The Truth About Cars » ES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:18:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » ES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2013 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-lexus-es-300h-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-lexus-es-300h-hybrid-video/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 11:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481436

The ES has been Lexus’ best-selling sedan for 15 years yet the front-driver started life as something of a side-show. In 1989 the ES was a thinly veiled Camry, supposedly rushed to market because Lexus dealers couldn’t envision launching a brand with one vehicle (the LS 400) and were unwilling to wait for the SC and GS. This explanation makes sense to me and explains why the ES was the only FWD car in a brand created to compete with the Germans. Of course, this odd fit within a full-range RWD luxury brand is exactly why the ES sells. Wonder why Acura’s wares never had the sales success of the ES? It’s all about the brand baby.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The first ES was a Camry with an LS 400 aping nose job. Since then the ES and the Camry were developed together on a common platform, but with every passing redesign the marriage has become more rocky with the two sharing less and less with one another. Like any couple “trying a separation,” divorce was inevitable. For 2014 the papers are served and the ES is now shacking up with the Camry’s big sister, the 2014 Toyota Avalon. Oh, the tongues will wag.

The platform swap means the ES has grown an inch in length, an inch in height and the wheelbase has stretched nearly two inches over the 2012 ES, making it two inches longer than the new GS. LS owners shouldn’t fear, as the flagship is still the biggest Japanese luxury vehicle on the market. For 2013 Lexus has ditched the former ES’s suppository side profile for a blunter nose, taller greenhouse, longer hood and shorter trunk. The new proportions make the ES look like one of the family, not an accident that happened later. It also makes the new Lexus spindle grill look particularly good in my mind, not something I was able to say about the GS or some of the other mugs wearing the new grin.

Interior

Snazzy gizmos aren’t worth anything if they aren’t delivered in style, just ask Apple. The redesign brings the ES’s interior game up a few notches in some ways and down in others. The dashboard now features the latest in automotive interiors crazes: the faux-stitch. Like Buick’s LaCrosse, the ES uses a standard injection-molded dashboard that is then run through a sewing machine (by hand, because this is still a Lexus) to put real stitching on fake seams. While I appreciate the extra effort, I must point out that the ES’ sister-ship Avalon uses real pieces of pleather mechanically quilted together on a sewing machine and fewer hard plastics within easy reach of the driver. As a result I found the Alvaon to have a more premium look and feel with the exception of the fake-wood in the Toyota. Yea, I scratched my head too.

The interior’s design mimics the two-level style introduced in the 2011 GS. Basically we have an inset infotainment/navigation LCD in the dash separated from the system controls by satin nickel and wood trim. I’m still unsure if this is a design theme I’m happy with, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. While fit and finish in our ES tester was excellent, we found more hard plastic in this cabin than in the old model and while it didn’t bug me on the preview junket a year ago, it did raise my eyebrows after having the new Avalon for a week. On the flip side, all ES hybrid models get new light bamboo wood which has to be one of the most appealing wood veneers I have seen in a vehicle cabin.

The ES’ front seats contort in 10-ways with an optional extending thigh cushion on the driver’s side. Thanks to supple padding and improved NuLuxe (pleather) upholstery on the base hybrid and regular or semi-aniline leather on up-level trims, your backside won’t notice you racking up highway miles. The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid may have a slightly snazzier interior, but the ES’ front seats are more comfortable. The steering wheel is borrowed from the GS sedan, complete with soft leather. Should you want a more premium tiller, the same bamboo can be applied to two-thirds of the wheel and heating is optional as well.

Rear passengers are treated to the most rear legroom of any Lexus sedan – including the six-digit LS 600hL. If you look at the picture above, the driver’s seat is positioned for a 6-foot tall driver in a somewhat reclined position. The result is more combined (front/rear) legroom than a Lincoln MKS or a short wheelbase 7-Series. Since the ES has a more mature audience in mind, the rear seat bottom cushions are higher off the floor making them more comfortable for adults than a Camry. Sadly, the cushy rear seat have something of a flaw: they don’t fold. I had hoped the old Avalon’s reclining rear seats would have made it to the ES, but they were lost on the cutting room floor for both vehicles. ES 350 shoppers get a ski pass-through to help ease the pain, but hybrid lovers must not be winter-sports folks; that opening is plugged by the battery. Speaking of batteries, the nickel-hydride battery pack exacts a trunk-toll of 3.1 cubic feet, reducing your cargo hold to 12.1 cubes, a heftier price than hybrid GS buyers pay.

Infotainment & Gadgets

For $39,250, base ES 300h models get an 8-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and iPod integration and XM radio. Opting for the $740 “display audio” option, buys a 7-inch LCD coupled with a Lexus-branded surround-sound system and backup cam. You will be hard pressed to find either of these on dealer lots as an inventory search by my local dealer turned up zero ES 300h base models in California and exactly two of nearly 300 ES hybrids on dealer lots. That’s fine by me since I demand more toys on my ride.

Most ES options are sold bundled in packages ranging from the $5,250 “premium” to the $10,650 “ultra luxury.” All packages bump you up to the 8-inch LCD navigation/infotainment system, include an electric power tilt/telescoping tiller, in-dash DVD player, and a steering wheel with wood inlays. In addition to iPod/USB media voice control, smartphone text messaging and app integration, the system has ditched the intuitive touchscreen interface for my least favorite input method: Lexus Remote Touch, aka the Lexus joystick. The joystick is intuitive to use because it’s just like a mouse on your computer. You wiggle the controller and the cursor on the screen wiggles. Simple enough, right? I have two problems with it. First, it occupies a great deal of room on the center console, an area the Avalon uses for more conveniently located latté-holders. Secondly, the basic software driving the system hasn’t changed since the touchscreen days. See the problem? With the old system you could glance at the screen, look back up at the road and let your right hand stab the option, even my 91-year-old grandmother has the hand-eye co-ordination to do that. With Remote Touch you have to spend far more time watching the screen to see if the cursor is on the option you want, a potentially dangerous situation if you like playing with your gadgets while you drive. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion. The Avalon uses a version of the same software but retains the touchscreen interface and oddly enough the ES’ base audio system (one notch above the LCD-free ES) uses a knob-style controller like Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

The ES wouldn’t be a Lexus without a few gadgets and expensive options. Top on my list are the $3,745 (yes, you read that right) Mark Levinson sound system which sounds fantastic (as it should for the price), $500 parking sensors, $400 power opening/closing trunk, and the $1,500 radar-based active cruise control with pre-collision warning. Of course all these gizmos are included with the ultra-luxury package bringing the top-end ES 300h to a cool $50,795.

Drivetrain

The Avalon Hybrid, Camry Hybrid and ES 300h share the same hybrid drivetrain. Driving the system is a new-for-2012 2.5L 2AR-FXE four-cylinder engine. Running on the Atkinson cycle, the four-pot puts out 156 HP and 153 lb-ft of twist. That engine is coupled to a revised Lexus Hybrid Drive transaxle (labelled as Toyota Synergy Drive in Toyota products), in essence a beefier Prius hybrid system. The planetary gearset and two motor/generator combination allow the system to drive electric only for short distances at limited speeds, motivate the vehicle solely on engine power or combine the 156HP with extra juice from the battery pack in the trunk to deliver 200 ponies until the battery has been depleted. Lexus doesn’t specify a combined torque rating for the ES Hybrid, but based on the 7.24 scoot to 60 we clocked, I estimate the combined number is around 200-220 lb-ft. That run to 60 is a hair faster than the MKZ and about 1/2 a second better than the LaCrosse eAssist.

Performance is better than these numbers might indicate thanks to 199 lb-ft from 0-1500RPM courtesy of the hybrid motor. Lexus is sticking to nickel based batteries and not the trendier Lithium batteries found in the Lincoln. Despite this, the ES averaged an impressive 42 MPG over 780 miles of mixed driving. While that may sound worse than the MKZ’s 47/47/47MPG trifecta, nobody seems to be getting more than 39 in the Detroit hybrid. Meanwhile the ES bested it’s 2008 EPA numbers of 40/39/40 (City/Highway/Combined.)

Drive

There is no other front-wheel-drive hybrid with a luxury logo on the grille to compare to the ES 300h. Sure we have the eAssist Buick LaCrosse and the Lincoln MKZ, but aside from the MKZ being a size-class down and the LaCrosse not being a “true” hybrid (its not even sold as such), neither brand has the same cachet as Lexus. Remember what I said at the beginning? The ES’s strongest selling point is its brand. If BMW made a large, soft front driver, you can be sure its sales would exceed the ES. What does that have to do with the way the ES hybrid drives? Everything. You see, the way the ES handles, brakes and accelerates isn’t as important to the stereotypical driver as the way the car looks, the logo on the grille, how quiet it is, how reliable it is and hoe well the dealers treat you. When it comes to these qualities the ES 300h is the prefect driving appliance.

The ES’s cabin is still peaceful at highway speeds but Buick’s dedication to sound deadening is extreme and the LaCrosse is quieter under most circumstances especially in terms of engine noise. Since the three FWD luxury hybrids all use four-cylinder engines, sound deadening is important. Despite growing in this generation, the ES’ ride isn’t as thoroughly damped as the outgoing model, that’s thanks to Lexus’ efforts to make the ES handle less like a marshmallow. The suspension engineer’s efforts paid off with the ES feeling neither too floaty nor too harsh. The 215/55R17s our tester wore had more grip than I had expected and the ES hybrid didn’t head for the bushes when driven hard. When the road started winding the ES never felt sloppy or out-of-place maintaining its Lexus trademark poise over broken pavement and uneven turns. When it comes to absolute horizontal grip the ES comes in behind the competition, mostly due to the wide 245/40R17s worn by the LaCrosse and the 225/50R17s on the MKZ Hybrid.

Still, the overall experience is what the ES is about, it’s about dealership satisfaction, a polished purchasing experience and a long warranty. The competition has caught up here as well with the MKZ Hybrid and LaCrosse aAssist delivering the same bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty terms and Lincoln is now tossing in 4 years and 50,000 miles of scheduled maintenance. The ES 300h’s trump cards remain the same as before: Lexus’s brand image and their reliability reputation. There’s just one further problem: the 2013 Avalon Hybrid. The Avalon Hybrid Limited starts higher than the ES 300h at $41,295 but ends far lower at $44,145 despite having an incredibly similar feature set. Our friends over at TrueDetla.com tell us the price difference ends up at $4,476 for comparably equipped models. Is the Lexus brand, a longer warranty and a snazzy dealership worth the difference?

Hit it

  • Excellent fuel economy.
  • “Short” four-year payback vs the non-hybrid ES.
  • Lexus warranty, reliability reputation and that all-important brand image.

Quit it

  • Lexus Remote Touch is harder to use than the old touchscreen system.
  • Plenty of hard plastics within easy reach.
  • The Avalon hybrid is a better value.

 

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.95 Seconds

0-60: 7.24 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.67 Seconds @ 91.1 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 41.2 MPG over 785 Miles

2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Steering Wheel Wood Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Infotainment, Lexus Enforn, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Remote Touch Controller, Infotainment, Lexus Enform controller, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Bamboo Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Cargo Room, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Drivetrain, 3.0L Hybrid System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Drivetrain, 3.0L Hybrid System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, HID Headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Front Overhang, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment, Remote Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Lexus ES 350 & ES 300h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/pre-production-review-2013-lexus-es-350-es-300h/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/pre-production-review-2013-lexus-es-350-es-300h/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2012 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447618

The Lexus ES has been the best-selling Lexus sedan for decades, outselling every Lexus model except for the RX. While the ES was originally designed as the Japanese luxury brand’s entry-level vehicle in America, it is slowly becoming one of Lexus’ flagship products. To prove to us that Lexus has what it takes to reign supreme in the FWD luxury class they created in 1989, they flew us up to Oregon to sample the all-new, sixth generation ES 350 and 300h hybrid.

Exterior

“Why would you pay more for a fancy Camry?” Every Lexus owner has heard that statement from someone before. For 2013, the new ES rides on a variant of the Toyota Avalon’s skeleton. You won’t find any “Avalon” in the ES’s sheetmetal however. While the ES remains a very sedate sedan, the “spindle grille” seems to suit the ES better than the more expensive GS. Despite sharing nothing with the old ES, the new model is instantly recognizable, and that’s how Lexus owners like it (or so we are told.)

Interior

Aside from the rubbery dash and the wood trim, the old interior had a very “mid-market sedan” feel to it, primarily due to its and aging style. Lexus decided to bring the ES significantly upmarket with an all-new interior themed after the 2013 GS model we sampled earlier in the year. While the style isn’t quite my cup of tea, the fit and finish is perhaps the best in the Lexus lineup, easily rivaling the current generation LS. Regardless of your model or color choice, the dashboard is always black and always sports hand-stitched pleather. Unlike Buick’s molded-then-stitched dash, the ES’s interior is actually crafted by a skilled team of 12 in Japan, on sewing machines. While nobody at Lexus would comment, I couldn’t help drawing a comparison to the Lincoln MKS and Cadillac XTS. Why? Because the ES has grown inside, dishing out a whopping 40 inches of rear legroom (4 more than before, and suspiciously identical to the XTS). The ES’s interior is easily several steps ahead of the domestics when it comes to haptic quality, except for one major faux pas: the key fob. Like the new GS, the ES’s key feels incredibly cheap. Key quibbles aside, the ES delivers all the luxury schtick you could ask for, from heated rear seats and rear window shades to 10 standard airbags and a power trunk lid.

Drivetrain

While the 268HP V6 and 6-speed automatic transaxle are carried over from last year’s ES, Toyota has tweaked the transmission’s shift logic for greater efficiency. We tested the V6 model and it sprinted to 60MPH a hair faster (6.35 seconds) than the 2012 model we tested recently. This is thanks to revised transmission and traction control software that allow the vehicle to apply power with less wheel spin. While these refinements are interesting, the big news for 2013 is the ES hybrid. For the ES 300h, Lexus lifted the hybrid system out of the Camry Hybrid. Delivering 200 total system horsepower and about 200lb-ft of torque (Lexus has not released an official number yet), the system was able to scoot the model we tested to 60 in 7.28 seconds, or 3/10ths of a second slower than the lighter Camry Hybrid. Lexus is promising a luxury-segment besting 40MPG city, 39 city, 40 combined.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Infotainment

Base ES models were unavailable for testing, but we are told they are equipped with an 8-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and iPod integration and XM radio. Opting for the “display audio” buys you a 7-inch LCD coupled with the standard surround-sound system. A bump up to the navigation system gets you an 8-inch screen and opens the door to the 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. The ML system sounds as good as it does in the GS with a very natural balance and an excellent surround system. Sadly, Lexus’s awkward joystick/mouse interface came along for the ride. With Lexus’ market leaning towards older customers, I have a hard time believing my parents would be able to use the system.

Drive

Our brief 120 mile drive around the Oregon countryside, it was obvious there were no major theological shifts at work inside Lexus. The ES is still a softly sprung FWD highway cruiser. The thick rimmed steering wheel and sport button promise sporty driving, but when pushed moderately, the front heavy ES heads for the bushes. You know what? I’m OK with that. If you want something sportier, get a GS F-Sport. Out on the road the hybrid ES 300h gives up a bit more grip thanks to different tire choices and a bit more curb weight, but it countered that with an impressive 42MPG average in our brief test. Thanks to electric power steering, all models are as numb as a remote-controlled car. As the industry continues to chase MPGs, numb steering is getting so normal that the ES is no worse than a number of German vehicles I could mention. Despite what Lexus may tell you, the Sport mode doesn’t help much.

 

Lexus has not finalized pricing as of this time, but we were told to expect the ES 350 to be “substantially similar” in pricing to the 2012 model. In addition to not raising the pricing bar, Lexus claims the ES will have “the lowest hybrid premium in the luxury market.” Since the Lincoln MKZ hybrid is the same price as the gasoline version, make what you will out of that. With a pricing scheme likely to range from $37,500-$48,000, it is worth pointing out that this significantly undercuts the FWD Lincoln MKS and the FWD Cadillac XTS by a fair margin. While the new ES may not set your loins on fire, it does offer a compelling balance of luxury features and will no doubt continue to be Lexus’ best selling sedan. With competition like this, Caddy and Lincoln had better watch their back, Lexus isn’t pulling any punches.

Lexus flew me to Porland and put me up in a swanky hotel for 20 hours so we could attend the regional launch event. The food was great, the weather was terrible.

Specifications as tested

2013 ES 350

0-30 MPH: 2.55 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 6.35 Seconds

2013 ES 300h

0-30 MPH: 3.2 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 7.28 Seconds

 

2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front, spindle grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Cargo, trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Cargo, trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, door panels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Hybrid engine, 2.5L, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Hybrid engine, 2.5L, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 Lexus ES350 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/review-2012-lexus-es350/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/review-2012-lexus-es350/#comments Sat, 17 Mar 2012 21:30:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=435004

2013 will bring a new version of the Lexus ES, and we’ve already seen its new mug from photographers in China. Yet even with the new ES in the wings, Lexus is on track to sell 40,000 “lame duck” models, making it the most popular Lexus car and the second most popular Lexus vehicle after the RX350. As a goodbye to the “Lexus Camry,” we took one for a road trip from Northern California to Southern California – a sort of farewell to an important but sometimes misunderstood luxury car.

Last time we took a look at the ES350 was back in 2006, when Sajeev captained the all-new fifth generation ES350 for a week. Since then, the ES350 has had a mild face-lift with a revised grille, new tail lights and some new wheels. The overall proportions are all still slab-sided and plain, and the ES350 remains true to the Lexus mission statement: elegant and reserved. While the form is unlikely to ignite any serious passion, it is undeniably attractive, even when you figure in the slightly droopy nose (pictured above). Back in 2006 the stylish (but similarly boring) new LaCrosse didn’t exist yet, however in typical GM fashion the 2012 Buick merely matches rather than exceeds the ES350, making the volume Lexus a sound choice on aesthetics. Thankfully there are no “ventiports” to be found on the ES.

Stepping inside the ES350, it’s obvious why the ES sells well. While the styling and color choices may not be to everyone’s liking, Lexus’ attention to detail is class-leading, from perfect seams to perfect color matching on all the buttons and trim parts.  All ES models are equipped with your choice of birds eye maple or the reddish “brown walnut”  trim our tester was fitted with. If you believe true luxury comes with real dead treess inside, then the Lexus easily trumps the Acura and Buick with their plastic substitute. Taking the luxury feel up a notch, Lexus would be happy to sell you semi-aniline leather and a wood/leather steering wheel. We had the opportunity to take the ES350 for a 700-mile round-trip journey to Los Angeles, where it proved a comfortable highway cruiser with supportive seats, although I wished the range of adjustment was greater, as some drivers may not be able to adjust them to their liking. Should you need to haul the kiddos with you, it is possible to squeeze two rear facing child seats and a booster seat in the back. If your rear-seat occupants are adults, you should know that although the ES350 is a fairly wide vehicle, the thicker front seats and rear seat angles compared to its Camry cousin, with less room than the Acura TL, Hyundai Azera, Buick LaCrosse and Lincoln MKZ. The other side of the legroom-coin? Front seats that are thickly padded and comfortable. Expect 2013 to pay homage to the latest trend of faux-stitched dashboards, which is one area where the rubbery dash of the ES350 takes a middle-of-the-pack ranking.

Lexus starts the ES350 off with a standard 8-speaker sound system with in-dash 6 CD changer, XM Radio, and Bluetooth and iPod/USB interfaces. Jumping up to the $2,465 navigation package gets you a backup camera, XM data services (traffic, weather and stock quotes) and the OnStar-like Safety Connect system. The base system is one of the better entry units in this segment providing well-balanced audio and enough bass to satisfy most shoppers. Should you desire more, the $4,065 Mark Levinson sound system is available which combines the same nav system with a 14-speaker 7.1-channel audio system and a 6-disc DVD changer. iPod integration is as good as any entry in this segment save the superior SYNC systems from Ford and Lincoln. Unless Lexus has something new up their sleeve, don’t look to 2013 for major improvements as the latest Lexus models have shown little is changing with infotainment system software except for their new joystick-like controller, which I find difficult to use, and “Entune” smartphone app integration. I doubt the ES customer base cares about Bing searches and Pandora streaming (especially with draconian cellular data throttling in the USA).

People that dislike the ES or the Lexus brand usually resort to one phrase: “It’s just a fancy Toyota.” The ES350 shares essentially no touch-points or sheetmetal with the Camry (unlike the Lincoln MKZ and Ford Fusion), but they do share a drivetrain. The ES350 uses Toyota’s ubiquitous 2GR-FE 3.5L V6 engine, found in everything from the Camry to the Lotus Evora. While the engine isn’t as flashy as its direct injection cousin found in the IS350 and GS350, its 268HP and 248lb-ft of torque are about all you’d want in a front driver, it drinks regular 87 octane gasoline, and the lack of DI makes the engine quieter at idle than the DI engine in the new GS. Sending the power to the ground is the same 6-speed automatic the Camry uses with slightly reprogrammed shift points. The extra weight of the ES350′s considerable sound-deadening effort and luxury trappings as well as a slightly higher coefficient of drag are the reasons why the ES350 takes a 1MPG toll compared to the Camry. The EPA rates it at 19 city, 28 highway and 22 combined. During our 1,321 miles with the ES350 in mixed driving and plenty of high-speed I-5 travel we averaged a respectable 27MPG, only 2.9MPG less than the considerably less powerful LaCrosse eAssist in our tests, and within 1MPG of the direct competition. Before you consider this a win for the ES350, recall that the Buick and TL offer 300HP from their powerplants.

When the going gets twisty, those interested in twisting around the apex rather than getting twisted around a tree off the side of the cliff should probably buy the Acura TL. If floating along the road as if wrapped in a leather cocoon is more your style, the ES350 is the car for you. If you needed proof of the ES350′s mission, it can be found in the narrow and tall 215/55 tires selected for their comfortable ride and low road noise. In comparison, the TL’s standard 245 rubber yields far superior grip, and even the LaCrosse with it’s 235/50R18s could be described as a corner carver in comparison, yet that’s not the ES350′s mission. The light steering, eagerness to return to center, low road noise and soft suspension make the ES350 the car you want to take on a long American road trip, not a hot lap ’round the ‘ring.

Our tester was a Swansong Edition “Touring Edition” ES which for $110 over the base price adds some rich-looking saddle colored leather and some very red-looking maple trim. With the Touring Edition, you also have to select the $2,465 navigation system with backup camera, XM traffic and Lexus’ Enform system. Our car was also equipped with heated and ventilated seats for $640, a full-size spare with matching wheel for $205, the wood/leather steering wheel and shifter for $330 and a trunk mat for $105 bringing our out-the-door total; to $41,445 after an $875 destination fee. Adjusting for features and the lack of real-tree in the LaCrosse, the prices are fairly similar.

As the ES’s sales record has proved, I’m not alone in liking what many unfairly call a gilded Camry. While it’s clear that after almost 5 years of the competition catching up, the ES350 is no longer the clear-cut leader in this segment, it is never the less a firm competitor in its final year of sales. The ES350 may not be as exciting as an Acura, but with a solid brand reputation and dealers known to coddle shoppers, the ES350 will likely continue its success into the next generation.

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Statistics as tested

0-30MPH: 2.8 Seconds

0-60MPH: 6.4 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds @ 96MPH

Average economy: 27MPG over 1,321 miles

2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, headlamp, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, tachometer, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, speedometer, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, speedometer, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, power button, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, driver's side dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, passenger's dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, center console, shifter, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, HVAC and infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, shifter, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, door panel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Engine, 3.5L V6, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Engine, 3.5L V6, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Lexus ES350, Engine, 3.5L V6, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes es350 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Toyota: Unintended Acceleration or Sticky Floor Mats? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/04/toyota-unintended-acceleration-or-sticky-floor-mats/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/04/toyota-unintended-acceleration-or-sticky-floor-mats/#comments Sat, 11 Apr 2009 14:49:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=308461

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A year ago, TTAC published a story about out-of-control Toyota Tacomas. Since then, reports continue to surface of “unintended acceleration” events in Lexus ES and IS and Toyota Camry and Camry Solara vehicles. Toyota insists that all-weather floor mats are causing the problem; the accelerator becomes stuck under the rubber. Autocoverup.com alleges, well, you know. “This is a known problem with over 432 complaints,” the site’s author insists. According to NHTSA’s Defect Investigation’s database, reports of unintended acceleration in Lexus ES models first surfaced around 2004 and continued until late 2008. One report (ODI-NHTSA Complaint Number 10252860) describes the problem:

On November 5, 2008, I was driving on a freeway in my 2008 Lexus ES350 with the cruise control on. I gave the car a little extra gas to pass another car and the car just took off. I tried to disengage the accelerator by trying to turn off the cruise control switch as well as tapping on the brake pedal, but it would not disengage. I tried to turn off the engine by pushing the keyless ignition button, but it would not turn off. I checked the floor to make sure that there wasn’t anything on the accelerator, and there wasn’t. I then put the car in neutral, but when I did this, the engine sounded as if it were going to explode, so I put it back in gear. By this time, I was going well over 100 mph. My only choice was to stand on the brakes. Within seconds, the car was in a cloud of smoke coming from the 4 wheels/brakes. The car began to slow as thankfully the brakes were stronger than the engine which was going at its maximum rpm’s. The car went over a mile before finally coming to a stop. I was then able to put the car in park and stop the engine. After a few moments, when I had calmed down a bit, I started the engine again and it immediately start racing at maximum rpm’s again, so I shut it off . . .

Another report notes that an out of control vehicle traveled eight miles at more than 100 mph before striking two vehicles and becoming disabled. A person in one of the struck vehicles was killed in the collision.

It seems unlikely that a simple piece of rubber could cause so much terror, personal injuries, and, in one case, death. Why has Toyota not recalled the mats that are optional items sold by their dealers? (That’s right. These are OEM mats, not aftermarket items.)

Autocoverup.com hosts a recorded conversation between an affected owner and a technician. The technician experienced the same acceleration problem when picking up the vehicle and driving it to the service center. His later explanation sounds scripted.

Toyota argues that if there was a problem, the computer that manages the vehicle’s speed would detect a difference between the accelerator and throttle positions and cause the engine to reduce power. In their investigations, they claim that no such errors were detected by the computer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is satisfied with Toyota’s explanation, although, worringly, they cite a lack of resources to investigate the matter any further.

Toyota’s solution to the sticky floormat: a few clips to attach it to the carpet and an orange sticker to stick on the back warning of the problem. But what about the cruise controls that refuse to disengage?

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