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FEATURES | 8 out of 10
Dexterous drivers will appreciate the next-gen haptic joystick multi-function controller, which trades the former version's spherical orbit for motion in a single plane with a push-to-click mouse action instead of a separate select button.
Essentially, you're using an oversize computer mouse to enter destinations and sift through the audio menus, and it feels cumbersome, particularly if you have a smartphone in your pocket that can perform similar functions so much more quickly.
Edmunds' Inside Line
the interface feels odd at first but it has been dramatically improved over the first-generation system
The Mark Levinson audio system uses powerful advanced magnets (introduced on the exotic LFA) to reduce weight in the speaker system—contributing to fuel-economy efforts without losing sound quality.
The gimmicks continue with an optional panoramic moonroof. It's more like two small roofs separated by a massive divider, with clunky manual sunshades that short drivers won't like yanking.
The Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h are sold in monospec—with a single model offering loads of standard features; yet there's plenty of room to option up to the most advanced high-tech entertainment and active-safety options.
Automatic climate control, an illuminated keyless entry system, SmartAccess features, push-button start, an analog clock, a HomeLink garage-door opener, a 3.5-inch color info display, and an eight-speaker audio system with Bluetooth streaming audio, USB/iPod connectivity, and SiriusXM capability are all included.
Major options for the ES include a hard-drive-based navigation system with voice command, Mark Levinson audio, a built-in backup camera system, and a next-generation Enform with AppSuite system. In this iteration, Enform includes Bing (search), iHeartRadio (streaming audio), MovieTickets.com, OpenTable (restaurant guide), Pandora (streaming audio), Yelp (reviews), and Facebook Places apps—although these apps can be updated via the dedicated data stream, and new ones will be made available later.
There's one down side to this advanced interface, which works otherwise very well: Included with the navigation system is the Remote Touch controller, a trackpad-like, mouse-like system that requires you to follow a pointer on the screen to make selections. Even with the haptic feature (which helps you feel your way through menus) turned on, we find it highly distracting.
Traditional, lavish luxury options are on the table, too. A Premium Package works in bamboo trim, upgraded leather seats, and a power steering wheel; while a Luxury Package adds HID headlamps, Park Assist, and a rear sunshade. With the Ultra Luxury Package, you get ambient lighting, window shades, rain-sensing wipers, a heated wood steering wheel, extendable driver's seat thigh supports, and single-touch trunk release.
The 2013 Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h can be optioned up to an opulent and technologically advanced level—although the Remote Touch controller needs to go.