First Drive: 2013 Lexus ES350

Ever had one of those weird dreams that made absolutely no sense?  I get those once in a while, but recently, this one was special – it mapped to a recent encounter in real life.  While mentally submerged, I was writing an exam and had to come up with three words that started with the letter ‘s’, due to the three horizontal strokes in the letter ‘E’.  Anyways, the three letters that I wrote down were “soft”, “silk” and “smooth”.

I had a hard time trying to make any sense out of such obscurity.  It was only until I bid my farewells to the press vehicle I so deeply adored and that was when this dream all made sense…  They were describing my impressions of the Lexus ES350!  Surely, if I hadn’t been woken up by my alarm, I’m quite certain I would’ve received an A+ on that exam.

For the all new sixth generation, Lexus has made a complete cosmetic overhaul on the 2013 E350, giving it a more outgoing, and modern look.  In addition to its refreshed styling, the Lexus ES350 still retains all its amenities enjoyed by its predecessors including attractive pricing, generous warranty and customer service.

With such a sweet package deal, it is no surprise that the ES350 earns its entitlement as Lexus’s flagship vehicle, and the sales numbers reflect that.  Just last year, nearly 56, 000 Lexus ES350 vehicles found a new home.

Similar to how Toyota’s proven hybrid power-train design transferred directly over to the Lexus CT200h, the Lexus ES350 shares its platform design with the Toyota Camry.  It may sound demeaning to some, but it is highly apparent that the Lexus ES350 does receive a full white-room treatment though all its manufacturing stages before leaving the factory floor.

However, for the all new 2013 ES350, the Lexus engineering team decided to make a bold move to divorce its long acquainted relationship with the Toyota Camry and instead, lust for its sibling, the Toyota Avalon.  The wheel base of the Lexus ES350 is now extended by a marginal 1.8 inch.  This number sounds silly, but it actually improves the interior space significantly for both front and rear passenger leg and headroom as well.  In addition to the benefits of the larger Avalon platform, front passengers will now enjoy more foot and toe room thanks to its deeper foot well design.

The already refined 3.5 liter V6 engine remains mostly unchanged except for a few minor tweaks.  It produces a 268 hp and 248 foot-pounds of torque.  These numbers won’t wow the guy beside you revving his engine at a stop light, but it is a very generous amount of power for its class.  The final gear ratio has also been optimized for the 2013 model, upgrading its fuel economy to an honorable 21 mpg in the city and 31mpg on the highway.  The Lexus 3.5 liter V6 engine is also offered in a hybrid variant.

You know how experiencing something really good for the first time is always the best, and anything thereafter is just repetition?  We’ve had the pleasure to test-drive the latest and greatest Lexus ES350 for the first time, and it really is something special.  As a matter of fact, driving the ES350 can almost be described as a fairy tale beginning the story with opening the door handle, to driving the vehicle and getting out.

The Lexus equipped remote lock allows you to get in and drive without ever taking your keys out of your pocket.  Smart  touch sensors are conveniently mounted in the backside of all door handles and automatically detect when users with the remote lock is within close proximity.  Simply place your hand over the door handles, and the doors unlock.

The interior cabin space is very inviting.  When seated, you will immediately notice the elegance of all the intricate details bordering the door wells and center console with polished mahogany trim, and bolstered leather.  We couldn’t escape the idea of copying design efforts from Infiniti’s trademark analog clock placed on the center console, but nevertheless; it still adds a nice touch to the overall beauty of the interior cabin space.   Most automotive critics claim Lexus uses the best leather material and to most, this statement does hold true.  The upscale quality of the leather material used throughout the cabin space is noticeable with when compared to other luxury vehicles such as Infiniti, BMW and Audi.  The leather feels very soft to the touch and is slightly rubbery, which prevents you from slipping around.

We also enjoyed Lexus’s exclusive Mark Levinson audio system.  The surround sound system provides excellent sound isolation and provides very clean and crisp sound only unique to the Mark Levinson audio.

Lexus has always been renowned for delivery an ultra smooth driving experience.  the ES350 is no exception.  Adding to the trademark tradition, the ES350 can be selected in three different drive modes; Normal, Eco and Sport mode.  Each mode controls the throttle response to tranquilize acceleration in exchange for better fuel economy, or vice-versa.    The ES350 does handle fairly well, but by no means will it obey your track car instincts.  In addition to the inherent design of front wheel, hard acceleration does inevitably cause torque steer.

We’ve test driven many vehicles in the past, and it is easy to identify specific performance qualities that engrave their ideas in our conscience minds.  For example, Infiniti is notorious for sharp handling and monstrous acceleration while Ford embraces leading edge technology with its auto-park assist and advanced research in fuel consumption savings with its eco-boost engine.  Instead of winning over customers through performance numbers, Lexus took a step back and focused on delivering the most pleasant driving experience possible.  Given a generous serving of acceleration through its 3.5 liter v6 engine, a platter of high-end interior comfort and the eye candy of the refreshed and modern styling of the exterior, the 2013 Lexus ES350 remains faithful to the Luxury sedan segment.