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2013 Lexus ES Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Lexus ES was new.


Performance: 6.8

Test drivers write that the redesigned 2013 Lexus ES 350 offers a comfort-tuned ride and a responsive V6 engine, just like the outgoing 2012 model. While those qualities are likely to please many shoppers who want a luxury car, some reviewers wish the ES 350 was a little more agile on twisty roads. Additionally, some reviewers dislike the ES’ steering system, saying it feels vague.

  • "Rolling through mountain roads at a good pace was an effortless and pleasant task, but far from the ES's true forte. Your author and his co-driver found themselves repeatedly finding new ways to finish the sentence, ‘Man, imagine driving this road in a ________,’ which should give you some idea of the level of driver engagement we attained in the ES350." -- Car and Driver 
  • "The ES 350 has always been both appreciated and admonished for the isolated way it goes about its business, and we doubt that will change. However, the new car makes the driver feel a little more in control, and that should always be considered a good thing." -- Edmunds 
  • "An automobile doesn't need lofty performance limits to be entertaining (VW's GTI is no F1 car, but it's a blast to gun across a twisting road), but the ES resolutely shrugs off any attempts at driving enthusiasm." -- Motor Trend 
  • "While this car won't compete in the sport-sedan segment, it was a surprise to feel how composed this once mundane family hauler was on twisty back roads." -- Road and Track 
  • "What we have here are a decent powertrain, wafty suspension and very little in the way of steering feel. Sounds like the old ES, doesn't it? Granted, we didn't think the new car would be light-years better than the model it replaces, but we definitely didn't expect it to feel almost exactly the same." -- Autoblog 

Acceleration and Power

The 2013 Lexus ES has a V6 engine that makes 268 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission, which routes power to the front wheels. According to the EPA, the 2013 ES 350 gets 21/31 mpg city/highway. That estimate is better than most V6-powered rivals in the class, as well as the outgoing 2012 model’s 19/28 mpg rating.

Most reviewers are pleased with the ES 350’s refined V6 engine and smooth-shifting automatic transmission. However, one auto writer comments that rivals like the Audi A4 and BMW 328i offer quicker-shifting transmissions with more gears.

  • "The six-speed automatic is well behaved, though largely unexceptional compared to the fast-acting, telepathic behavior or BMW and Audi's eight-speed automatics." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "The standard V-6 is a seasoned champ, frisky enough to serve in the Lotus Evora sports car. It's potent, smooth, and makes an aggressive yowl under a heavy foot." -- Motor Trend 
  • "Torque steer, the arch-nemesis of fwd cars, is minimal, and the transmission shifts quickly in either automatic or manual modes." -- Road and Track 
  • "Alas, the six-speed automatic transmission still suffers befuddling inconsistencies: Sometimes it kicks down a gear or two for immediate passing power; other times it hunts aimlessly for the right gear." -- Cars.com 
  • "There's ample grunt off the line - you'll hit 60 miles per hour in 7.1 seconds - and the six-speed automatic is quite the smooth operator." -- Autoblog 

Handling and Braking

Like the outgoing 2012 model, the redesigned Lexus ES offers a ride that reviewers say prioritizes comfort over sport. In that regard, most test drivers agree that the ES 350 meets their expectations, though many dislike the ES 350’s steering system, which they say feels artificial or numb. Most also agree that while the ES 350 has a Sport mode to enhance the car’s throttle and steering response, it ultimately makes little difference.

  • "Body roll is reasonably controlled, but the ES still places the emphasis on a comfortable ride." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "There is a Sport mode that further sharpens steering and throttle response, but we can't say it makes an appreciable difference." -- Edmunds
  • "The very first Lexus LS 400, after all, blitzed the luxury-sedan market … by enveloping its occupants in a cloud of comfort and refinement unprecedented for its price class. Not so the new ES. Amazingly, neither version rides particularly well." -- Motor Trend
  • "The electronic power steering is numb while going straight down the road, but offers feedback when the front tires experience some cornering force." -- Road and Track
  • "Ride quality - a trademark of the previous car - remains sound. All ES models share the same suspension tuning." -- Cars.com
  • "The steering either feels non-communicative or downright fake. Take your pick." -- Autoblog

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