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Lexus ES 350: Champion of Luxury and Practicality

02 April 2017  

Easy to drive, mildly sporty, and perfect for long road trips or just around town.

2017 Lexus ES

Personality: A small town banker out to prove his worth to the community

Best Gizmo: the surprisingly powerful sound system

Most Annoying Feature: A little dull on the exterior styling

MPG (as tested): 30 on the highway and 21 in the city, we drive efficiently 

Performance: more than we expected to be honest

Cars we smoked at stoplights: An Acura MDX

0-60: 7.2 seconds as tested

How Fast Is That? Satisfactory

How Much? Base price is $38,900 ($40,430 for the hybrid)

What option should I splurge on? The Premium Package ($3,800) adds all the options you would quite honestly expect from a Lexus out of the gate.

Serious Contenders? BMW 5 series, Lincoln MKZ, Infinity M

Appease the masses, maintain integrity, and don’t alienate your client base… tall orders of business when redefining a brand and ushering in an era of change. What are we talking about? Lexus as we know it, my friend. We have watched a transformation over the past few years, from a quiet luxury brand to an (almost) legitimate German competitor. Lexus is seeking to maintain your grandparents patronage and see millennials in the front seat with an L on the steering wheel.

The ES was transformed for the 2016 model year and the newest installment brings minor enhancements to a crowd pleasing refresh. As you well know, the ES 350 is a champion of luxury and practicality. I can give you all the dimensions down to the millimeter, but lets just say it is a standard size four door capable of a weekend golf trip or carting five adults (almost) comfortably. 

From the outside, the dimensions and stance will remind any discerning onlooker of the less expensive Toyota Camry. Although they share size and engine specs, that is where the similarities end. With the typical Lexus hourglass grill and giant “L” badge, the ES quickly displays this is no economy car. With a high belt-line and large rims, the Lexus could be described as “sporty” but certainly not on par with it’s smaller IS sibling.

Under the hood, the powertrain is the same as the most powerful Toyota Camry. A well-designed and efficient 3.5-liter V6 capable of 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. All this power on a relatively light four door sedan equals impressive fuel economy with 30 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg in the city. If you are shopping for greater economy and have some money to spare, the ES 300h pairs a 2.5 liter four cylinder engine with two electric motors for a total of 200 horsepower and a whopping 40 miles per gallon overall. With a price increase of $2,900 and a large efficiency increase, the equation works out to a 4.1 year payoff period. What does that mean for you? If you are planning to keep your ES for more than four years, I would plan on the hybrid option. Just keep in mind there is a little less trunk space due to the large batteries.

From the cabin I was struck by the simplicity of the gauges and center stack of instruments. All options and buttons were within easy reach and there are no real complaints or grumbles.

Rear seat occupants will notice two improvements over the ES of the past… increased legroom and less noise. With 4 inches more space for knees, feet, and whatever you have packed for lunch, the rear is capable of seating three adults comfortably. 

Overall, the ES is an excellent addition to any garage, providing luxury and practicality with the reliability of the Toyota brand. Easy to drive, mildly sporty, and perfect for long road trips or just around town, the Lexus appeases the masses. 

© 2017 John Kehlenbeck and John Dickerson, Horsepower Auto Reviews

John Kehlenbeck

Each month John Kehlenbeck tests a worthy car. From the mundane stats of zero-to-60 time all the way to the incredibly important aspects of a vehicle, like cup holder location and bluetooth integration, Kehlenbeck dissects the details to give you the information you actually care about.

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