Lexus ES350 is still good entry level choice

2014 Lexus ES350
2014 Lexus ES350

Lexus is continuing its promise to offer more stylish automobiles to consumers. Each of it’s automobiles (and some trucks) have been touched up to have a family resemblance.

It’s that spindle grille. Some hate it but, hey, you now know a Lexus when you see one. The ES 350 has certainly benefited. It’s mostly been looked upon as a more upscale Toyota Camry which is a bit backwards. It’s the Camry that benefits from the ES, not the other way around. Still, Lexus has tried hard to make the ES much more and it has succeeded. It’s not just the grille, either. The ES 350 is a sports sedan that can hold it’s own with it’s European and American counterparts.

Yes, you notice the grille. It’s big, bold and controversial. I like it, especially on the F-Sport version. At the moment it looks nothing like a Camry (more on that later). The car is powered by a similar V6 engine that makes 268 horsepower and 248 pounds feet of torque. The six-speed transmission has settings for sport and economy and can be shifted manually. This combination doesn’t sound spectacular but this engine is enough to make the ES feel swift, especially in the sport mode. The transmission shifts crisply and unobtrusively. Downshifts happen quickly if you need to pass quickly.

I did call this a sports sedan which isn’t entirely false. You can drive the ES 350 aggressively. You can go from 0-60 miles per hour in about 6.5 seconds which is now about average for the class. Traction and stability control do help keep the car planted while the ABS will stop you straight even in emergencies. Where this car shines is its quiet, comfortable ride. It’s not pillowy old Buick, but it is relaxing.

ES 350 has spacious, well appointed interior
ES 350 has spacious, well appointed interior

Passengers and driver will enjoy the cabin, which is now available with bamboo trim instead of maple hardwood. It brightens things a bit and not as harsh on the environment (takes far less time to grow bamboo than a maple tree). Four people – four tall people – can fit in the ES with ease. Five people will be comfortable. Perforated leather trim is available with heated and cooled seats. The dash is attractively done in upscale materials. My test car had a big touch screen which controlled the audio and climate controls. There is also a mouse in the center console to control things. It’s not meant for use while driving which is probably why there’s also a touch screen.

There are many standard features too numerous to mention. My test car had a optional navigation package, luxury package, power sunshade, parking assist, power trunk opening and blind spot detection. The as-tested price was a little over $46,000. There’s lots to choose from in that price range but very few cars offer this kind of fit and finish and reliable reputation. The ES is still a car to put on your shopping list

Oh, about the Camry. The 2015 version will take many of the ES’s styling cues, including a version of the spindle grille. You will not get the Lexus warranty, however.

cross@alldaytech.com

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