2017 Lexus ES 350 Review

2017 Lexus ES 350 - The 2017 Lexus ES 350 is a nicely designed entry level luxury sedan.

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The 2017 Lexus ES 350 is an affordable entry luxury sedan that not long ago would have been considered a full-blown top-line luxury model. This car, which won't be changed much for 2018, has been refined almost to the hilt during the past few years.

The $38,900 ES 350 looks sleek, is fast and roomy and should remain in style for a long time. My test ES 350 had "atomic silver" paint that really highlighted its lines. Lower body panels have anti-chip paint.

This front-drive car's 3.5-liter 268 horsepower V-6 provides smooth, quick (0-60 m.p.h. in 6.7 seconds) performance in town and on highways. However, it's no sports sedan, although its acceleration is matched by quick, nicely weighted steering, confident braking and nimble handling-despite a 61-front/39-rear weight distribution.

A smooth six-speed automatic transmission works efficiently and has a manual shift feature, which worked well but was superfluous for the Chicago area's flat, congested roads.

Estimated fuel economy is a so-so 21 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on highways. I actually seemed to get a few more miles per gallon in the city. The car has a 17.2-gallon tank, which means no constant stops on long drives. Only 87-octane fuel is required.  

A driver can use a console dial to put the car in "Eco," "Normal," or "Sport" driving modes, but I noticed little, if any difference, between Eco and Normal models, and Sport mode just stiffened the steering and suspension a bit, while causing just a mild difference in ride comfort.

The ES 350 is not a sports sedan, despite its slick styling and dual chromed exhaust outlets. But it can be driven briskly and safely thanks to such things as an all-independent suspension with gas pressurized shock absorbers, front/rear stabilizer bars and a stability control system. The anti-lock brakes work with a linear-action pedal and electronic brake force distribution.

The car is set up for such easy driving that it would take a ham-fisted motorist to drive it in a clumsy manner. It also has key safety features that help keep a driver out of trouble, such as a pre-collision system with standard pedestrian detection, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, backup camera and lane departure alert with steering assist. My test car's options included a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic assist and intuitive parking assist.

The 3,571-pound ES 350 mainly will be bought by many because it looks pricey, rides smoothly although a little more firmly than one might expect, and has an uptown interior with nice materials and attractive stitching on the dash, seats and door panels. And, importantly, it carries the Lexus name, which generally is a bonus at trade-in time. The ES 350 gets high marks for quality.

Standard features in the ultra-quiet interior include a push-button start/stop, automatic dual-zone climate control, 8-inch touchscreen that I found easy to use, some backup manual dashboard controls and a power tilt-and-slide moonroof. There's also a premium audio system with 8 speakers, although my test car had an impressive optional 15-speaker premium system.

Other options included 18-inch (instead of standard 17-inch) wheels, genuine wood trim and a gorgeous power wood-and-leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel.

The ES 350 has lots of space for five tall occupants, although the center of the rear seat is too stiff for anything but short trips. So this car is really a comfortable four-seater. That center rear seat is best left for the large fold-down armrest that contains two beverage holders. The front cupholder locations on the extra-large console are a little unorthodox in that the one for the driver is just behind the shift lever and the one for the front passenger is put ahead of the shifter and angled  towards the passenger seat. Both have covers to help give the console a smooth look. That's a small but thoughtful luxury car touch.

Both power front seats provide good support and the backlit gauges can be quickly read. The deep covered front console storage compartment can swallow fairly large objects. Front doors have storage bins, and the back of the front seats have storage pockets. However, the "fasten seat belt" warning bell is very annoying.

The large trunk has a low wide opening. Its hinges don't get in the way of loading cargo, but it calls for quite a stretch to get objects from the back of it. Rear seat backs don't recline, although there is a small pass-through area from the trunk.

The heavy hood opens via dual struts, eliminating a prop rod and back strain. And the oil dipstick conveniently sits so far in front of the engine it looks as if it might punch you in the nose.



Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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