sales success


  • Base price w/destination fee $36,995
  • Curb weight 3,549 lbs.
  • Wheelbase 111 inches
  • Length 192.7 inches
  • Width 71.7 inches
  • Engine specs 3.5 liter, DOHC, 24 valves, V-6
  • Horsepower 268 hp at 6,200 rpm
  • Torque 248 lbs.-ft. at 4,700 rpm
  • Transmission 6-speed automatic w/manual shifter
  • EPA Rating 21 city, 31 highway
  • Range 17.5 gallons, regular
  • Performance 0-60 in 7.1 seconds