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Call DJ Khaled, because we’ve got another one. That is, another vehicle falling short of the latest IIHS crash testing standards. This time it’s the Lexus ES, a car for which safety has long been a calling card. And once again, the updated side-impact test has knocked it down a peg.

About the 2023 Lexus ES safety rating from the IIHS

The Lexus ES, which now has lower safety raings than in years past
2023 Lexus ES 350 | Lexus

By now it’s no real surprise that the 2023 Lexus ES has fallen from its perch at the top of the luxury safety ratings table. Previously, the ES has earned IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus honors for its advanced technology and impressive crashworthiness. However, the updated standards have seen the vaunted luxury sedan earn just a Top Safety Pick award for 2023.

That results from, you guessed it, the new side-impact crash tests. And while many vehicles have fallen short of these new standards, the Lexus ES sees some of the biggest downgrades under this more rigorous stress test.

2023 side-impact safety ratings

Close-up of the Lexus ES 350
2023 Lexus ES 350 | Lexus

Lexus ES safety in front and rear impacts remains strong, earning top marks across the board. And even the older side-impact standards see the luxury sedan earning the best possible scores. However, the harsher side-impact 2.0 tests reduce nearly every score there is.

Structure and safety cage, as well as driver torse and pelvis injury scores fall from Good to Accpetable. Even worse, rear passenger pelvis injury protection falls from Good to Marginal, putting it just one score above the lowest possible rating. That’s significant, not least because it means that children in the back seat would be especially vulnerable.

How the IIHS has updated side impact tests

The Lexus ES in silver
2023 Lexus ES 300h | Lexus

Understanding the implications of these new side-impact test scores means understanding what has changed versus years past.

Previously, the test used a 3,300-pound sled moving at 31 mph. Furthermore, that barrier was a solid piece and had a ground clearance of approximately eight inches.

Now, the IIHS side-impact test uses a 4,200-pound sled moving at 37 mph, which increases the impact energy by 82 percent. More critically though, the construction of the impact barrier has changed. Rather than a solid piece, the new structure is designed to bend the way a real SUV or truck would, This allows it to bend around the door pillar, making for a more realistic crash test. It is this flexibility combined with increased impact energy that is lowering Lexus ES safety scores.

The Lexus ES safety tech also falls short

While Lexus (and Toyota by extension) is celebrated for advancing in-car safety technology, the Lexus ES isn’t the best of the bunch. While front collision avoidance with vehicles rates well, the car’s pedestrian scores fall short.

In particular, the ES has a hard time seeing pedestrians walking in parallel with the roadway. While other luxury cars can stop from up to 37 mph in this scenario, the ES only manages to scrub away 17 mph before impact. Worse yet, the system didn’t issue a warning until just 1.5 seconds before impact, leaving no time for the driver to intervene.

Is the 2023 Lexus ES safe?

Take the side-impact tests with a grain of salt, as many vehicles are having trouble meeting the new standards. Overall, the new Lexus ES is still a safe choice, though there are a few models out there that have earned higher marks.

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