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2013 Lexus ES 350, ES 300h Priced: Hybrid From $39,745

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The 2013 Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h don't arrive in dealerships until next month, but in preparation for the new, much-improved ES's arrival, Lexus has announced pricing of the two core models: the ES 350 starts from $36,100, plus $895 in destination fees, while the ES 300h starts from $38,850 plus fees.

Those prices put the new ES 350 right on top of the Cadillac CTS, BMW 3-Series, and Mercedes-Benz C Class--though none of those alternatives offer hybrids in the same price range, and they're not exactly of a size with the ES, either. The Audi A6 manages to sneak in at just about $5,000 more expensive than the ES 350, but again, without a hybrid option.

So the 2013 ES is competitive on price. How about power, gas mileage, and other features?

The 2013 ES 350 scores 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. The ES 300h boosts that to 40 mpg city, 39 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined--but at the expense of the 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 in the ES 350, replaced with the hybrid system and a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder and a total of 200 horsepower.

While the German and American alternatives are all about as powerful as the ES 350 or more so, and offer similar gas mileage, they aren't front-wheel drive (aside from the base Audi, of course). That dynamic difference may matter to some buyers, but for those who put a premium on comfort, it's likely a non-issue.

Safety features in the 2013 ES are at the forefront, with 10 airbags standard, an optional blind-spot monitor system with rear cross-traffic alert, as well as optional lane-departure alert, pre-collision radar-based automatic obstacle detection, and Lexus Safety Connect with roadside assistance is also available.

Standard entertainment equipment includes a Lexus premium sound system, USB/iPod connectivity, and integrated SiriusXM satellite radio. Optional add-ons include a Display Audio package that adds Bluetooth, HD Radio with iTunes tagging, automatic phone book transfer, and a rear backup camera, all accessed through a 7-inch screen. Upgrades include a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system with an eight-inch display and DVD audio and video; a navigation system with voice command, backup camera, eight-inch screen, and Lexus Enform with App Suite for on-the-go connectivity. 

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