The main thing one needs to know about the Lexus ES350 is that it isn’t intended to be an enthusiast car. The average age of Lexus buyers is in their mid- to late-50s, and while there are certainly enthusiasts in that age bracket, the vast majority of Lexus ES350 buyers are looking for cars that are comfortable, dependable, and possess the amenities of a luxury car without the full-boat luxury price.
The ES350 has often been derided as a gussied-up Camry, but the fact is that it has been a very successful vehicle for Lexus, outselling every model in the lineup but the RX crossover.
Everything about this car could be described as “polished and refined,” from the engine, to the suspension, to the interior appointments. There’s not much that will take your breath away with excitement, but it just might make you breathe easier as it pampers you in comfort.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
While most self-respecting car enthusiasts avoid Lexus vehicles for a lack of driver involvement, I actually enjoy time behind the wheel of a Lexus from time to time. If you’re just looking for a quiet, comfortable way to commute, it’s difficult to fault the Lexus approach. Stretches of road that can be painful in a BMW (thanks to the run-flat tires and sportier suspension) are almost soothing in a Lexus, and the ES350 is a reasonably affordable way to enjoy a true luxury car if you’re careful with your optional equipment.
I do wish the electronic aides like traction/stability control were a little less intrusive during normal driving, but many consumers will be perfectly fine with the more eager electronics. With safety as a high priority for so many new-car shoppers, and Toyota’s recent recall campaign still on the lips of nightly newscasters, it’s certainly better to have an overachieving set of safety features than one that might be perceived as too slow to respond to a risky situation.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Like Phil, I prefer cars that are a lot more involving than the Lexus ES350. Still, there’s no denying the fact that this is an extremely smooth and comfortable vehicle. I’d rather have an Infiniti M or a Mercedes-Benz C-Class since the Lexus’s steering is so light and the handling so soft, but that’s what most Lexus owners want, and that’s what the ES350 gives them—for a reasonable starting price of $36,050. And almost any driver, myself included, would be content with the ES350’s ability to blow by traffic when the mood hits, although torque steer can be an issue at lower speeds.
Lexus products are generally filled with technological amenities, and the ES350 is no exception. After driving this particular test car, I believe that it might include the clearest backup-camera display I’ve seen yet. It’s like high-def has reached backup cameras.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
No, this isn’t billed as a sport sedan (want one? Lexus will be glad to sell you an IS), but the ES is almost as comfortable a cruiser as the company’s flagship LS. The suspension tuning is supple but never flaccid, the cabin is remarkably well insulated, and the seats — especially when trimmed in this upgraded leather — are as stylish and posh as an Eames chaise.
If noise, vibration, and harshness are the three primary factors that help you decide your next vehicular purchase, then it is truly hard to trump the stunningly smooth ES350. That said, I’m not so sure silent and soft is necessarily enough to win the battle in today’s premium midsize segment. Drivers looking for a cruise ship that occasionally sparkles when presented with a twisty back road should look elsewhere; competitors — amazingly, even Buick, with its new LaCrosse — can mix sharper steering and suspension tuning without sacrificing much of the ES sedan’s hallmarks.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Base price (with destination): $36,050
Price as tested: $42,187
3.5L V-6 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
Vehicle stability control
Electronic brake-force distribution
Rain sensing wipers
Tire pressure monitor system
Push button start/stop
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Automatic dual-zone climate control
Lexus premium audio system w/ in-dash 6-disc CD changer
MP3 player connectivity
Power tilt/telescoping steering wheel
Options on this vehicle:
Ultra luxury package – $3535
Perforated semi-aniline leather trim interior
Double contrasting stitching
Wood & leather steering wheel/shift knob
Panorama glass roof
Heated and ventilated front seats
Adaptive HID headlamps
17-inch 10-spoke liquid graphite wheels
Navigation system – $2465
Hard disk navigation system
Lexus Enform with destination assist
Trunk mat – $73
Cargo net – $64
Key options not on vehicle:
19 / 27 / 22 mpg
Size: 3.5L V-6
Horsepower: 272 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 254 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Curb weight: 3605 lb
17 x 7-inch 10-spoke liquid graphite alloy wheels
215/55R17 Bridgestone Turanza el400 all-season tires