2013 Lexus ES350 Review

The cruiser’s cruiser – efficient, easy and eerily quiet 

By Shahzad Sheikh

2013 Lexus ES350

Just a few weeks ago we covered the launch of this car at the new Lexus showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, and now we finally get behind the wheel.

Not that we were waiting with baited breath you understand. Let’s be honest here. Despite spending a morning schmoozing with Lexus execs and designers, climbing in and out of the car and pawing all its cool gizmos and gear, not one person in my earshot uttered the line ‘can’t wait to drive it!’ Not in sincerity at least anyway.

It was the same with me, and if Lexus are being truthful, they would also issue a tacit understanding of this sentiment – tellingly the launch of this car was an entirely static affair, whereas the launch of their previous car here, the Lexus GS, was a full-on all-action dynamic exercise held at Yas Marina GP Circuit.

Unsurprisingly, they were spot on with the GS – read my review here – that all-new car is one that will give its main rival, the BMW 5 series, a real fright, particularly in GS350 F-Sport guise. All I have to say about that GS is ‘go buy it!’

So with the new ES (which is actually a heavily revised and rebodied Toyota Avalon) I was fully expecting to be underwhelmed by the driving experience. Guess what? As usual Lexus didn’t fail to disappoint – if you get my drift, of which there will be none, especially in this company (it’s a front-wheel drive luxury car, after all).

But then that’s the point isn’t it? It even explains why Lexus isn’t afraid to overlap the pricing of this car with the GS, which at the top end is more expensive. And yet the ES is far more spacious, particularly in the back – where the sloping rear roof might impact headroom for the taller-torsoed, but for the vast majority will allow a reclined and comfy outlook on life serenely looking out the rear windows.

And that word, ‘serene’, plays an important part in the modus-operandi of the new ES. It may be a dull undemanding drive, but it serves up a masterclass in smooth, silent and swift. The sound deadening is brilliant, the ability to smooth out not only the road surface but the entire outside world, is astonishingly not unlike big brother LS – which means it’s bloody excellent.

There is also a surprisingly amount of torque from that lusty V6 with enough instantly deployed to get a chirrup from the wheels out of corners that alone alerts pedestrians to your presence, and will see the normally numb steering do a little shimmy in your hands. Needless to say it cruises along at speed with exquisite ease.

Ignore the knob on the rather cheap-looking lower part of the centre console that offers up a Sports mode, and definitely ignore the little button placed prominently below, that allows disabling of traction control services, there is just no point fiddling with anything. This is just not that sort of car, just put it in drive and, well, drive.

And though there is that aforementioned cheapening of trim the lower your eyes settle on the dashboard, the upper part looks stylishly upmarket, and there’s a nice big screen with clear easy controls from the mouse pad, plus the air-con is stupendously efficient and the Bluetooth-ready sound system is sensational.

You may not comprehend the distinction between the GS and ES, but Lexus totally understands and delivers two entire distinct personalities in the same market sector. So if you’re not in the mood for driving and want a big spacious luxury car that transports you and your loved ones in minimal fuss and comfort then this is the car to choose over the GS.

Or is it? As good as this is, it’s time for a confession. It didn’t feel special. Not even in the way that the GS does. In fact not only could I not shake the feeling that I was in just a Toyota (not entirely a bad thing), but really I could have been behind the wheel of a Hyundai or even a Kia.

Especially when you consider that the Hyundai Genesis saloon is cheaper (and rear-drive, and automatically more entertaining) whilst being just as luxury laden and almost as refined, though not quite as roomy. And then there’s the Kia Cadenza, which is considerably cheaper and whilst can’t match the ES for refinement and sophistication, equals it for practicality, kit and space.

So suddenly you’re thinking you could save yourself a load of dosh and go Korean instead of Japanese. But then you could go Gangnam Style rather than go to a Kabuki – if you see what I’m saying.

2013 Lexus ES

Premier AED155,000 ($42k)
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder, 181bhp @ 6000rpm, 174b ft @ 4100rpm
Performance: n/a
Transmission: Six-speed auto, Front-wheel drive
Weight: n/a

Prestige AED180,000 ($49k)
Platinum AED195,000 ($53k)
Titanium AED220,000 ($60k)
Engine: 3.5-litre V6, 272bhp @ 6200rpm, 255lb ft @ 4700rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 7.1s, 210kph
Transmission: Six-speed auto, Front-wheel drive, 9.8L/100km
Weight: 1610kg


9 responses to “2013 Lexus ES350 Review”

  1. Omer says:

    Hi there,
    As an owner of the ES 350 I find your review to be very one dimensional. You make constant references to the GS and sports cars but thats the whole point, this is not a GS nor s Sports car but a market leader in its segment, entry level luxury and this is where you miss the point. The wow factor is in the smoothness of the ride and the revamped interior. Its audience wants a smooth, silky luxury ride and is not looking to take this car to Yas Marina for a sports call thrill.
    I think you need to work on your reviews here, it you are reviewing a entry level luxury sedan compatre with an entry level luxyry sedan else or no credibility here

    • admin says:

      [Shahzad] Actually I believe I reached the same conclusion you have mentioned in the latter half of my review. The point I was making was to clear up confusion some potential buyers may have as to the distinction between the GS and ES as they overlap in terms of size and pricing. My point was not to compare them but to convey the unique personalities and characteristics of each vehicle, which in my 23+ years of writing about cars is, I believe, what people really want to know about a new car. Thanks for your feedback though. And we invite you to send in your own review of your car which we’ll gladly publish. Check out this link for some other owners’ reviews:

      • Omer says:

        Shahzad, let be honest, the only thing any potential reader would think after reading your review would be to stay away from the Lexus ES 350. This is a totally biased review mate, I have read and seen reviews of the 2013 model which are factual, critical and comparative. This is not the case with yours. And seriously are you kidding me, a Hyundai and or a Kia to the Lexus, I have driven both cars and they are nothing compared to the ES.
        The only comparison you have done is to compare the ES with the GS when you should have been comparing it with the BMW 3 series, Chrystler or Audi, ie same segment entry level luxury.

        The point of your review should be to let the reader make his own mind. I have had nothing but positive feedback from BMW, Audi and Mercedez owners about the new GS but after reading this review it makes me suspect your 23 years of writing

        Just being honest

  2. Shar Khan says:

    I think this is an excellent review Shahzad. Its always a joy to read your articles. As far as the critics are concerned, if you make the reader make his own mind then whats the point of motoring journalists and magazines ?
    You cannot compared the New ES to a 3 series simply because they’re are miles apart from one another.
    If theres one thing granny taught me its if your going to critique someone make sure your point of view is damn special.

    • omer says:

      Shar, the mktg manager at AGMC BMW is a friend, I have had the privelige of test driving the entire range, and I agree BMW has amazing cars, but when you say the 3 series is miles apart, I am gonna have to disagree on that, better driver engagement, yes, better handling yes, overall more value for money Lexus wins and its not an opinion reviews and ratings from all over the world. Not sure about the whole granny sit but to each his own

  3. Kamran says:


    Sorry I just read Shahzad drop the line “my 23+ years of experience”.


  4. Shooting star says:

    So this review is for the ES or someone’s granny…I’m confused …

  5. Nauman says:

    Hey Shar, are you Shahzad’s wife?

    I think there is quite a clear distinction between the GS and the ES. Personally i could have written a better article and i only have 23years of waxing my bat.

    Can you do a piece on the differences between the ES and the BMW 3 series?

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