- Powerful and velvety-smooth V6
- Plush ride
- Sumptuous interior
- High-end luxury features available
- Price increases quickly with options
- Unimpressive handling and braking
There is nothing exciting about the 2010 Lexus ES 350. It could be filled with fireworks, painted fuchsia and launched over 23 school buses by Robbie Knievel and still be less interesting than every other entry-level luxury sedan on the market. However, excitement isn't the be-all and end-all requirement in this segment, despite what marketers and car enthusiast media would advocate with such terms as "0-60," "steering feel" and "fun to drive." For every person interested in such a sport sedan, there are probably three luxury sedan buyers more interested in "wood trim," "comfortable ride" and "easy to drive." These are the buyers that the ES 350 has won over for years.
Though the ES 350 continues to be based on the Toyota Camry, you'd be hard-pressed to tell by looking at it or driving it. The cabin is stocked with high-quality materials that are screwed together to a degree befitting the reputation Lexus has achieved over the years (the Camry can't make the same claim). Ambient noise is quelled to a level that may make you question your hearing, while the isolated ride melts road imperfections away. The V6 engine is civilized and offers a pleasing mix of power and fuel economy. In short, the ES 350 is designed to comfortably whisk you away from that long day at the office while drawing as little attention to itself as possible.
For 2010, the ES 350 gets a mild exterior freshening and a significant bolstering of its features list. Now standard are rear side airbags, leather upholstery, driver memory functions, Bluetooth audio and a USB port. The optional navigation system was also given a welcome upgrade, while Lexus' new "Enform and Safety Connect" emergency telematics system (think OnStar) is added to the lengthy options list. Sadly for book-on-tape fans, the previously standard tape deck has been removed and sent back to 1987.
The most obvious downside to the 2010 Lexus ES 350 is its isolation and lack of excitement. If you want a car to be memorable or draw attention to itself, we suggest you head over to the sport sedan aisle. Another, perhaps more important factor, is that the ES gets pretty pricey when you start piling on the options. Many of those fancy options are also found on the top-of-the-line Lexus LS, but most can be had for less money in the recent slew of ES rivals.
Indeed, for the first time in years, the ES 350 has rivals that go after the same luxury sedan buyer. The Buick LaCrosse and Hyundai Genesis may not have the same brand prestige as Lexus, but if you can look past that, you'll find them just as refined, comfortable and well-equipped as the ES 350 while being notably cheaper. They're also a bit more responsive to drive, particularly in the area of braking. We'd highly recommend taking a look at those two models before signing on the dotted line for the ES 350.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2010
The Lexus ES 350 gets a slight exterior revision for 2010, but the addition of standard rear side airbags and the optional "Lexus Enform and Safety Connect" telematics system are more noteworthy changes. A number of other features have been made standard.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2010 Lexus ES 350 is a midsize luxury sedan available in a single trim level. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, automatic wipers, cruise control, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats, driver memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, leather upholstery, auto-dimming mirror, Bluetooth phone and music streaming capability, and an eight-speaker stereo with in-dash six-CD changer, satellite radio, iPod interface, auxiliary audio jack and USB audio jack.
The ES 350 options list is extensive, with many features grouped into packages. These options include HID adaptive headlights, a self-parking system, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision system, heated and ventilated front seats, front passenger memory functions, upgraded leather upholstery, a power rear sunshade and a wood-and-leather steering wheel. The optional hard-drive-based navigation system includes a back-up camera, voice commands, real-time traffic and weather (plus XM sports and stock information) and the Lexus Enform telematics system. A 14-speaker Mark Levinson premium stereo can be added to the navigation system.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
Since sportiness wasn't part of the equation, the ES 350's designers had plenty of time to devote to making the cabin as luxurious as possible. For the most part, they've succeeded in grand style, as the ES has one of the most comfortable and inviting interiors south of $40,000. Materials quality is absolutely top-shelf and the available features list is more like what you would find in something costing $60,000. Moreover, the optional ventilated seats are among the best we've experienced. The ES 350 also offers a roomy backseat and a 14.7-cubic-foot trunk with a cargo pass-through.
Every 2010 Lexus ES 350 comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Optional features include a radar-based pre-collision system and the "Lexus Enform and Safety Connect" emergency telematics system.
In Edmunds brake testing, the ES 350 came to a stop in a longish 133 feet from 60 mph -- that's 6 feet longer than a Toyota Corolla took in the same test.
In government crash testing, the ES 350 earned the maximum five stars for frontal crash protection and front seat side crash protection. It got four stars for rear side protection.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the ES 350 was awarded the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side crash tests. The IIHS notes, however, that its ratings were based on results from the Toyota Camry, which shares a platform with the Lexus.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2010 Lexus ES 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that doles out a silky smooth 272 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard. In performance testing, the ES 350 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, which is average acceleration for this segment. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
The 2010 Lexus ES 350 provides an isolated, pillow-soft ride, and most buyers won't drive the ES aggressively enough to be disappointed with its wallowy handling. Road, wind and engine noise are negligible, as the ES is one of the quietest cars we've ever tested at freeway cruising speeds. The latter is all the more impressive given that it's one of Lexus' most affordable offerings.
The 2010 Lexus ES 350 remains a top choice among entry-level luxury sedans, but a pair of upstart competitors should give you pause.