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2016 Lexus ES 350 Review By Steve Purdy

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2016 LEXUS ES 350
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau

It is unusual for a manufacturer to provide an unadorned car for a review but that’s what we have this week with this Lexus ES 350, nearly full-size, front-wheel drive luxury sedan. The only options on this one are body side moldings, illuminated doorsills, floor mats and trunk mats, cargo net and wheel locks. That adds up to less than a grand in options. Of course, the basic Lexus in any category comes pretty well dressed up but we do not have navigation, leather, adaptive cruise control, heated seats or the electronic driver assist features that have become common on luxury sedans.

Standard equipment on the basic, $38,000, Kentucky-built ES350 (you can have the hybrid version for just three grand more) is reasonably generous – premium perforated vinyl seating (feels like leather), 17-inch alloy wheels, push-button start with start/stop function, automatic halogen headlights, 10-way driver and passenger seats with lumbar support, power moon roof, premium sound system and all the hidden elements that make it feel and sound like a full luxury car.

Exterior styling is nicely updated with the massive, gaping characteristically-Lexus spindle grille. When the brand decided some years ago that visuals would no longer be bland they really meant it – at least when it comes to front views. Zig-zaggy shapes around the headlight bezels, chin and cheek vents give it a striking front view. While the side view remains a bit bland, the overall profile is fully modern and fairly dynamic. The rear view is dominated by large, stylish taillights but does not catch one’s eye.

Inside we find an upscale, comfortable and modestly elegant design with high-quality materials throughout. A horizontal theme accentuates the width of the interior making it feel even roomier than it is. The multi-function screen, controlled by the usual Lexus controversial floating mouse, is wider than most and a small analog clock provides another hint at luxury. While some find the controller awkward I’ve loved it from the beginning finding it smooth and intuitive once getting acclimated to it.

Like many others in the luxury class, Lexus has gone to matte-finished wood trim that actually looks and feels like wood as opposed to the traditional overly-glazed surfaces that could be any kind of material. A way cool bamboo option is available. Rear seat passengers will be impressed with the legroom back there. Look around you from any seat in the car and you’ll surely be impressed by the materials, design fit and finish. The rear seat backs do not fold but a pass-through folding center armrest is standard. And, as we would expect, it is dead quiet inside.

Powering the 3,500-pound ES 350 is a 3.5-liter V6 making 268 horsepower and 248 lb.-ft. of torque that feels like more. The company claims a 0-60 time of an impressive 7.1 seconds and highway mileage of 31 mpg with 21 mpg in the city and 24 combined. We averaged just under 25 mpg in our week of mixed driving environments. Assisting with these numbers is a slick 0.27 coefficient of drag. That’s a sports car kind of number. The sophisticated 6-speed automatic transmission does its part of the job making the driving dynamics amazingly smooth. The 17.2-gallon fuel tank makes for an adequate range.

Suspension is both supple and poised. I did not push it hard on challenging roads nor experience any treacherous conditions this week but have no concerns about its competence in those conditions as well. Since few, if any, ES350 buyers will be pushing it very hard we don’t expect cornering capability will be an important factor. Be assured, I found the driving dynamics – power, handling, ride – as competent as anything in its class.

The Lexus new car warranty covers the whole car for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the power-trains for 6 years or 70,000 miles.

The ES comes in only two versions – ES 350 and ES Hybrid. Lots of options and packages will allow a buyer to load it up with high-tech and more luxurious trim easily passing the 50-grand mark. No other powertrains are available nor is all-wheel drive.

Notwithstanding this particular ES350’s lack of some of the common luxury car amenities I thought it a fine car at its price point. Most of the extras are superfluous to me anyway and if I wanted the quality, durability and luxury of a Lexus for a decent price, I would have no problem laying out less than 40 grand for this one.

Competition is fierce in this market. Entry level luxury and near luxury options abound and even sedans we think of as more mainstream like the Toyota Avalon will hold their own in this market. You’ll have much shopping to do if this is the category of car you’re after.

We would recommend that the ES350 be on your ‘A’ shopping list.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions. All Rights Reserved

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