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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
buyers aren't likely to find the V-6 wanting for power
“steering is numb, body roll is abundant in hard cornering”
Car and Driver
scoots from a stop with satisfying strength
“without an ounce of sporting pretension”
power and responsiveness to master any kind of traffic challenge
Kelley Blue Book
When it comes to power and handling, the editors of TheCarConnection.com find few complaints about the former, but the front-wheel-drive ES’s handling leaves room for improvement.
Powered by a 3.5-liter V-6, the 2009 ES sedan makes 272 hp. Cars.com reports the engine is coupled to a six-speed, automatic transmission and brings home an efficient 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway.
V-8 configurations are optional on competing models, but Cars.com says 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, the transmission "never made a harsh shift," although "it can require lots of throttle to deliver a highway-speed downshift." ConsumerGuide also reports excellent acceleration, noting that the 2009 Lexus ES 350 "scoots from a stop with satisfying strength" and "did 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds."
Edmunds notes that “shifts can be manually controlled using the sequential-style sport shifter.” The reviewer reports slightly different figures with their sample of this year's Lexus, taking just over seven seconds to go from 0-60 mph.
As mentioned earlier, handling is not the 2009 Lexus ES 350’s best attribute. Car and Driver says that the car’s “steering is numb, body roll is abundant in hard cornering and braking performance is so-so.” Motor Trend reports that the car is “without an ounce of sporting pretension,” and 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 also observes that the brake pedal “has a soft feel, and it's difficult at times to modulate the touchy brakes in order to stop smoothly.” Edmunds did bestow the Lexus with 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.”
TheCarConnection.com’s opinion of the 2009 ES 350 is that it handles with competence and predictability but doesn't involve the driver in the experience. The steering is reasonably responsive, but lacks feel. Hard cornering is discouraged—when you push it beyond a certain point—by copious amounts of body roll. The MacPherson-strut front and rear suspensions are too soft, allowing too much roll and wallow even when driving the gentlest of country roads. The ride quality on the highway is superb, but the steering doesn't offer enough on-center feel, which means you're constantly making minor adjustments to keep it on track.
Great acceleration, efficient fuel economy, and uninspired handling are all attributes of the 2009 Lexus ES 350.