Test Drive: 2013 Lexus ES 300h

2013_Lexus_ES_300h_016_1The Lexus ES is the second in the carmaker’s quartet of sedans, slotted above the IS and below the GS and top-of-the-line LS. The best seller has been redesigned for 2013 and this, its sixth generation, sees the introduction of a hybrid version to the lineup.

The redesign mimics that of the GS, giving the ES Lexus’ new spindle grille design, and it also stretches the ES’s platform, yielding a welcome 4.1 additional inches of rear-seat legroom. The look is sleek and elegant, if conservative.

But the big news here is the introduction of the first-ever ES hybrid, bringing the total number of hybrids in Lexus’ stable to five. Of those, the ES achieves the best fuel economy and is the most inexpensive, save for the CT, which is the only hybrid in the lineup to not have a gasoline-powered equivalent.

The Lexus Hybrid Drive system generates 200 total system horsepower, for a drive that is smooth, responsive and quiet, with three selectable performance settings: eco, normal and sport. I’d go so far as to say the ride is downright soothing.

2013_Lexus_ES_300h_018_1Adding to the comfort is the well-appointed, amenity filled cabin. My tester was trimmed with optional maple wood and leather, which thankfully breaks up the brushed aluminum that Lexus favors on its interiors. And with the Lexus Enform system and its App Suite, you can stay connected in the ES: make dinner reservations through OpenTable, bring your favorite music along on your MP3 player or via Pandora and iHeart Radio, buy tickets to the show on MovieTickets.com and check in on Facebook Places.

All vehicle operations are accessed in the Remote Touch Interface via a mouse-like controller on the center console, which is very intuitive to use, once you’ve made a trip to the owner’s manual or spent some time in the driveway familiarizing yourself with the system.

Three option packages are available on the ES — Premium, Luxury and Ultra Luxury — which, as expected add more niceties like driver memory system, heated and ventilated seats, panoramic sunroof, etc. Opting for to the Premium package requires adding navigation or audio system upgrade.

Overall, the new ES is a winner, and with the hybrid version costing just $2750 more than the traditional gasoline-powered model, identically equipped and similarly powered, it would be tough to argue against it.

Vital stats:
Power and Price:
$36,100 (ES 350; 268-horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6);
$38,850 (ES 300h; 200-horsepower Lexus Hybrid Drive system)
Price as tested: $47,944
Transmission: Six-speed automatic Electronically Controlled Transmission
Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined): 40/39/40 (hybrid); 21/31/24 (non-hybrid)
Safety Ratings: Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety;
Five Stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Lexus is the title sponsor of Arizona Foothills Best of Our Valley Finale Party on April 25. The fourth-annual Best Of Our Valley contest highlights the creme de la creme and names a victor in hundreds of categories. Click here to purchase tickets.

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