Toyota’s bet is on redesigned Lexus ES 350 to boost US sales image

Toyota, Japan’s largest carmaker is betting that its redesigned ES 350 sedan will buoy sales of its Lexus brand, which lost its place last year as the top-selling luxury nameplate in the United States.

The 2013 Lexus ES 350 and its hybrid version, the 300h, will go on sale in mid-August. Lexus expects sales of both models will reach about 5,000 a month, Tim Morrison, vice president for sales and dealer development said in Dearborn on Wednesday.

The hybrid will deliver an EPA-estimated 40 mpg city and 39 highway, for a combined 39 mpg overall. (We got 38 mpg overall with our Camry Hybrid.) The ES 350 is rated at 21/31/24. Both ES versions will have a choice of Sport, Normal, and Eco driving modes.

Sport mode increases powertrain and steering responsiveness, and for the ES 300h, the IP changes from the hybrid power monitor to a tachometer.

The front-wheel-drive ES adopts Lexus’ “spindle” grille — more of a fat hourglass — up front, drawing similarities to the recently reinvented rear-drive GS sedan. It’s actually a touch longer than that pricier sibling, and its creased lines stand out like no ES before.
So far this year, sales of the GS 350 and GS 300 sedans have increased 432% and sales of the LX 470 and 570 SUVs have increased 67%.

In the first five months of 2012, Lexus sales were up 14 percent to just over 88,000. It trails Mercedes-Benz and BMW respectively. Mercedes sold 113,520 cars through May 2012, up 19 percent. BMW sales were up 14 percent to 104,779.