Highlights: The ES becomes a family this year, adding a hybrid model. The all-new ES hybrid model shares the same powertrain as the Camry hybrid and the Avalon hybrid. The ES is the only Lexus model that is built on a front-wheel drive platform, which it shares with the current-generation Avalon. Until recently, the ES shared a platform with the Camry.
Test vehicle’s (hybrid) MSRP: $44,735 (base price before options $40,125)
(gasoline) MSRP: $41,370 (base price before options $37,245)
Seating Capacity: 5 occupants
Standard Safety Features: airbags (driver, passenger, knee, side, rear and curtain); vehicle stability control; ABS; electronic brake distribution; tire pressure monitoring system; daytime running lights; a first aid kit; Lexus’ signature Smart Stop technology and Lexus’ signature Safety Connect System
Standard Equipment: 17-inch wheels; LED headlights; 10-way power front seats; leather-like seating surfaces; a memory driver’s seat; push-button keyless starter; keyless entry; heated exterior mirrors; a power moonroof; driving mode options (economy, normal and sport); hybrid badging (hybrid model only); and a lip spoiler
Standard Audio: an 8-speaker AM/FM/6-disc CD player with XM radio
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty: 6 years or 70,000 miles
Hybrid Warranty: 8 years or 100,000 miles
Bluetooth Compatibility: Included
MP3 Capability: Included
a USB audio interface: Included
Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.5-liter/4-cylinder/200-horsepower
Standard Fuel Mileage: 40-city/39-hwy (hybrid model)
21-city/30-hwy (gasoline model)
What’s New: The sixth-generation ES has been redesigned for the 2013 model year. The 2013 ES model offers the brand’s distinctive spindle L-shaped grille, LED lights, a redesigned instrument cluster, an improved ride due to a slightly longer wheelbase and a few high-tech safety features. And, a fuel-efficient hybrid rounds out the line-up for the model year.
Pros: Lexus designers finally pushed the styling envelope with the 2013 ES. It now stands out from being a non-distinct, midsize luxury sedan to a head-turning sporty sedan with Lexus’ new signature spindle grille. Inside the cabin, Lexus has made a number of changes. One that we particularly like is the over-size screen to view the audio system and the nav system, if so equipped. Consumers will also a mouse-like system to operate the climate, audio, phone controls and the nav system, if so equipped.
And although ES buyers have become accustomed to this vehicle being outfitted with an array of luxury features, the brand stepped-up its game this year, adding several much needed high-tech safety features. So, for the first time, the ES is now available with a Blind Sport Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, a Lane Departure Warning System and a Pre-Collision system.
Moreover, for consumers seeking a fuel-efficient luxury sedan, the hybrid fits the bill. Not only should one expect an extremely quiet ride, but a midsize sedan that can achieve 40-mpg.
Furthermore, the ES now offers 18-inch wheels, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, and a HDD Navigation system, which includes a backup camera, an 18-inch screen and the next-generation Lexus Enform system with access to Bingm, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and Yelp.
Lastly, the vehicle is available in three different driving modes: sport, economy and snow. Unlike the previous ES, this one provides a more engaging driving experience, although it’s still a luxury vehicle.
Cons: While the ES styling is finally on point, Toyota’s redesigned Avalon could possibly peel away some new-vehicle sales from the ES. And while the ES pushed the envelope with this year’s styling, inside the ES continues to lack a standard nav system, a radar-controlled cruise control system and a dual panoramic sunroof, which seems to be the new trend in roofs these days. (However, we must note that the vehicle is equipped with a standard size sunroof). Furthermore, we’re wondering why a back-up camera isn’t standard in the ES. The mainstream Honda Civic made this a standard feature in the mid-year changes that were made with the compact. Isn’t it time for Lexus to do the same?
The Verdict: The ES has been a part of the Lexus line up, since the brand was launched in 1989. Within recent years, the ES has been elevated from being an entry-level luxury model to a midsize luxury sedan. The ride quality of the ES has been altered with a slightly firmer suspension system, unlike the previous generations. However, it still provides the ride quality one expects from a Lexus. And due to the current array of available high-tech features coupled with the car’s fresh contemporary styling, the ES is now on par with its competitors. Furthermore, buyers in this segment can now opt for either a gasoline engine or a fuel-efficient hybrid model for the 2013 model. We expect that the ES will continue to be a volume leader for the brand, especially with the addition of the ES hybrid.
Gasoline Competition: Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti G-Series (which will be replaced by the 2014 Q50-Series); Lincoln MKZ; and 2013 Toyota Avalon
Hybrid Competition: Buick LaCrosse with eAssist; Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and Toyota Avalon Hybrid
Reviewer’s Background: Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and the editor of JeffCars.com, an educational car-buying website for women and minorities.