2017 Lexus ES 350 Review
Comfy and soft with nary a hint of adrenalineNo Comments
The Lexus ES 350 is a pleasure to drive if you don't want your pulse racing. It rolls over bumps with ease, provides a reasonable amount of power and is easy to control and maneuver despite its fairly large overall size. What makes the car nice to drive also makes it exceptionally boring. The cushy nature of the ride means it's not very fun when the road gets interesting. This is a car for cruising around town and going to the strip mall or your favorite restaurant with your wife on a Saturday afternoon. It's a practical sedan that's designed to also be a comfy cruiser. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly isn't engaging.
Ride Quality: Cushy and smooth. This thing takes on rough pavement like a champ and keeps you moving along without disruptions. Too bad it insulates a bit too much for our tastes.
Acceleration: The ES doesn't have the quickest throttle response, but it pulls hard once the power hits. Gear shifts occur plenty fast enough for a non-sporty vehicle like this.
Braking: Progressive and strong with decent pedal feel. There's little to complain about.
Steering: Moderately weighted, but numb and not very precise.
Handling: The car's pillowy ride and its rather large overall size mean it's not a canyon carver. In turns, it doesn't inspire much confidence, and there is a noticeable amount of body roll. This car is happier on sweeping curves and long straights than tight, technical roads.
Lexus appoints the ES 350 with plenty of features, but the company's insistence on using weird controls make the operation of these features difficult and annoying. Everything a modern driver needs is there, it's just harder to access than it should be. This downside exists for many of Lexus' models.
Infotainment System: The Lexus Enform infotainment system isn't as smooth nor as fast as much of the competition. The 8-inch screen is plenty large enough, but the graphics look a little dated and the interface isn't very intuitive.
Controls: The primary UI control is a joystick/mouse controller located near the arm rest. It's confusing and requires too much attention while you're driving. Dash and steering wheel buttons are better but you can't do everything with them.
Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone proved to be the easiest part of the infotainment system.
Voice Call Quality: Calls were clear on both ends. We experienced no issues.
The Lexus ES isn't a gorgeous vehicle. That being said, it doesn't look terrible either. The front of the car features some of the brand's newer styling elements like the company grille. However, those features seem somewhat tacked on to what is essentially a Toyota Avalon body. The Avalon isn't ugly, just unimaginative, and the ES isn't any more exciting.
Front: The main feature of the front of the ES is the large spindle grille and the chrome border. To either side of that Lexus has fitted headlights that feature an almost lightning-bolt shape. These features seem tacked on and the front is a little too adventurous for the rest of the body.
Rear: A small chrome accent ties together the rear taillights, in which red lights feature an L shape that reaches around the side of the car. The back of this car is more attractive than the front. It is more conventional and the elements work well with the rest of the car's shape.
Profile: From the side, it's easy to see that the ES borrows from the Toyota Avalon. The overall shape is essentially the same as Toyota's car. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when you look at the front, you expect the side to be equally interesting.
Cabin: The styling inside the cabin is definitely on the busier side and there's a lot of layers to the dash. Still, most other competitors have more elegant cabins.
Where the ES shines is its interior comfort. There is a lot of room, the seats are excellent and the HVAC system powerful. You can be in this car all day and not succumb to the kinds of fatigue you will in a less comfortable vehicle. Long trips prove to be a breeze.
Front Seats: One of the highlights of the ES 350 is the seats, especially the front seats. They do a good job of cradling you in a very comfortable position and offer plenty of adjustment. The leather upholstery is soft, but it feels like would hold up well over time. Our only gripe was that they lacked heating and ventilation and adding a package with that feature would have added considerably to the price.
Rear Seats: It was a similar story for the rear seats. They offer high levels of comfort and plenty of room but lack heating functions that come with many other luxury mid-size sedans.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The ES is a very quiet and solid-feeling car. There were no odd rattles or noises coming from the car and wind and road noise was at a minimum.
Visibility: Front and side sight lines were clear. The A pillars on the ES aren't too thick. Seeing out the rear wasn't too bad either. The rear pillars were on the thinner side making it easy to see traffic, and the backup camera helps show you what you can't see out the rear window when parking.
Climate: The climate control system was very good, but our paltry options packaging left out heated or ventilated seats or a heated steering wheel. While those features were lacking, the HVAC unit still does a good job of cooling off or heating up the cabin.
If you're looking for a seriously safe sedan, the Lexus ES is an excellent choice. The car has plenty of safety and driver-assist technology, and it is highly rated by both the NHTSA (five-star rating) and the IIHS.
IIHS Rating: The Lexus ES is a Top Safety Pick+. This means it scored 'good' ratings in all of the crash tests and has superior crash avoidance and mitigation technology.
Standard Tech: The ES comes equipped with plenty of standard safety tech, including airbags, vehicle stability control, ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, Lexus Safety System+: pre-collision system, pedestrian detection, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist and intelligent high beam headlamps. The dynamic cruise control proves to be especially helpful on the highway, reducing driver inputs considerably.
Optional Tech: The optional blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and intuitive parking assist made maneuvering the rather large car in tight spaces like parking lots much easier.
In terms of cargo and storage the Lexus ES stacks up well against the competition but doesn't sit at the top of the heap. It offers plenty of room in the trunk that's easily accessible and a reasonable amount of space within the cabin to put away your stuff. Like just about everything else about the ES, the space is pretty much mid-pack.
Storage Space: Other vehicles utilize cabin space better from a storage space standpoint. The ES offers a two cup holders that are oddly placed apart and an armrest storage bin that's of reasonable size but not much else. The silly joystick/mouse control takes up valuable real estate on the center console that could be used for an extra storage tray or bin.
Cargo Room: The 15.2 cubic feet of cargo space is on par with the competition (the Genesis G80 has 15.3 cubic feet and the Kia K900 has 15.9 cubic feet). Generally, you'll find its trunk roomy enough for suitcases or several bags of groceries. The trunk lid lifts high and the opening is wide but not especially tall. This could make it difficult to load certain items.
The EPA estimates the Lexus ES 350 will return 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Depending on how and where you drive the car, we could see hitting these numbers easily. Our average mileage over the course of a week was just under that EPA estimates for combined city and highway driving. The ES is right on par with the competition but doesn't do any better.
Observed: We saw an average of 23 mpg over the course of a week with the ES.
Driving Factors: We drove a mix of city and highway conditions with moderate to heavy throttle.
The Mark Levinson premium audio system with automatic sound leveler and 8-speakers proved to be more than adequate. The system comes with MP3, USB, Sirius XM and Bluetooth audio options and the sound quality of the system was high. It offered plenty of range and clear sound even at high volumes. Controlling it was a bit of a pain, but many of the basic controls could be found on the steering wheel.
Final Thoughts The ES 350 isn't a car for enthusiasts. It's designed for people who cherish comfort, dependability and safety above all else. The ES has earned a good reputation as an entry-level premium luxury sedan without being adventurous or daring. The folks loyal to the model will love the 2017 version, but our hope is that Lexus will revamp this car and make it great instead of settling for a car that's just decent.