The 2013 Lexus ES 350 reminds me a little of Gumby. Instead of the SNL line of “I’m Gumby damn it!” the ES 350 is shouting “I’m a luxury car damn it, look at me!”
Officially, it’s been completely redesigned. It’s no longer based on the Camry chassis but now shares its bone structure with the Avalon, which means it’s a little bigger. But like the Camry and the Avalon, its looks are still rather plain. Of course, that kind of styling has never gotten in the way of success with the ES series. It’s always been a top seller and buyers keep coming back for more.
The biggest change in the looks is up front. The ES 350 has a much more aggressive grill that stretches all the way down. It’s a look that Lexus is using on other models including the LS 460 and the RX 350. I can’t say I was much of a fan of the old passive looking grill, so I think this one definitely has more style. I just wish they would have taken a few more chances with the rest of the car. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a nice looking car. It just isn’t a design that stands out in a crowd.
Inside, it’s appropriately luxurious. Testing the ES 350 was the second opportunity I’d had to try the Remote Touch multimedia controller. While I still have doubts about how great it will be in six years (can I help it if I own cars a long time?), the system is really growing on me. It uses a mouse like controller that allows you to move through various functions on the dash display. While lots of car makers are going for touch screen, the Remote Touch is a better way to go. It sits on the center console right where your hand would rest. There’s no leaning forward to punch the right spot on the display. It takes just a little bit of getting used to the way it operates but after a short time, it’s a breeze. I realized how much I liked it when my next test car (from a different company) had a touch screen with buttons on the dash. It was functional, but not as easy to use as the Remote Touch. You get a brief glimpse of the Remote Touch in this Lexus video.
The ES 350 has a 3.5 liter engine that delivers 268 horsepower. That’s pretty much the perfect amount for this type of car and the people who drive it. My test car had Eco, Normal and Sport settings. I hate to sound like a complete Neanderthal, but I couldn’t really tell much difference. I don’t run slaloms and I don’t check my 0-60 times. I did plenty of sharp accelerating and didn’t notice any lack of horsepower in any of the three modes. Overall, my car managed about 23 miles per gallon which is pretty good for a luxury mobile. Lexus says it should hit 31 mpg on the highway. Lexus also has an ES hybrid model this year as well.
Base price for the 2013 ES 350 starts around $36,000, but it can quickly go up with option packages. I enjoyed the fact that my test car had seats that were both heated and cooled. Living in Arizona that seat cooling thing is really important.
The reality is that the ES 350 delivers on just about every front. It’s a perfect car for someone who wants the right mix of luxury and value. They just need to have a little Gumby in them as well.