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2007 Lexus ES 350 Photo
Reviewed by Conor Twomey
Editor, The Car Connection
BASE INVOICE
$29,676
BASE MSRP
$33,470
Quick Take
Sometimes I have to remind myself that not everyone sees cars the same way I do. Many people value... Read more »
N/A out of 10
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2007 Lexus ES350

2007 Lexus ES350

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Sometimes I have to remind myself that not everyone sees cars the same way I do. Many people value comfort and refinement above all else and could care less for steering feel and throttle response. Indeed, it’s more than just “some people.” There are a LOT of you comfort-loving folk out there and Lexus knows you better than any other carmaker.

 

While ze Germans continue to assume that everyone in the market for an entry-level prestige model want a cramped sports sedan, Lexus has successfully peddled five generations of ES models as entry-level luxury cars for buyers who want Lexus’ legendary quality, refinement, and customer service without the cramped cabins and hard ride of ze likes of BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. As a consequence, almost a fifth of Lexus’ 300,000 American customers drove off in a new ES sedan last year and they expect to sell more than 70,000 units of the new model annually. That’s not bad business for a prestige car that, ironically enough, is based on the most ubiquitous car platform in America — that of the Toyota Camry.

 

Still, we can’t knock Lexus for giving its customers what they want and to the company’s credit, they never describe the ES as a performance car nor do they make any claims about it being a fun drive. In keeping with this refreshingly honest approach, there’s no sports suspension option, no manual gearbox, no aluminum pedals. The Lexus ES350 is all about bringing upscale opulence to the entry-level luxury car buyer, however alien the concept might be to me personally.

 

Handling it up front

 

So let’s get the ugly business of handling out of the way first, shall we? As you might expect, the ES handles with competence and predictability but doesn’t really care to involve the driver too much.

 

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2007 Lexus ES350

2007 Lexus ES350

Enlarge Photo
The steering is reasonably responsive given the ES’s obvious comfort orientation, though there isn’t a lot of feel and hard cornering is actively discouraged by lots of body roll and ample tire squeal. Push it too far and the ES breaks away slowly and progressively, and it doesn’t take much skill to bring it back on line assuming the electronic driver aids don’t get there first.

 

Not really a car to go attacking canyon roads, then, but even while cruising along at a more leisurely pace I still found the ES a little wanting. The MacPherson-strut front and rear suspensions are a little too soft for their own good, with too much roll and wallow for even the gentlest of country roads, and while the ride quality on the highway is superb the steering doesn’t offer enough on-center feel, which means you’re constantly making minor adjustments to keep it on track. I’ve long been of the opinion that sportier cars are a lot less tiring to drive at normal speeds because they’re so easy to place and keep on course. The ES might be quiet, refined, and extremely cosseting, but a smidge more feel would actually make it even more relaxing to drive.

 

Lexus says the 2007 model has been styled using their new L-Finesse design philosophy but it still looks more Toyota than Lexus to my eyes. In profile the ES350 is rather conservative and featureless, which wouldn’t be so bad if they hadn’t given it such aggressive headlamps, and that scowling expression. The proportions aren’t terribly well resolved either, a trait accentuated by the busy design of its small-looking 17-inch wheels, but at least the ES’s rear end is appealing and tastefully in keeping with the car’s purpose in life.

 

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Inside, the ES finally sheds its Toyota-esque cabin for the full and proper Lexus treatment, with soft touch plastics, wood veneers and quality leather trim on the steering and shift knob. The seats are exceptionally comfortable, too, while rear seat occupants have ample space and a well-shaped rear bench, making it a wonderfully relaxed place for four adults to wile away the hours. Just crank up the optional 14-speaker Mark Levinson stereo and simply let the miles float by.

 

The cabin’s generous proportions are courtesy of the ES’s 1.8-inch longer wheelbase and 2.2-inch broader cabin, although it’s no longer or taller and barely wider than before. Weight increases by 108 pounds, mostly because of the extra safety gear and equipment, so to counter the ES’s ample 3580 pounds, a new 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic are fitted as standard. The 272-hp, 254-lb-ft V-6 is more than up to task of propelling the ES along, whisking it to 60 mph from a rest in just 6.8 seconds while managing an impressive 21 city and 30 highway miles per gallon when driven with less fury.

 

2007 Lexus ES350

2007 Lexus ES350

Enlarge Photo
Thankfully, the six-speed automatic has a manual shift mode so it’s possible to manually choose your gear before embarking on any overtaking maneuvers, though the V-6 isn’t the most rev-happy engine in the world and once you’ve made it around that lumbering RV you’ll be more than happy to slot the shifter back into D again to quell its muted but noticeable noise. The transmission has also been programmed to hold the car in lower gears when driving uphill or downhill and will even take account of your driving habits, leadfoot.

 

To prevent people like me trying to drive if off a cliff, the ES350 is fitted with anti-lock brakes, traction, and stability control, which cannot be turned off and doesn’t even have a switch to let you wind it back a little but. It’s not Lexus’ latest VDIM system so the stability control is reactive rather than proactive, meaning the car first has to start getting out of shape before it will react. When it does kick into action, the ES is yanked rather aggressively back into place like a wandering schoolboy, but given how Lexus anticipates the ES to be driven I suppose the use of the older VSC system is hardly surprising.

 

Should an accident occur, there are twin front airbags, twin knee airbags, curtain airbags, and front side airbags to protect the occupants, as well as an optional pre-collision system and rear side airbags.

 

Standard specification on all ES350s is generous considering its $33,170 entry-level price. The list includes fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, moonroof, power adjustable steering wheel with audio controls, ten-way power adjustable front seats, ritzy “Optitron” gauges, climate control, keyless entry with push-button start, a self-dimming mirror, a trip computer, and a six-CD changer.

 

Apart from leather trim and navigation, the swift, spacious, comfortable, and well-specified ES packs just about everything the comfort/luxury buyer could possibly need, which truly makes it a great overall package… provided you don’t waving those 3-Series drivers by on challenging stretches of road.

 

2007 Lexus ES350

Base price: $33,170 plus destination

Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 272 hp, 254 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual mode, front-wheel drive

Length x width x height: 191.1 x 71.7 x 57.3 in

Wheelbase: 101.5 in

Weight: 3580 lb

Economy (EPA city/highway): 21/30 mpg

Safety equipment: Front, side, and curtain airbags; knee airbags; anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control

Major standard equipment: 17-inch alloy wheels; power seats; six-CD stereo; climate control; keyless entry; trip computer

Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles

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