2009 Lexus ES 350 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 5, 2009

The 2009 Lexus ES 350 is a luxurious automobile with a cushy ride that would make Buick proud—if Buick still built cars like this.

To compile this conclusive review, the car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied a wide range of road tests of the 2009 Lexus ES 350. And to help you make sense where opinions differ, TheCarConnection.com's resident experts have also driven the ES 350 and add their own impressions and details.

What separates the 2009 Lexus ES 350 from the Toyota Camry are exterior styling and interior refinement. The two models share basic manufacturing elements, but Lexus owners enjoy elevated customer service.

While the ES 350's rear end is appealing and tasteful, the profile is rather conservative and featureless, save for out-of-place, aggressive headlamps. Lexus says the ES 350 was styled using the brand’s so-called L-Finesse design philosophy, but the 2009 Lexus ES 350 still looks more Toyota than Lexus.

The Lexus ES 350 comes standard with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The 272-horsepower, 254-pound-feet V-6 propels the ES to 60 mph from a stop in just 6.8 seconds while managing fuel economy ratings of 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway.

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Handling on the 2009 Lexus ES is competent and predictable, but the driver isn't involved in the process. Steering is responsive but lacks feel. Lots of body roll and ample tire squeal actively discourage hard cornering. 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. While ride quality on the highway is superb, the car’s steering doesn't offer enough on-center feel, which means you're constantly making minor adjustments to keep it tracking straight.

Last year’s model finally shed its Toyota-esque interior cabin for the full and proper Lexus treatment, with soft-touch plastics, wood veneers, and quality leather trim on the steering wheel and shift knob. Seating in the 2009 Lexus ES 350 is exceptionally comfortable, too; ample space and a well-shaped rear bench create a relaxing place for four adults to while away the hours. Just crank up the optional 14-speaker Mark Levinson stereo and simply let the miles float by.

The standard equipment list for the ES is vast and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a power-adjustable steering wheel with audio controls, ritzy Optitron gauges, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, keyless entry with push-button start, climate control, fog lamps, moonroof, a self-dimming mirror, a trip computer, and a six-CD changer.

Other features include a SmartAccess key fob with push-button start/stop, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 10-way power seats, and a new multi-information display. A dramatic new panoramic glass sunroof is available as well on the Lexus ES 350.

The 2009 Lexus ES 350 gets a "good" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and NHTSA gives it five stars for front protection, five for driver side impacts, four stars for passenger side impacts, and four stars for rollover protection. Standard safety equipment includes eight airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, and stability control.

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