2013 Lexus ES 300h
2013 Lexus ES 300h. Click image to enlarge

First Drive: 2013 Lexus ES

Manufacturer’s web site
Lexus Canada

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

Photo Gallery:
2013 Lexus ES

The 2013 Lexus ES 300h is a new hybrid model, bringing the number of hybrids offered by Lexus to five. Previously based on the Camry, the ES now shares a platform with the soon to be launched 2013 Toyota Avalon. The ES is also available as a non-hybrid, the V6-powered ES 350.

The Avalon platform gives the ES a 45 mm (1.7 in.) longer wheelbase than the Camry platform, which has been put to good use with increased interior space. Most notable is rear-seat legroom, which at 1015 mm (40 in.), is now limousine length. Overall, the ES is 90 mm (3.5 in.) longer than the Camry, most of which will be found in the trunk. Unfortunately, battery placement still prevents a fold down rear seat.

Both the Lexus ES 300h and the soon-to-arrive 2013 Avalon Hybrid share the same 2.5-litre 4-cylinder gasoline/electric hybrid drivetrain found in the 2012 Toyota Camry. This new engine uses the Atkinson cycle—delayed intake-valve closing for an expansion ratio greater than compression ratio – to achieve maximum efficiency and total system horsepower of about 200. It is an advanced powertrain with some unique attributes: a very high 12.5:1 compression ratio and a beltless design. All the accessories, including the water pump and power steering, are electric.

2013 Lexus ES 300h
2013 Lexus ES 300h. Click image to enlarge

The ES 300h features a Drive Mode selector, which allows the driver to change the demeanour of the vehicle. Normal mode provides a blend of performance and efficiency that is suited to everyday driving, while Eco mode affects power output and throttle response. Sport mode does the opposite, increasing throttle and steering response. An EV mode allows short distance electric-only drives.

Externally, the ES now sports the new corporate “spindle” grille treatment with L-shaped LED bottom eyelashes, while the ES 300h is differentiated from the ES 350 by its hidden exhaust and integrated rear spoiler. The styling is still elegance without opulence, but with that fat grille it’s become a little less conservative.

The ES looks long and low because it really is long and low. The previous generation suffered from a low ceiling, and this one does too, despite being 18 mm higher than before. The new ES is still 20 mm (.8 in.) lower than the Camry.

2013 Lexus ES 300h
2013 Lexus ES 300h
2013 Lexus ES 300h; bottom photo by Mike Schlee. Click image to enlarge

And I still felt cramped despite front-seat legroom that is beyond enormous. An NBA all-star could stretch out behind the wheel of this sedan. But he might not be able to sit up. Weird.

The 2013 Lexus ES 300h starts at $43,900 and includes many of the features expected in an entry level luxury sedan: power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, dual zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker Lexus Premium audio system with 7.0-inch display screen, power windows with auto up and down for all windows, backup camera, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, power moonroof and smart key with push-button start. Seat coverings are Nuluxe, an environmentally friendly faux leather, and come with 10-way power adjustability and heat up front.

Real leather is optional and combined with extras that add $6,550 to the base price: a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system with an 8.0-inch display, navigation system and armrest-mounted remote touch controller, rear window power sun shade and pull-down shades on the rear side windows, auto-leveling HID headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats and heated wood steering wheel.

For an additional $4,100 the ES can be taken up a technological notch with dynamic radar cruise control, clearance and backup sensors, power rear trunk lid, automatic high beams, advanced pre-collision system, blind spot monitor, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure alert.

The ES’s seats felt firmer than I remembered when we drove a 2011 model to New York City but they are still very comfortable and supportive, especially on the long haul. Combine this with a cabin that is as quiet as a church and a sound system that can make you feel like you are sitting on top of the organ pipes and the ES is a stellar long distance driver.

Unless set to display the hybrid system activity on the ES’ 8.0-inch monitor, you will be completely unaware of the transition from engine on to engine off, except for a small green EV icon that lights up in the gauge cluster.

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