Those familiar with Lexus history find a comforting friend in the ES 350.
When Toyota spun off its luxury Lexus division with stand-alone dealerships in the late 1980s one of the first offerings out of the gate was ES, along with the Flagship LS full-size sedan. Both survive and thrive to this day more than thirty years later.
Now in its seventh generation, the ES sedan remains as relevant today as when it first launched as an entry point opportunity at Lexus. The mid-size, front-wheel drive debuted a longer, lower, wider footprint in the 2019 model year (the dawn of Gen 7) while incorporating an athletic stance and shedding a bit of its conservative bent. A ground-gripping all-wheel drive variant got added last year.
Think of ES as a comfort car with generous row-two leg room (39.2 inches) and expansive trunk region; although static row two backrests dis-sway carting of sizeable items. Those seeking a higher level of sportiness within mid-size dimensions and Lexus badging should take a gander at the four-door IS.
Lexus trotted out the mid-size GS sedan from 1993 until 2020, but appetites for rear-drive entry-luxury sedans slowly lost appeal, giving way five-door crossovers of all shapes and sizes.
Since the birth of Lexus, all products beginning with ES and LS set the industry bar for interior quiet; a cabin leaving great outdoor noises outside the friendly confines. Rivals by and large have finally caught up, but Lexus gets credit for establishing decibel standards to live by with ES logging in seven generations of refinements.
Returning from last year, a dependable and well executed 3.5-liter V-6 pumping out a healthy 302 horses teamed with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission and dubbed the ES 350 (in a nod to the 3.5-liter engine displacement).
When Lexus added an all-wheel drive option in 2021, another powertrain entered the fray. A 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder delivering 203 horses known affectionally as the ES 250. Toyota and Lexus continue offering a wide array of gas-electric hybrid powertrains (many of the non plug-in sorts) and ES is no exception.
Both the all-wheel drive four cylinder and front-drive six banger in 2022 start with the exact $41,875 price point. The gas-electric hybrid (ES 300h) starts a shade higher at a tempting $42,975. Historically, a well-maintained ES holds very strong resale value.
All ES models, as with a majority of Lexi products, receive a much-appreciated interior improvement in the form of ‘updated multimedia functionality’ which translates to easier interactions with the multi-function screen. For too many seasons, Lexus trapsed out its ‘Remote Touch Interface,’ an overly frustrating, finger-activated scroll pad maneuvering an in-screen curser.
It returns in 2022, but the screen itself in now blessed with a touch sensitive sensibility and conveniently moves forward approximately four inches within easy reach of the driver. In effect Lexus invites numerous screen play opportunities. Go head, geek-out with the skating pad between front buckets, or simply touch the screen or utilize secondary steering wheel controls.
Outside and upfront, the face of Lexus returns in the form of a “Spindle Grille” resembling a truncated hourglass with interior black patterns resembling stretched arrowheads, each side pointing to a central Lexus logo. Polarizing when first introduced, this signature statement gained traction over time by daring to be different. Its cinched middle dovetails with standard LED lighting (part of a light mid-cycle refresh) in an elevating tri-bulb structure within a checkmark fashion.
The fuel tank holds 15.9 gallons utilizing regular, 87-octane unleaded petrol and a highway cruising range of 508 miles. Mileage estimates for the V-6 engine check in at a respectable 22 miles per gallon city and 32 mpg highway.
Brakes engage immediately with a gentle touch of the foot pad while steering remains precise and predictable.
Calendar year 2021 sales of Lexus vehicles reached 304,476 in the U.S., up 10 percent from the previous 12 months. A good chunk gets attributed to ES with 45,406 units sold, up five percent from 2020 and finishing as the top-selling four-door sedan in the Lexus portfolio.
Both the gas tank release door and trunk release potion under the dash left of the steering column. When Lexus repositioned the now-touch sensitive screen four inches forward, the analog-style clock (with a face and arms) also relocated left of the screen.
The electronic-start push button, right of the steering column, encounters direct access with right-hand stalks sometimes blocking the way. Wood and aluminum trimming combine in an elegant dance.
Twist-like bolts jet from a half-moon dome shading a seven-inch digital instrument panel with the right knob selecting three drive-mode selections (Eco, Sport, Normal) and the left disengaging traction control when/if needed.
The forward-skewed multi-function screen dominates the dashboard with narrow, smallish horizontal air vents situated below but above a row of small ventilated-related push buttons (HVAC options also operate from the touch screen). An alcove further below and inward houses heated steering wheel/seat monitors and one additional treasure.
Look closely and unearth an audio blast from the past: a compact disc feed. Lexus remains one of a precious few automakers forging forward with CD players in the face of streaming services and pod casts. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Smartphone interplay come standard along with a three-month satellite radio subscription.
Row two holds three adults in a pinch, two in optimal comfort while the 13.9-inch cubic foot trunk rates about average. Upper trims include a hands-free option which unlocks and pops the lid with an under cargo foot swipe below dual inboard exhausts when the key fob is on person.
Historically, Lexus included numerous safety features standard under the “Lexus Safety System Plus.” In 2022 the suite adds pedestrian and cyclist detection along with a system detecting oncoming traffic when stationed in an intersection. Radar cruise control now automatically slows the vehicle during turning encounters.
Four 2022 model year ES 350 trims include Base, Luxury, Ultra Luxury and pimpled out F Sport. Lexus provided an Ultra Luxury trim for the week, representing the loaded-up poshest possibility without merging into the sportier F Sport ride opportunity.
Ultra luxury adds features such as power rear sunshade and manual side shades, power trunk lid with under cargo kick-sensor, color heads-up windshield display, 18-inch split five-spoke high gloss wheels and adaptive suspension. Ultra Luxury trim pricing starts at $49,980.
A bit of clarification is in order regarding Lexus marketing concerning F Sport versus F. Lexus launched its high-performance ‘F’ sub set in 2008 targeting similar synergetic low-volume efforts from Mercedes-Benz (AMG), Audi (RS), BMW (M) and Cadillac (V).
The F Sport option package, now available on the 2022 hybrid ES 300h and a majority of Lexus products, includes such upgrades as additional drive modes and adaptive dampers assisting body control.
Lexus covers most powertrains with a 72 moths or 70,000-mile warranty, longer than some rivals and that of its sister-division Toyota. The basic new car warranty also rates as above average with a 48-month 50,000-mile time horizon. Complimentary maintenance service at a franchised Lexus dealer gets covered for the first two visits at six and twelve month intervals.
2022 Lexus ES 350
Pricing for Ultra Luxury: $49,890
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Overall Length: 195.9 inches
Overall Width: 73.4 inches
Overall Height: 56.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,649 pounds
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway
Powertrain warranty: 72-month/70,000 miles
Assembly: Georgetown, Kentucky