NEW YORK – Lexus unveils the next generation of its best-selling ES car nameplate at the New York auto show here.
Joining the ES 350 variant is a new ES 300h gas-electric hybrid model. Both go on sale in the U.S. in August.
The new ES 300h has a 2.5L 4-cyl. Atkinson-cycle gas engine. Most details of the hybrid, including total system horsepower and battery-pack capacity and type, are not divulged.
However, Lexus says to expect city/highway fuel economy of 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km), making the ES hybrid almost as efficient as the CT 200h hybrid hatchback, which achieves 42 mpg (5.6 L/100 km) combined.
Lexus says the hybrid’s twin-cam 2.5L engine with intelligent variable valve timing has a compression ratio of 12.5:1, is beltless and has a “near zero” evaporative fuel system that reduces emissions. Drivers of the ES 300h can choose among EV, Eco, Sport and Normal modes.
The ES 350 sedan returns with a 3.5L V-6 engine with dual VVT-i and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Lexus does not disclose specifications but says low-friction materials improve the mill’s efficiency.
Like the new GS, the ES wears Lexus’ new spindle-style grille and its wheels are pushed out to the corners for what the-owned luxury brand calls “distinctive proportions.” The wheelbase grows 1.8 ins. (4.6 cm) and overall length is 1 in. (2.5 cm) more than the outgoing model.
The car has daytime light-emitting-diode running lights and, on ES 350 models, dual exhaust pipes. ES 300h models get a hidden exhaust and integrated spoiler.
Lexus says both the rear-suspension geometry and shock-absorber damping are improved for ride comfort. The auto maker says the car’s straight-line stability is enhanced with opposite-wound coil springs on the front suspension.
The sedan’s steering-gear ratio is reduced for a more direct feel, while body rigidity is upped thanks to use of more high-strength steel, plus additional bracing and spot welds. Lexus says the ES 350 loses almost 90 lbs. (41 kg) from ’12 to ’13.
The ’13 model’s interior boasts improved sightlines and visibility, “logically placed” controls and high-level cabin materials. Imitation “NuLuxe” leather is available, as are real leather and semi-aniline leather, plus a choice of trims dubbed piano black, espresso bird’s-eye maple and bamboo.
The driver’s seat is re-sculpted for greater comfort, while a new steering angle of 22 degrees vs. 24 degrees in the ’12 ES is a more natural control position, Lexus says. Knee, leg and foot room have been increased.
For a quieter cabin, Lexus uses fluid-filled engine mounts and a tuned engine intake.
The new ES also receives the second generation of Lexus’ Remote-Touch Interface, with a center-console-mounted controller that accesses climate, audio, phone and navigation selectors.
Standard safety features include 10 airbags and Lexus’ Safety Connect system, provided at no cost during the first year of ownership.
A blind-spot monitor with a rear cross-traffic alert system is available. The latter is designed to prevent a driver from backing into an object or person. Lane-departure warning and a pre-collision system also are available in the ’13 ES.
A hard-disk-drive-based navigation system includes voice command and rear backup camera.
Buyers can select from an 8-speaker AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM Satellite Radio system, with Bluetooth and a USB/iPod jack, or a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, which features HD Radio with iTunes tagging and DVD audio and video.
Lexus’ smartphone-based Enform telematics system is free for one year on the ’13 ES and includes Bing, iHeartRadio, OpenTable, Pandora, Yelp and Facebook Places apps.
The Lexus ES saw its best sales year in the U.S. in 2007, when 82,867 units were sold, WardsAuto data shows. Last year’s 40,873 sales were half that amount and 16% less than 2010 volume.