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2013 Lexus ES 350 & ES 300h review

Consumer Reports magazine: January 2013

The Lexus ES has always been comfortable and luxurious but far from sporty. It has been aimed at people who simply want to be pampered while driving from Point A to Point B. And it did that very well, ranking as one of our top-rated upscale sedans. But Lexus has modified that formula with the 2013 redesign. And the overall result is a less satisfying car.

The new ES still provides a comfy, quiet interior, gets good fuel economy, and is likely to be very reliable. But the car’s cosseting, easygoing nature has been dialed back, with a less plush ride, cuts in interior refinement, and more complicated controls. And despite Lexus’ claims of injecting more sportiness into the ES, it’s no more agile or fun to drive.

We tested two versions: the ES 350, with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, and the ES 300h, the model’s first hybrid. Both drivetrains perform well. The V6 is slick and powerful and returns a good 25 mpg overall. The hybrid delivers ample zip, while squeezing out an excellent 36 mpg overall and 44 on the highway.

Although the ES still rides well, it’s no longer luxury-car plush, feeling instead like a generic family sedan. It has adequate room inside, but it’s not particularly spacious for the class. At first glance, the cabin furnishings look really good. But a closer inspection reveals some cheaper materials than in the past and a general impression of cost-cutting. Lexus has also done away with the simple touch-screen controls of the previous ES, instead using more complicated systems that can make it more difficult to perform common functions.

The tested cars were similarly priced— $43,702 for our well-equipped ES 350, $44,017 for a comparatively basic 300h. And both are several thousand dollars more than competitive six-cylinder models such as the Hyundai Genesis, Chrysler 300, and Acura TL.

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