To truly appreciate the Lexus ES 350 drive, you need to detach yourself from the role of a driver, and imagine you are just a passenger like any of the other four – or five; for it is a very spacious and comfortable car.
UPSIDE: Excellent ride comfort, Reduced cabin noise, More legroom than ever, Variant choices
FLIPSIDE: Detached steering feel, Voice controlled operation only for the phone, Some cabin material questionable, The ‘mouse’ needs refinement
The last I drove a Lexus ES350 was hardly a couple of years ago, and the 3.5 L V6 under the hood never left room for any complaint. It still doesn’t, for the sixth generation ES 350 carries over the same engine and produces 272 hp – actually 4 hp more – but with better fuel efficiency. This V6 finds a blissful match in the six-speed automatic transmission, together offering the driver a good balance of sound and substance.
The new Lexus ES 350 ride almost lulls you into being oblivious to everything outside or beneath the car. It is almost like there is a conveyor belt placed between the tyres and the road, which is a good thing – and a bad thing. Every time you nudge the steering within your lane, or take on a curve, you are a tad doubtful if you turned the wheel a bit too much – or too less!
The new Lexus ES 350 is loaded with gadgets designed to keep the driver focused and at ease, at once. Ironically, many of them are there like a penance: the Lane Departure Assistance (LDA) for instance, that covers up well for an errant, deadpan steering wheel.
The leather or the ventilated semi-aniline leather in my car felt undeniably luxurious, just as the thin sheet of faux-leather on the console or the dashboard felt somewhat like a bit of penny pinching. The breathing seats are simply perfect in their buttressing comfort.
The console storage with the diagonally placed cup holders and the deep console pocket are signs of good thought that went into the cabin design. As in the GS, the console bears the little square ‘mouse’ for the navigation screen, with its own wrist-rest, but the problem is that the mouse has a mind of its own and while it helps to avoid distraction on your drive, it could sometimes feel like a cat and mouse game.
The dashboard’s nice little LED analogue clock is an elegant centerpiece but I think it’s time they changed the bob-head stalk for the gearshift – doesn’t share the premium feel of a Lexus cabin.
Cabin and control
The Lexus ES 350 has finally grown into the Avalon platform from that of the Camry. (There, you’ve heard the last of those unfair remarks about a “glorified Camry”.) The wheelbase is now longer by 45mm, while the vehicle itself has grown by just 25mm. The resultant stretch quotient is almost limousine-like at the back, and the boot too can discharge the booty of an entire caravan!
The cabin feels rich and refined despite the occasional hiccup in the refinements. The 8-speaker music system does good work of the surround musical experience but there is a distinct lack of subwoofer presence if you are looking to hold a concert in your Lexus cabin.
As expected, my Lexus ES 350 Titanium was loaded with features like the Radar cruise control, Pre-crash safety and a blind spot warning; the last one I found to be only too cautious – but then, it is a long car and one can’t be blamed for trying to save one’s back! Unfortunately, the voice control option applies only to the phone and setting up navigation didn’t fare too well – but that could be just me. While backing up, the rear camera with a wide-angle view and useful guidelines proved to be an excellent parking space accessory.
If you happen to catch a glimpse of the new Lexus ES from your high-rise balcony, you’ll appreciate how good it looks with its elegantly extending dark roof. From this angle, the sweeping rear glass makes this 4.9m long sedan look even longer!
As for the façade, the car that really benefitted from the new spindle grille and its menacing inward dent is the GS. In the ES, its role is more that of sharing the new Lexus character. The LED blings make for a cheerful greeting while the rubies in the integrated rear lamps are rather nice.
The Lexus ES has traditionally focused almost solely on passenger comfort and you won’t have to ask the family twice out for weekend drives on otherwise tiresome distances. The cabin creates the legendary Lexus climate within; has sunscreens all around; seals out all noise; and the suspensions are perpetually on comfort mode. The ISOFIX is easy to handle, too.
Even for the driver, the overall cabin dynamics and the very well oiled nature of the steering will leave the shoulders stress-free at the end of that long drive – as though you slept through it with your eyes wide open.
Standard safety: Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, Traction Control (TRC), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Emergency Stop Signal, and Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) front seats. 10 airbags including dual-stage SRS airbags and SRS knee airbags in front, SRS side airbags, and full-length SRS curtain shield airbags. 17” alloy wheels are standard.
The Essential Lexus ES 350
The 2013 Lexus ES 350 is arguably one of the most comfortable luxury mid-size sedans in the market. With the new Avalon platform, is it right to still call it mid-sized is a logical derivative. It lives up to the Lexus refinement of both cabin and ride. It has a sweet sounding V6 engine that doesn’t need to be coaxed into Sport mode to part with the power you need. Filled with gadgets, the ES 350 adds value to premium when compared with the price of a BMW 5-series or an E-class Mercedes. Now, could a car that offers so much still manage to disappoint in some way?
Every time you step into the driver’s seat and take the wheel, you are holding on to the answer.