2013 Lexus ES (Dewhurst Photography/Toyota)

First Drive Lexus ES

Entry-level luxury sedan is as smooth as you’d expect

NEWBERG, ORE. — The Globe and Mail

The V-6-powered 2013 Lexus ES 350 (268 horsepower) will do 0-100 km/h in less than 7.5 seconds, which is fast enough for a big, entry-level luxury sedan with about as much cabin room as the original Lexus LS flagship sedan of two decades ago.

And there is a hybrid version of the reinvented 2013 ES, too – the ES 300h with horsepower rated at 200. It has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, Atkinson cycle engine and a hybrid electric system comprised of electric motors, batteries and intelligent electrical controllers. The ES 300h is expected to get the fuel economy of a compact car or something very close to it.

Yes, it’s true that the latest ES started life with the bones of the newest Toyota Camry. But there are differences, including a wheelbase that matches the Toyota Avalon full-size sedan. True, the V-6 engine lacks the best-in-class direct fuel injection almost commonplace in competitive luxury cars and the six-speed automatic is essentially a carryover unit that lacks the ratios of the seven- and eight-speed autoboxes in rival cars.

On the other hand, the new ES is smooth and quiet and comfortable and surely it will be reliable. Shift quality is, well, unnoticeable, and ride quality is as smooth and gentle as you’d expect. In keeping with the latest trend in customizing a car’s dynamic qualities, the ES 350 and ES 300h have a selector that allows you to adjust the drive mode: Normal for everyday driving; Eco for fuel economy; Sport for more powertrain and steering responsiveness. Meanwhile, the ES 300h comes with an EV mode for driving short distances on battery power alone.

The basic ES has all sorts of safety features, including 10 airbags standard and whiplash-preventing front seats. But the really Gucci safety stuff is extra: Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA); Lane Departure Alert (LDA); and Pre-Collision System (PCS), which uses wave radar to spot obstructions ahead and prepare all sorts of systems for a potential collision.

As for the standard gear, something called NuLuxe will cover the seating surfaces and we’re told it helps reduce the environmental impact of upholstery. If you want genuine leather, it’s available.

Naturally, the standard car has lots of powered bits and pieces, from windows to door locks, from climate control to a very good sound system – the Lexus Premium Sound System with eight speakers, a sounds “Levelizer”, Bluetooth and USB/iPod connectivity and SiriusXM satellite radio receiver with a 90-day trial subscription.

Extras include a 15-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson audio system, a heated wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel, manual door window shades, a power rear shade, a one-touch power trunk closer, heated front seats and lovely ambient lighting.

I’d like to tell you how much all of this will cost, but Lexus won’t say until the ’13 ES is much closer to this summer’s launch date. However, the current car lists for $42,150 and we all know there is little room if any for price increases in such a competitive new-car market – even in cars so thoroughly re-done.

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