Most of the metal that rolls onto dealer lots wearing a Lexus badge is derided by enthusiasts as boring and pointless. After spending a week with a Lexus ES 350, I can tell you that it was boring, but it definitely doesn’t suck. I actually think its brilliant.
The ES 350 is far from the fastest car I have driven, that honor goes to the GT-R, but I am not sure I have ever driven another car that so perfectly suits its purpose. The goal of a Lexus is to provide the most luxurious and uneventful journey possible. Quiet, inconspicuous and tasteful; the ES is almost like a good butler.
I am a bit torn about the new front end Lexus is slapping on all of its cars, but aside from a bit of chrome, the ES 350 blends into the congested roadways of our nation. It may not sand out, but it sure is attractive. The smooth curves around the lights and the gentle creases down the sides are elegant. Overall I find it to be an attractive and inoffensive.
If you ever wanted to know why anyone buys a Lexus, spend five-minutes driving it down the interstate. The heated and cooled seats are very comfortable, and the automatic climate control is one of the better in the business. The interior is quieter than a church, and what tiny amount of sound that comes through is easily drowned out by the stereo. Sound quality of that stereo was far better than I expected as well.
The leather that covers the seats is soft and well stitched, and the fit and finish of the entire interior is top notch. Part of car’s $44,202 dollar price tag was the Luxury Package with the bamboo wood interior trim. I love the way the bamboo looks, and the fact that it is a renewable wood source gains extra points in my book. I love a nice slab of burled walnut as much as anybody, but it might be time to stop putting it in cars. The subtle silver contrast stitching on the leather of the seats was also a nice touch.
To really give the Lexus a solid shakedown, I decided to go visit my parents who live a few hours away. On an early saturday morning, with snow in the forecast, I pointed the Lexus west on Interstate 40 and began my journey.
With the 3.5-liter V6 under the hood sending 268 horsepower to the wheels, running through traffic is performed with ease. As long as you keep it out of Eco mode, throttle response is good and the car will happily down shift with a quick prod of the pedal. Despite running across the changing elevation of Tennessee at the upper ends of highway cruising speed, the Lexus still even managed to return a solid 30 mpg.
Several hours later after a quick dash through some light snowfall I arrived at the home of my parents feeling even more refreshed and comfortable than when I did getting out of bed that morning. It is remarkable.
There are some kinks in the armor of the Lexus however. I decided to use the extra space in the back of the Lexus to ferry a few friends up into the mountains for some fun on the snow. At three wide, every passenger decided they wouldn’t put themselves in that situation for more than hour or so. The Lexus also had some struggles climbing the mountains.
The road up to our local ski area is not an extremely difficult climb. I have made it in many less powerful vehicles, but arriving at the top, the Lexus smelled like it was on fire. The smell coming from the transmission was unbelievable. The parking attendant even asked if anything was wrong with the car.
There is no denying that the Lexus ES 350 was a boring car to be in, but in no real quantifiable way could it ever be called a bad car. It was quiet, had enough power, achieved decent fuel economy, was more than comfortable and had plenty of space for three of my closest friends – four in a pinch.
It may not be the machine of enthusiast dreams, but after 700+ miles I came to enjoy my time with the Lexus.