2013 Lexus ES Preview

Lexus ES 350

Earlier this month, Lexus invited me to Newberg, Oregon, where I had the chance to try out the all-new sixth generation Lexus ES. The following is an overview of the new model — my personal impressions on the ES 350 & ES 300h will follow this weekend.

The ES sedan has been a staple of the Lexus brand since the very beginning, when the first-generation ES 250 was introduced alongside the flagship LS sedan at the 1989 Detroit Auto Show.

Over the last twenty-three years and five model generations, the ES has stayed its course as a full-size luxury sedan at an entry-level luxury price, making it a unique vehicle that competitors have yet to find an answer for. This latest edition, introduced at the New York Auto Show in April, takes the ES formula and refactors it, with an increase in overall size, a fresh and unexpected level of performance, and a significant upgrade to both the exterior and interior.

Please note that clicking on any image in this overview will display a larger version.

Exterior Design

Lexus ES Concept Sketch

In setting out to design the new ES, Lexus engineers had some very clear objectives:

  1. Increase the appeal of the model to younger buyers, and
  2. Incorporate the new L-Finesse design cues.

The first point is entirely subjective and up for discussion, but the L-Finesse update introduced with the fourth-generation GS is reflected throughout the exterior, starting with the spindle grille:

Lexus ES Spindle Grille

The ES now has a lower profile with an emphasis on aerodynamics, best illustrated with this graphic:

Lexus ES Exterior Aerodynamics

Here we can see the pronounced wheel flares and the straight-line airflow, which Lexus defines as a “flowing silhouette with pulled-in corners”.

The other functional design elements that help to direct air around the ES are fins built into the side mirror, the taillights and the panels underneath the vehicle:

Lexus ES Side Mirrors
Lexus ES Taillights
Lexus ES Under Panel Fins

Here are the ES aerodynamics in action:

But perhaps the most noticeable difference from the previous generation ES is the larger size:

Lexus ES Size Increase

Compared to the previous generation, the overall size has increased by 1.0 inch (25.4mm) and the wheelbase has jumped 1.8 inches (45.7mm) — this additional space has been used to boost the rear seat room.


The ES interior has been designed to use the two-zone template first seen in the third generation RX, with a clear break between the operation zone (highlighted in blue) and the display zone, which takes up the upper portion of the dash:

Lexus ES Interior Design Concept

The front seats have been redesigned and are more driver-focused, with an adjusted steering wheel position and greater height flexibility:

Lexus ES Steering Position

The ES now features the same steering wheel as the GS, a very noticeable upgrade over the current generation:

Lexus ES Steering Wheel

Of course, the biggest change by far is in the rear seats, where every dimension has been increased:

Lexus ES Rear Space

Lastly, here’s a photo of the night ambient lighting :

Lexus ES Ambient Lighting

(Also available in the Ultra Luxury package is a panoramic glass roof.)

Audio & Navigation

Lexus ES Sound System

The ES is offered with three different audio controllers:

  1. The base system has hardware audio controls and a LCD display built into the head unit.
  2. The ES is also offered with the Display Audio controller, which uses a dial to control the audio and climate controls via a 7-inch dash display.
  3. Finally, there is the second-generation Remote Touch controller, which uses a 8-inch display for audio control, climate control, and navigation. This option also includes Enform with built-in Internet app functionality.

There are also two audio system levels:

  1. The base system features eight speakers, Bluetooth audio, USB functionality and HD radio.
  2. The upgraded Mark Levinson audio system has fifteen speakers kicking out 835 watts.

ES 350 Technical Details

Lexus ES 350 Engine

The ES 350 continues to be powered by the 2GR-FE 3.5L V6 engine from the previous generation, which pushes out 268 hp and 248 lb.ft of torque and delivers 21 city/31 highway/24 combined mpg. Also carried over is the six-speed transmission.

However, one major improvement is the addition of the Lexus Drive Mode Select, which comes standard in every new ES. Three modes are available:

Lexus ES Drive Mode Select
  • Normal: The baseline between performance and fuel efficiency.
  • ECO: Maximizes fuel savings by smoothing out throttle application and moderating the air conditioning
  • Power: Full throttle control along with adjustments to the steering feel

ES 300h Technical Details

Lexus ES Hybrid Blueprint

The ES 300h is powered by a 2AR-FXE 2.5L 4-cylinder Atkinson Cycle hybrid engine, mated with a E-CVT transaxle that uses two electric motors — one to generate electricity, the other to use electricity. As a result, the ES 300h has a combined 200 hp and 156 lb.ft of torque, and delivers an estimated 40 city/39 highway/39 combined mpg.

The ES 300h is also equipped with the same Drive Mode Select as the standard gas ES 350, but picks up an EV mode option that allows the vehicle to the vehicle go approximately 25 mph for up to a half mile purely on electric power.

One impressive aspect of the ES 300h is the compact design of the battery pack, which sits directly behind the rear seats:

Lexus ES Hybrid Battery Pack

Suspension & Chassis

Using similar techniques seen with the fourth generation GS, the new ES has moved to a more balanced suspension — there is still an emphasis on ride comfort, but handling has been much improved.

One focus was on body rigidity, with high-tensile-strength sheet steel used throughout the body (reducing weight by almost 90 pounds) and a number of braces added to the rear subframe:

Lexus ES High-Tensile-Strength Steel & Rear subframe

Additionally, the ES now has opposite-wound front coil springs, a revised rear suspension, and adjusted shock absorbers — all meant to improve ride comfort and overall stability. The Electric Power Steering (EPS) has also been reconfigured with a quicker ratio to improve responsiveness.

Safety Features

Lexus ES Ten Airbags

Beyond the ten airbags installed in the ES, there are a number of active safety features available, starting with the Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert — two features best demonstrated by video:

Also added to the ES was Lane-Departure Alert:

Two other notable safety features: Intuitive Park Assist, which helps guide the driver into a parking spot using sonar, and automatic high beams.

Color & Wheel Options

The ES will debut the Silver Lining exterior color — the remainder are all existing Lexus colors:

Lexus ES Exterior Colors

The ES will be available in three interior colors — Black, Light Gray & Parchment:

Lexus ES Interior Colors

The ES 350 and ES 300h will both get an exclusive wood trim option, with Birdseye Maple for the ES 350 and Bamboo for the ES hybrid:

Lexus ES Interior Trim Options

The bamboo in the ES 300h is a much darker color than the wood previously seen in the GS hybrid — this is to prevent windshield glare.

The ES will be available with four different wheel designs:

Lexus ES Wheel Options

Standard Equipment

For the ES 350, standard equipment will include Drive Mode Select, LED daytime running lights, a power moonroof, 17-in. alloy wheels, smart key, automatic temperature control, 10-way power driver and passenger front seats, a NuLuxe interior, Bluetooth, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

For the ES 300h, standard equipment is the same as with the ES 350, but also includes EV Mode, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, hidden exhaust, and Bamboo interior trim.


In the USA, the ES will be offered with three packages, all of which will require either the optional Display Audio or Navigation system:

  • Premium Package (ES350/ES300h): Genuine wood trim, wood-trimmed and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, NuLuxe seat trim, driver seat memory, and the power tilt/telescopic steering wheel.
  • Luxury Package (ES 350/ES 300h): Premium Package plus HID headlamps, leather-trimmed interior, climate controlled seats (heated and ventilated), power rear sunshade, and Intuitive Park Assist.
  • Ultra Luxury Package (ES350/ES300h): Luxury Package plus the panoramic glass roof (ES 350 only), rain-sensing wipers with de-icer, heated wood steering wheel, passenger seat memory, driver’s seat cushion extender, ambient lighting, manual rear door shades, and one-touch power trunk.

There are also a number of separate factory options available, including Lexus Display Audio, the navigation package, navigation with Mark Levinson audio, Lexus Pre-Collision System (PCS) with dynamic radar cruise control, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane departure assist with auto high-beams.

This ends my technical overview of the 2013 ES — check back on the weekend for my personal impressions of both the ES 350 & ES 300h as I take to the roads of Newberg, Oregon. Special thanks to Lexus for inviting me to this event.