Highlight: The ES350 is now available as the 300h, a fuel-efficient hybrid.
Test vehicle’s MSRP: $44,202 (Base Model starts at $37,350)
Seating Capacity: 5
Standard Safety Features: airbags (dual front, dual front knees, rear seated mounted and side-curtain); vehicle stability control; traction control; ABS; electronic brake distribution; a tire pressure monitoring system; a first aid kit; daytime running lamps; and Lexus’ Safety Connect System (similar to GM’s OnStar System without the concierge system)
Standard Equipment: 17-inch wheels; a push-button keyless starter system; leather seats; power front seats; auto dimming rearview mirror; a power sunroof; driving mode selections (economy, normal and sport); and carpeted floormats
Standard Grand Touring Audio: an 8-speaker AM/FM/XM audio with a 6-disc CD changer
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty: 6 years or 70,000 miles
Bluetooth Compatibility: Yes
Standard Engine/Horsepower: 3.5-liter, 6-cylinder/268-hp
Recommended Fuel: Regular
Standard Fuel Mileage: 21-city/31-hwy
ES300h (a hybrid model)
What’s New: The sixth-generation Lexus ES was reworked in 2013. So, besides the addition of LED fog lights, available pseudo leather seats and Siri now being compatible with some of the Apple iPhones, there are no other changes.
Pros: For years, the Lexus ES has been a staple for the brand and has served as the standard in the industry for the competitors in developing an entry-level luxury sedan.
With that being the case, for the 2014 model year, the roomy ES350 is available as a gasoline and a hybrid model. The modestly styled front-wheel drive ES350 offers the perfect balance of harmonizing the ride and the handling experience, while appropriately equipping the vehicle — making this a competitive entry-level luxury sedan.
In the vehicle we reviewed, our ES350 was accessorized with such driver aids as a blind spot monitor with a rear cross-traffic alert system, a navigation system, a back up camera and an intuitive park assist system. Conversely, while our ES350 lacked a forward collision alert system and a radar-activated cruise control system, these items are available as add ons.
Moreover, to enhance the overall luxury experience of owing a Lexus, our ES350 was equipped with such options as a Bamboo and leather trimmed shift knob (and heated steering wheel), a power rear sunshade, a power (opening and closing) trunk, leather seats, heated (and ventilated) front seats, and a memory setting for the driver which controlled the power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, the driver’s seat and the exterior mirrors.
Furthermore, the ES350 offers an intuitive mouse pad-like system which controls the audio and navigation system (if so equipped).
Lastly, the ES350 can also be accessorized with 18-inch wheels, a powerful 15-speaker audio system and an oversized panoramic roof to add to the entire ownership experience.
Cons: Over the years the Lexus ES350 has been the standard for entry-level luxury. However, there are many models in the midsize and large car segment that rivals the Lexus in their offerings. A number of models have begun to out Lexus, Lexus … so to speak. While a number of automakers have pushed to make a back up camera standard, it continues to remain an option on the ES350. Besides the camera, a number of automakers are also offering rear heated seats, too.
Conversely, the ES350 offers three driving modes: economy, normal and sport. Being that the ES350 is in no sense of the manner considered to be a sports car, for the life of us, a sports mode seemed out of character for a luxury non sport-oriented vehicle. So, for those seeking a sportier ride and handling experience in the Lexus line they could either step into the IS or GS models.
The Verdict: Initially, when the Lexus ES was launched, it was considered to be an upscale Toyota Camry. Well, six generations later, it’s obvious that these vehicles are night and day, although they still share the same platform. The quiet-tuned ride, the luxury interior appointments and the longer warranty truly distinguishes itself from the Camry. Being that this is one of three Lexus sedans still being driven by a front-wheel drive configuration, consumers have the option of selecting a gasoline or a hybrid-gasoline model at a competitive price point.
Even with so many near and entry-level luxury models for consumers to select from, still today, the Lexus ES350 continues to serve as the original standard of what an entry-level luxury car is capable of being. In fact, sales rebounded from a low of 48,713 being sold in 2011 in the states to a whopping 72,000 being sold in 2013.
Competition: 2015 Hyundai Genesis Sedan, Buick LaCrosse, Infiniti Q50, Lincoln MKZ and Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him http://twitter.com/#!/JeffCars/.