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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2016 LEXUS ES 350 REVIEW


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HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE ES 350 VEHICLE
In regards to the Lexus sedan lineup, the ES 350 is the more affordable mid-sized luxury choice while still offering loads of style and convenience and a smooth ride – however, a bevy of optional packages are available to give it additional interior gloss.

I drove a 2016 Lexus ES 350 with a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine paired to a six-speed sequential shift automatic Electronically Controlled Transmission with intelligence. Available in in one model with or without optional packages (as well as a hybrid engine option), the following are standard features: push-button start; Drive Mode Select; LED headlamps on low beams; foglights; ten-way power driver and passenger seats; moonroof; perforated vinyl upholstery; seven-inch touchscreen display; Siri Eyes Free Bluetooth connectivity; Lexus Premium audio system; and seventeen-inch alloy wheels. Price as described without options is $38,000.

For 2016, the ES 350’s exterior is refreshed and the cabin is now quieter. Competitors include the Acura TLX and even some fully loaded, less-luxurious brands like the Nissan Maxima and Hyundai Azera.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: Comfortable roominess for five feels like the ES 350’s main draw, crafted through the seats and generous-sized moonroof. Luxury is layered into an ES 350 one package at a time – my test drive featured a $1,670 Luxury Package (leather-trimmed interior, heated and ventilated front seats with a memory system); a $2,650 navigation system with a mark Levinson fifteen-speaker sound system, backup camera, eight-inch screen with a remote touch controller); $1,015 Lexus Safety System (Land Departure Alert, Pre-Collision System); $500 Intuitive Park Assist – the list goes on an totals to almost $8k in options. If you find the pricing or even size too daunting, try the smaller Lexus IS 350 -- one of the biggest draws to this particular smaller sedan is the design, which is quite striking (especially the headlamps and grille), giving it a larger presence.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) considers the 2016 Lexus GS family to be a Top Safety Pick with ratings of “Good’ in all crash-test areas. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it an overall 5-Star rating. Standard safety equipment includes an advanced airbag system, vehicle stability control, ABS, brake assist, traction control, and Safety Connect which covers collision notification and stolen vehicle location. Lexus Enform is an addition to this system and offers live assistance to find a specific address.

Cost Issues: A starting price of $38,000 for an entry-level mid-size luxury sedan is attractive – it’s the upgrades that might make you shudder, as my test drive reached $45,739 with packages. And for those that can afford to go bigger, the base price of the nicer Lexus GS 350 sedan with rear-wheel drive is $48,600; with the much-recommended F Sport package and several other conveniences you can expect to pay $56,405.

Activity & Performance Ability: The ES 350 remains a sporty, fun and highly responsive sedan – this is a strong choice for all types of driving needs, from commuting to weekend getaways. While some more modest brands when fully loaded are tempting, you do get a few more interesting perks if you go with entry-level luxury brand like the Lexus. Driver Select Modes are a nice plus – go Eco for better gas mileage of step up the fun with Sport, all at the turn of a dial. Smooth precision engineering is at work here.

The Green Concern: The 3.5-liter engine retains 21-city and 31-highway for a combined 24 miles-per-gallon. The IS 350 drops to 22 miles-per-gallon.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
Comfort and price remain strong attracts with the 2016 Lexus ES 350 that offers a luxurious feel and excellent V6 engine performance. You’ll likely find more enticing engine options and road results from other like brands, but they come at a bigger cost.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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