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Redesigned Lexus ES 350 better than ever

One of the saddest days for my wife as a car owner came when her Lexus sedan got totaled in an accident. She vowed that day to replace the Lexus ES with another one.

With a daughter fully immersed in her college career, financially the time hasn't been right for us to purchase that Lexus replacement. But after watching me test drive the 2013 Lexus ES 350 last week, the goal hasn't changed - my wife wants another one.

And frankly, who can blame her? She isn't alone in her opinions. The ES model is Lexus' top-selling car for a reason.

The front-wheel drive ES makes a great first impression on looks alone and provides a similar feeling once behind the wheel.

For knowledgeable ES folks, an exterior change arrives with the redesign, the first one since 2007. The ES takes on a little different look with sharper features. The styling borrows from Lexus' signature hourglass-shaped grille, which Toyota's luxury division public relations department describes as a "spindle."

The 2013 ES has also added an inch in length and the wheelbase has been increased by nearly 2 inches. The other new facet with the ES 350 is its being paired with the new ES 300h, a gas-electric hybrid.

2013 Lexus ES 350

  • Performance: 3.5-liter, V-6, 268 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 21-31 mpg
  • Price: $36,100
  • Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain 6 years/70,000 miles; corrosion 6 years/unlimited; roadside assistance 4 years/unlimited mileage; maintenance 1 year/10,000 miles

Note that both the ES 350 and the 300h come in one trim model only. You either like them as is or you don't.

There has been no change in the ES 350 engine makeup; it's still a 3.5-liter, V6 that produces 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. It's plenty quick, going 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds, which matches most of its competitors.

Although it has three alternatives, I had it in Eco mode and the ES 350 provided such good performance that I literally forgot to try the other two drive mode options - Sport and Normal.

The hybrid ES 300h is a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder that pairs with an electric motor for a combined 200 horsepower. The 300h is connected to a CVT transmission that some testers felt responded like an automatic.

Previously a luxury version of the Toyota Camry, the ES 350 now utilizes the Toyota Avalon's longer platform.

The ES 350 interior has also been altered. A more simplified cockpit has been replaced by one with more sophistication, and not surprisingly a more difficult learning curve with the controls. It features the Remote Touch electronic interface, which I think is too much of a distraction while driving.

But not everything has changed with the ES interior. It still features leather and soft materials that make for a very appealing combination.

Driving the ES has never been considered sporty, and that hasn't changed despite the redesign. But the new Avalon suspension and some steering changes have improved the way the ES handles overall. The braking remains good and even at high speeds the ES provides a quiet ride.

The redesign was a welcome change for the ES 350, which needed a little more modernization. The improvements keep the ES right where it has always resided as a great selection in the entry-level luxury midsize sedan field.

Weidel on Wheels author Jeffrey Weidel is an award-winning writer from the Sacramento region who has reviewed automobiles for more than two decades. He can be reached at
Follow him on Twitter at @jeffweidel.

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