Lexus has finally realized that plain cars, no matter how reliable and how excellent their resale value, just won’t cut it anymore, given how fierce the competition has become. As a result, they designed their new models with a much more dynamic style and made them more exciting to drive. The GS launched last spring was the first car inspired by this new philosophy. And now comes an updated ES sedan and a Sport version of the RX.
ES: More pep and hybrid to boot!
For years, the ES sedan was nothing more than a luxury version of the Toyota Camry. But times have changed for 2013. This new ride rests on a different platform, borrowed from the future Avalon, which explains why it’s 25 mm longer, 23 mm higher and 15 mm narrower, while its wheelbase is 45 mm longer than last year’s version.
The suspension has also been modified. The use of opposite-wound coil springs on the front suspension helps improve straight-line stability. What’s more, the rear suspension geometry has been revised and the shock absorbers are firmer. The steering is more direct and the body has been made more rigid. Despite all that, the new ES is nearly 35 kilos lighter.
In addition to these changes, the ES family now includes a hybrid. The 300h has a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine that produces 200 horsepower (counting the power of the electric motor). It’s paired with a continuously variable transmission. The hybrid ES 300h offers four driving modes: Normal, Sport, Eco and EV. In EV mode, you can go short distances at reduced speed using the hybrid battery only. Normal mode gives you a combination of performance and efficiency for your everyday driving needs, while Eco mode favours fuel economy. Lastly, Sport mode turns the powertrain responsiveness up a notch.
The ES 350 is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 engine that develops 268 horsepower and is paired with an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission. On this version, the driver has a choice of three modes: Sport, Eco and Normal. But it’s not just the mechanics that are different; the silhouette has been significantly changed as well.
A unique front grille
For years and years, all Lexus cars had a somewhat elegant shape but were woefully plain, and the ES was no exception. However, the stylists got it right this time with a new hourglass front grille that makes the car a lot more dynamic.
This spindle grille, LED daytime-running lights and combination rear lamps add punch to the overall presentation. The rear bumper features dual exhaust tips while the hybrid ES 300h’s distinctive rear design includes a hidden exhaust and an integrated spoiler.
The brand-new dashboard is both modern and ergonomic. Of course, as it’s a Lexus product, the finish and materials are of the highest quality. Moreover, the safety equipment was modernized and now includes a blind-spot monitor equipped with a rear cross traffic alert system (RCTA) on option. This device warns the driver of any vehicles behind it when backing out of a parking spot. There’s also a Lane Departure Alert (LDA) and the Pre-Collision System that detects obstacles and prepares the vehicle for a potential collision.
All these improvements make the new Lexus ES a much more pleasant car to drive and a lot less boring on long rides. The steering is more responsive while the suspension offers better handling. But the most interesting aspect is that the driver is less disconnected from the road. On the other hand, performance isn’t as good in the hybrid – but then again, it makes up for its shortcomings with better fuel economy. In fact, Lexus claims that the average fuel consumption is 4.8 L/100 km for the 300h and 8.3 L/100 km for the 350. What’s more, the 350 not only delivers better performance, but it’s more fun to drive.
A RX350 F Sport
Among Lexus’ other new features for 2013 is the exclusively stylish RX350 F Sport. The arched fascia is equipped with special F SPORT grillwork and a new bumper. The upper edge of the grille is lower than that of the LED headlamps, and the taillights are L-shaped. Fog lights are integrated in the bottom of the sculpted front bumper, and F SPORT logos add to this presentation.
In the passenger compartment, the seats are swathed in black leather with white perforations. Contrasting white stitching decorates the seats, central console and door armrests. The trim is in ebony-coloured bird’s eye maple. Finally, the lining of the ceiling is black, the steering wheel is covered in perforated leather with the F logo and the pedals are aluminum.
The RX 350 F SPORT is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 engine paired with an eight-speed transmission and delivers 270 horses of power at 6,200 rpm. The eight-speed automatic transmission with wheel-mounted selector will help you shift quickly. There’s electronic active torque control all-wheel drive and shock absorbers and springs to modify handling and increase the fun factor.
These innovations respect Lexus’ new philosophy and will help the brand’s vehicles better satisfy drivers looking for a better driving experience.
|Test model||2013 Lexus ES|
|Price range||$42,150 - $55,000|
|Price as tested||$55,000|
|Warranty (basic)||4 years / 80,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||6 years / 110,000 km|
|Competitive models||Acura TL, Cadillac CTS, Lincoln MKZ, Mercedes-Benz Classe C, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Camry|
|Fuel consumption||Hard to do better|
|Value for price||Reliability, frugality, comfort|
|Styling||It stands out more|
|Comfort||A mini limousine|
|Overall||Noticeable progress in terms of style and ride|