Outgoing ES may bring in good price
"The Lexus ES 350 brings the feature-rich environment mid-level luxury consumers demand, with a mid-level luxury price tag."
The ES 350 I’m using this week is a 2012 issue, already being supplanted in dealerships by the new model year’s iteration; but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it may leave buyers some bargaining room for any left on showroom floors (because the newest ES is less expensive than the outgoing 2012, at least at the base level).
The ES line-up in the Lexus stable is not quite the entry-level model from Toyota’s luxury arm; it slots into the line-up above the hybridized CT200 and the IS cars. My tester this week is a 2012 ES 350, which brings the feature-rich environment mid-level luxury consumers demand, with a mid-level luxury price tag.
It brings a little more room to the Lexus experience inside the cabin, certainly more than I find in the aforementioned other two; although for my particular proportions, I’d want to move up the line to the more generous (and my favourite of the company’s passenger cars) GS 350. I’d recommend the same to you as well, gentle reader, if you are over six feet.
And, like that car, the ES employs a 3.5 litre, six-cylinder engine; smooth and quiet and dispensing enough power to move a driver around effortlessly at any speed, although it doesn’t pretend to be a sports car.
A six speed automatic transmission functions flawlessly, linking the power to the wheels. The gearbox works fine in its default mode, though if you want to be a more engaged driver and do your own shifts, there is a sequential shifter on hand. Myself, I got tired of the pretend-shifting of sequential gearboxes a long time ago; if I want to shift I want a proper manual transmission; in a car with an automatic, I leave it in straight-up automatic mode.
The company tends to tune the steering in its cars more toward the driver who likes a light touch on the steering wheel, without a lot of feedback or an over-responsive turn ratio. It doesn’t feel bad at all, and tightens up with speed in what Toyota call progressive-rate power steering.
The interior of my ES tester shows off nice lines and minimalist styling, nothing is over (or under) done; and a two tone black-and-tan color scheme looks nice with sparingly-used wood accents on the console, steering wheel and door inserts.
I may be misusing the word “tan” to describe the upholstery (which is named ‘parchment’ on this vehicle’s spec sheet), but you get the idea – it’s a light brown, quality leather surface that feels good. Part of the option package in this car is heated and ventilated seats for both front seat occupants; and I believe that once you’ve had cooled seats you’re spoiled forever.
My ES 350’s option package, the “Ultra Premium Package with Navigation” is what pulls it up to competitive levels in the mid-luxury segment. Adding touches like active headlights that illuminate the road while going into corners at night; a power rear window shade or an upgraded stereo (from Lexus’ long-time supplier Mark Levinson) and backup camera, the package completes the car, and you know what? For the additional ten grand it adds to the sticker price, it ought to.
Ultimately, minus the roominess issue for us taller drivers, the ES 350 is a fine combination of high quality materials and a brand name that won’t leave the status-hunters feeling inadequate in the golf-course parking lot or dropping little Brandon and Rihanna off at private school.
It’s suitable as a daily driver for small families as well, albeit perhaps a little upper-end for the average family with its mid-luxury price tag. My tester comes with a base sticker of $42,150 but with the addition of the Ultra Premium package (with navigation) it subtotals at $52,200, before freight and taxes.
2012 Lexus ES350
Price as tested (before taxes): $52,200
Options on test vehicle: Premium Package with Navigation ($10,050); inc.: upgraded audio system, navigation, heated/cooled front seats, backup camera, panoramic moonroof, rear sunshade, adaptive headlights, leather seats.
Configuration: front engine/ front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5L V6/ 6-spd auto. with sequential shift
Power/torque: 268 hp/ 248 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (64L)
Fuel economy ratings: 10.9 L/100km city; 7.1 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 11.1 L/100km over 311 km
Warranties: 4 years/80,000 km (basic); 6 years/ 110,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Audi A4; BMW 3 Series; Lincoln MKZ; Infiniti G37; Volvo S60
Strengths: high quality interior; loaded with techno-goodies; residual value
Weaknesses: tight interior; requires big option package to feel like true Lexus