2018 Lexus ES 350
Class: Premium Midsize Car
Miles driven: 445
Fuel used: 21.2 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 21.0 mpg
Driving mix: 65% city, 35% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 21/30/24 (city, highway, combined)
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||A-|
|Power and Performance||C+|
|Fit and Finish||B+|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Base price: $38,900 (not including $995 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert ($500), twin projector bi-LED headlights ($515), power rear sunshade ($210), Luxury Package ($1670), Navigation Package ($1495), Intuitive Parking Assist ($500), panoramic glass roof and power sunroof ($500), heated wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel ($450), illuminated door sills ($379), body-side moldings ($199)
Price as tested: $46,313
The great: Ride quality, quietness, drivetrain refinement
The good: Passenger space, dollar value
The not so good: Control layout
If you’re as much a fan of the current Lexus ES 350 as we’ve been, this might be the time to snap one up, because the current model – which has been around since 2013 – is due to be replaced shortly by a redesigned version. (We’re scheduled to drive the new 2019 very soon, so look for our report after the embargo lifts in early June.)
The ES has long been the most popular car in the Lexus lineup, and for good reason: It offers ample room, a strong V6 engine, and an emphasis on “midsize luxury” few rivals can match. In fact, it’s one of the few cars in the premium-midsize class to really focus on luxury rather than distorting that vision with a sporting bent.
That’s not to say, however, that the ES 350 is a dynamic dog. Its chassis is perfectly capable in the corners, and its powertrain is an absolute joy to exercise.
To that latter point: Although the ES’s 3.5-liter V6 is rated at “only” 268 horsepower, that figure really doesn’t tell the whole story; this thing is punchy with a capital “P.” Hit the gas hard from a stop or even a low-speed roll, and the ES will bolt forward with the front tires chirping in protest (or maybe, delight). A lot of engines of this size produce more power on paper – including the one in the ES’s newly redesigned Toyota Camry and Avalon cousins – but that doesn’t always translate to equivalent response. Ditto going from the ES’s “antiquated” 6-speed automatic to a more modern 8-speed; it’s a bigger number, but not necessarily a better one, as the ES’s transmission is impressively quick to downshift when you hit the throttle from speed.
The ES is one of the few cars in the premium-midsize class to come with front-wheel drive, and also among the few to not offer all-wheel drive. Front-drive rivals include the Acura TLX, Lincoln MKZ, and Volvo S60 and S90, but all those also offer all-wheel drive as an option. None, however, come standard with a V6 engine. Note that the Lexus ES can also be had in a hybrid version called the ES 300h.
If there’s a downside to the ES, it’s in the control layout. Instead of a touchscreen for infotainment adjustments, the ES uses a console-mounted “joystick” to move around the screen and select options. While several other cars use this type of system, most of our drivers find the concept to be more tedious to use than a touchscreen, and even then, the one in the Lexus isn’t as intuitive to use as the best.
We’ve covered the ES previously in other reports – most recently, a 2017 version with many of the same features, and at nearly the same price – so we’ll refer you to that review for more info, as the car really hasn’t changed much for 2018.
For the class, the ES’s starting price of $39,895 (including the $995 destination charge) seems like a bargain … and it is. But while that includes a hefty load of features that are optional on many rivals, there were some extra-cost items on our tester that seemed as though they belonged on the standard-equipment list. But of course, then the car couldn’t be said to start at “under $40,000.”
Chief among them is the $500 package that includes blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alert. Ditto the $1670 Luxury Package that brings embossed leather interior (standard upholstery is leather-like NuLuxe), heated and ventilated front seats, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, memory for the steering wheel/power driver seat/power mirrors (really great when two or more people drive the car), and wood interior trim.
A few other options boosted the bottom line to $46,313 – still a relative bargain for a premium midsize sedan with this level of features – but suffice it to say that you can get a very nicely equipped ES 350 for about $42,000. And with a replacement on the way, it’s very possible dealers will be letting them go for well under retail price.
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