2008 Lexus ES 350 Performance

7.0
Performance

TheCarConnection.com finds few complaints with the 2008 Lexus ES 350 when it comes to get-up-and-go or handling.

At Lexus, 2008’s ES sedan is powered by a larger, 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 272 hp, a 54-hp improvement over last year's slightly smaller engine. Cars.com reports the engine is coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission (replacing last year's five-speed) and despite its larger size and increased power, is even more fuel efficient than that of the 2007 model at 19/27 mpg.

The 2008 Lexus ES 350 has good acceleration and fuel economy, but handling is soft and uninvolving.

Competing models have V-8 options, but Cars.com believes that "buyers aren't likely to find the V-6 wanting for power," and praises the performance of the transmission as well; during test drives, it "never made a harsh shift." ConsumerGuide also reports excellent acceleration, noting that the 2008 Lexus ES 350 "scoots from a stop with satisfying strength" and "did 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds." This source confirms Cars.com's evaluation of the smooth-shifting transmission, but notes that "it can require lots of throttle to deliver a highway-speed downshift."

Edmunds reports slightly different figures with their sample of this year's Lexus; 2008’s ES sedan took just over 7 seconds to go from 0-60 mph. They add that “shifts can be manually controlled using the sequential-style sport shifter.”

Handling isn’t a shining attribute of the 2008 Lexus ES 350. Motor Trend says it’s “without an ounce of sporting pretension,” and Edmunds gives it faint praise as “a perfect compromise between the couchlike driving experience of an American luxury car and the well-damped ride of a Japanese sport sedan.” Car and Driver says the Lexus ES 350’s “steering is numb, body roll is abundant in hard cornering, and braking performance is so-so.” Cars.com concurs: “With the smooth ride comes moderate body roll, and the car also tends to bob up and down a few times after traveling over a big dip in the road,” Cars.com observes, while adding the brake pedal “has a soft feel, and it's difficult at times to modulate the touchy brakes in order to stop smoothly.”

TheCarConnection.com has driven the new Lexus; 2008’s ES sedan handles with competence and predictability but doesn't really care to involve the driver too much. The steering is reasonably responsive, though there isn't a lot of feel. Hard cornering is actively discouraged by lots of body roll and ample tire squeal. 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.

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