Weidel on Wheels: It’s easy to fall in love with the ES350

Lexus’ entry-level sedan offers good handling and performance
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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What I always find so appealing about many luxury vehicles is the ease in which they drive. The driving is so effortless at times it feels like the vehicle is the one making all the decisions and you’re just along for the ride. And that observation certainly applies to the Lexus 2010 ES350, which was given a solid test here for a week. Even though it’s considered an entry-level sedan in the Lexus fleet, the ES350 is nothing to take for granted. It makes a wonderful first impression on looks alone and provides a similar feeling once behind the wheel. Overall, it’s a pretty sweet car for just under $35,000. Now in its fifth generation, Lexus came out with some exterior changes to the ES350 this year. Although nothing dramatic, the changes were not minor, either. New this year is the front grille, front bumper and revised headlamps. Some reviewers consider the ES350 rather “unexciting,” claiming it’s less interesting than many of its entry-level luxury rivals. While not agreeing with the assessment, there’s no doubting the competition is fierce. The field is crowded and includes the Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G37, Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Genesis; Jaguar XF, Volkswagen CC, Audi A6, and a few other notables. What pleases me most regarding the ES350 is the ease of handling. The ride is extremely quiet and very smooth — two enviable qualities for any vehicle. Wind and engine noise are nonexistent whether at low speed or barreling down the freeway at 75 mph. And speaking of speeding along on a freeway, the ES350 can do that fairly easy and go much faster if one wants to really punch it. This sedan features a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that produces 272 horsepower and is capable of going 0 to 60 mph in a brisk 6.9 seconds. Of course, driving the ES350 hard isn’t doing much for the gas mileage, which is estimated at 19 to 27 miles per gallon under normal conditions. A luxury vehicle also needs to offer something extra on the interior and the ES350 passes that test as well. It has a very easy makeup, which means no real guesswork on operating the stereo system, temperature gauges, and other functions. The leather and soft materials make for a very appealing interior. There is plenty of headroom for front-seat occupants in the ES350, but headroom may bother taller folks. Three people can fit in the backseat without discomfort, while the trunk space is roomy and has a convenient pass-through for items like skis. __________ 2010 Lexus ES350 Price:$34,800 Power:3.5-liter, V-6 engine with 272 horsepower Mileage estimate:19 mpg city; 27 mpg highway Standard features include:Sunroof; keyless entry; dual automatic climate control; 10-way power front seats; driver memory functions; leather upholstery; eight-speaker stereo, in-dash six-CD changer, satellite radio, iPod interface, auxiliary audio jack, USB audio jack, Bluetooth phone; stability and traction control