It's no secret that Lexus is a division of Toyota and that many of its vehicles are based on more plebian Toyota products. So it stands to reason that when a new Toyota model bows, its Lexus equivalent will soon follow suit. Such is the case with the new ES 350. Based on the new Toyota Camry introduced last year, the all-new 2013 ES builds on this proven platform with oodles of luxury features and the refinement you'd expect from a Lexus. Now in its sixth generation, the new ES features edgier styling outside and standard NuLuxe synthetic leather inside. The real stuff is also available, as are a number of luxury option packages. Feeling green? Then go for the new Lexus ES 300h hybrid, for an EPA estimated 40 mpg city/39 mpg highway.
Lexus pulled the veil off its new ES today at the New York International Auto Show. There will be two models offered, the ES 350 and ES 300h. The ES 350 is powered by a gasoline 3.5-liter V6 engine with Dual VVT-i that produces 268 bhp. It comes mated to Lexus’ electronically controlled transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) that’s been designed to deliver good performance, smoother shifts and improved fuel efficiency through use of low friction materials. The ES 300h is a hybrid version of the sedan that features a new low-friction VVT-i-equipped 2.5-liter inline-4 Atkinson-cycle engine that utilizes a sophisticated power management system and has a 12.5:1 compression ratio. This engine, combined with a beltless electric motor, is designed to improve fuel economy and durability, and a near zero evaporative fuel system helps reduce emissions. Power will be 200 hp combined. The ES 300h hybrid offers four driving modes: Normal, Sport, Eco and EV, the last allowing short drives at reduced speed, using only the power from the hybrid battery pack. Normal mode provides a blend of performance and efficiency that is suited to everyday driving, while Eco mode favors fuel economy. Sport mode increases performance and responsiveness. Lexus says the ES 300h will get 39/40 mpg city/highway.
The new ES ought to handle better than its predecessor, thanks to suspension and steering changes and a stiffer body. Opposite-wound coil springs on the front suspension enhance straight-line stability, while revised rear suspension geometry and improved shock absorber damping characteristics enhance ride comfort. A reduction in the steering gear ratio delivers better steering feel. Increased body rigidity is achieved through lightweight, high tensile strength steel, added bracing and additional spot welds. Despite the car’s larger size, the weight of the new ES is reduced by almost 90 pounds.
The ES will be equipped with standard 215/55R-17 low rolling resistance tires on 17-inch alloy wheels, and for the first time, available 18-inch high-gloss alloy wheels.
The car’s exterior design adopts the new Lexus signature “spindle” grille, making it look remarkably similar to the new GS sedan, but this isn’t a bad thing. The new ES features a lower, progressive profile and clean, continuous styling lines from front to rear. The wheelbase of the new ES has been lengthened by 1.8 inches, while the overall length of the vehicle has grown by just one inch, resulting in a more spacious interior. Look for the new ES to reach dealer showrooms in August of this year.
It's no surprise that there is very little change to the Aston Martin DBS models—both coupe and Volante (convertible). With prices pushing toward $300 grand, you really don't expect many alterations year to year. The DBS is lighter and faster than the DB9 series cars, thanks to an extra 40 bhp from the 5.9- liter V-12 found in both models, and the use of some carbon-fiber body panels. Inside and out, the DBS is a beautiful car in both convertible and coupe versions. Interior materials and attention to detail are excellent and the driving performance is exhilarating. For 2012, changes are few: Garmin satellite navigation, beam blade wipers and a range of colored brake calipers, and that's it.
Mazda has enjoyed a winner with the CX-9 midsize crossover SUV that offers slick styling, a comfortable ride and accommodations, and ample performance. Seven people can travel comfortably on moderately long trips, and there is good luggage space at the rear. Power is provided by a 4-cam 3.7-liter V-6 that pumps out 273 bhp and 270 lb.-ft. of torque. The 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth, and front-wheel drive is standard while all-wheel drive is an option. With three trim levels and a long list of optional equipment, Mazda's CX-9 is a great substitute for a minivan. Although little has changed with this 7-seater for 2013, that's just fine by us.
The BMW 5-series puts an emphasis on the driving experience. Now in its sixth generation, this mid-size luxury car remains a true sports sedan by delivering aggressive styling, precise handling and outstanding safety.
The rear-wheel drive ActiveHybrid 5 drivetrain features a 300-hp 3.0-liter, turbo, inline-six engine and eight-speed automatic with a 54-hp electric motor sandwiched between them. The electric motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery that together with the gas engine generate a combined output of 335-hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. The full-hybrid system allows pure electric driving as well as automatic engine shut-off to conserve fuel in traffic. Standard features include leather upholstery, navigation system with 10.3"" display and voice control, four-zone automatic climate control with active micro-filtration, a 12-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system, Bluetooth, 18-inch alloy wheels, and iDrive control system with integrated owner's manual. Safety is provided by six airbags, active anti-whiplash front head restraints, electronic traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, BMW Assist telematics, and bi-xenon adaptive headlights.
For 2014, there are subtle styling changes inside and out, the standard navigation system has a new touch-pad, and LED headlights are now an option.