BASE PRICE: $33,900 (est.)
POWERTRAIN: 3.5-liter, 272-hp, 254-lb-ft V6; fwd, six-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT: 3580 lbs
0 TO 60 MPH: 6.8 seconds
FUEL MILEAGE (EPA COMBINED): 25 mpg
Nearly 20 years later the Lexus lineup has eight different models—including a full slate of sport/utility vehicles—but the ES remains a stalwart. Like many of us as we move up in age, the ES has grown, too. The fifth-generation ES carries the 350 moniker, reflecting the 3.5-liter V6 now providing the power.
While the ES exterior is the latest example of the Lexus L-finesse design theme of a long hood, sweptback cabin and short rear overhang, it is the interior of the car we most enjoy. As we have come to expect, the ES cabin is about as quiet a place as you can find on the highway today. Even at cruising speed, virtually no wind or road noise is detected. White-on-black gauges—Lexus calls them Optitron—are bright and clear and have a precision look to them not unlike a fine watch. Optional wood trim and leather seats outfitted our test vehicle.
Also standard are stability control and traction control systems that use throttle and brake intervention to keep the car pointed in the right direction. Eight airbags are standard in the ES 350, with two more airbags—rear-seat side units—optional.A backup camera is available if you order the navigation system. You can also order what Lexus calls the first intelligent adaptive front lighting system where both the left and right headlight bulbs swivel at the same time when the driver steers into a corner.
The ES 350's standard sound system has a six-disc in-dash CD changer, MP3 player and an iPod input jack. But the optional Mark Levinson 300-watt, 14-speaker system is terrific.It would be the first option we would tick off if this car were headed to our garage. The system can play DVD audio and video, which can be viewed on the seven-inch color touch screen when the car is parked.
The ES might have created a new segment, but with all the appointments of this latest model, the term near-luxury in no way does the car justice.