When the Toyota Camry got renewed, it was just a matter of time before the Lexus that’s based on it was replaced as well, so the 2013 Lexus ES that debut at New York wasn’t unexpected. Compared to the smooth wallflower of old, the new ES gets a sharp new suit, wearing the spindle grille face and cues seen on the new GS, recently launched in Malaysia.

For the first time, the Lexus ES will be available as a hybrid. Featuring a 2.5L four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine, the Lexus ES 300h is expected to earn an EPA fuel economy rating of 40 mpg combined.

This new, low friction DOHC engine features a sophisticated power management system, 12.5 compression ratio and VVT-i. The beltless motor is designed to improve fuel economy and durability, and a near zero evaporative fuel system helps reduce emissions.

The Lexus ES 300h hybrid offers the driver four modes: Normal, Sport, Eco and EV. The latter allows short distance drives using only the power from the hybrid battery pack, something Prius owners can also do. Eco mode favors fuel economy while Sport mode increases powertrain responsiveness.

The ES 350, on the other hand, is powered by a 3.5L V6 engine with Dual VVT-i, paired to a six-speed automatic gearbox. Suspension and steering changes and a stiffer body deliver more precise handling, while opposite-wound coil springs on the front suspension enhance straight-line stability, says Lexus.

In the pursuit of better dynamics, Lexus also threw in revised rear suspension geometry and improved shock absorber damping characteristics.

A reduction in the steering gear ratio delivers a more responsive and direct steering feel. Increased body rigidity is achieved through lightweight, high tensile strength steel, added bracing and additional spot welds. Despite being slightly larger and roomier, weight is reduced by almost 40 kg.

The ES will roll on standard 215/55 low rolling resistance tyres on 17-inch alloys. For the first time, the entry luxury Lexus is also available with 18-inch high-gloss alloys.

Like the exterior, the cabin is also much changed for the better. A newly sculptured seat design enhances comfort, while the steering wheel angle has been reduced from 24 to 22 degrees for a more “natural control position”. Fluid-filled engine mounts, new sound absorbing materials and a tuned engine intake minimise the intrusion of outside noise.

Space wise, rear seat legroom and knee room have been improved, by 104 mm and 71 mm respectively. There’s also additional foot room below the front seats. The new ES’ wheelbase is up by just 46 mm, so better packaging is responsible for this jump in space. The new ES will feature enhanced NuLuxe seating surfaces, developed to reduce environmental impact. Genuine leather is also available, as is semi-aniline hide for an even more luxurious feel.

Available comfort features include manual door window shades, a power rear shade and a power trunk closer. Optional ambient lighting, discretely placed under the wood trim, softly illuminates the surfaces of the instrument panel and all four doors.

The new ES is further proof that Lexus is serious in fulfilling its promise to add dynamism in both looks and drive. Of late, Toyota’s luxury brand has been losing ground to the Germans in the crucial North American market, and we’re seeing a range renewal to address the slide. Read the brand’s plans here.