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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
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
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.
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.
the 2007 model has been styled using their new L-Finesse design philosophy but it still
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.
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