Lexus has once again obtained J.D. Power’s top customer satisfaction award, for all their cars. The ES350 being one of them. It’s a front drive sedan that has dated styling, but contemporary appeal for those who don’t want glitz and glamour just a solidly built car that is comfortable to drive and ride in, and provides a hush quiet interior. All attributes of the 2012 ES350. Adding to that, the ES350 front drive sedan received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest possible “Good” rating for frontal-offset and side crash tests.
Laden with a posh leather interior, rich wood accents and comfy cozy seating, the ES350 is a step up from Toyota’s Camry since the only upgrade would be the larger Avalon. In fact the ES350s wheelbase is slightly larger than Camry’s 109.3 inches and coincidentally matches the Avalon’s 111-inch wheelbase. As such, the ES350 rides and handles buttery smooth like the full-size Avalon.
For 2012, Lexus engineers managed to reduce the ES’s weight by 50 pounds over last years model. This helps fuel economy, which is EPA, rated at 19 city, 27-highway mpg. This is just slightly less than the 2012 Camry at 21/30 mpg with the same 3.5-liter, 268-hp V6 engine and 6-speed, slick shifting automatic transmission. Lexus also went to a 3.46 ratio rear axle instead of the previous 3.68 to help achieve these impressive mpg figures. If you want more economy, the ES 300h hybrid provides EPA figures of 40 city, 39-highway mpg.
Power wise, the ES350 so equipped has been 0-60 tested at 7 seconds, which isn’t bad for a mid-size sedan. There’s ample passing power and the V6 actually acts like a V8.
Handling is refined but not sporty. The ES is not meant to be. It caters to those who just want a smooth, quiet, compliant ride. The only fault is that steering effort could be a bit stiffer at highway speeds.
The real passion of the ES comes when slipping into the supportive, sofa soft, perforated and heated leather seats. Driver and front seat passenger are treated to glossy wood trim on dash, doors and console while back seat riders have easy ingress/egress into similar seating quarters with ample leg and headroom.
Instrumentation is easy to view and use and a large LCD screen displays voice activated GPS nav, rearview camera and audio functions, all amenities favored by folks who desire this amount of luxury.
Trunk space is rated at 14.7 cubic feet or enough for two medium size roll-a-longs or two golf bags with the long clubs stacked atop the bags.
Although it came as a standard item, I’m not crazy about the dual moonroofs, the front of which only opens. I contend large ones like these on the ES weaken the body structure although all manufacturers say they don’t.
The other sore point is price. The ES gets pricey when adding tempting options. The base on my test car started at a reasonable $35,525, but tacking on such niceties as the hard-drive based nav system, backup camera, Lexus Insider, Lexus Enform, XM radio with weather, traffic, sports and stocks, added $2,465 to the price. Then, Intuitive Parking added another $500 while the Ultra Luxury Package ($3,535) – whose features are too long to list but includes a full-size spare (rare these days) – plus cargo mat ($64) and trunk mat ($73), brought the bottom line to $43,037 with a $875 delivery charge.
But if you can swing it, the ES350 is one luxurious midsize cruiser that you’ll not regret owning.
To check out an ES350 stop by Lehigh Valley Lexus in Cetronia. And to automatically receive automotive news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.