- Smooth V6 engine and transmission
- Extremely forgiving ride smooths out even the roughest roads
- Quiet, luxurious and well-built interior
- Generous rear legroom for a car in its class
- Advanced electronic safety systems come standard
- Navigation system controller can be complicated and distracting to use
- Lack of feedback from the steering makes it feel less than sure-footed around corners
The 2017 Lexus ES 350 is a popular choice when it comes to entry-level luxury sedans for many reasons. Mostly it comes down to the ES 350's sharp-looking modern design, spacious cabin, long list of standard and available equipment, and positive track record for quality. The ES 350 is all about maximizing everyday comfort and makes no performance promises beyond a fairly robust and smooth-revving standard V6 engine.
Lexus refreshed the ES in 2016 with a restyled front end among other small details. For 2017 the ES 350 sees improvements mainly in its multimedia infotainment system, with improved graphics and voice recognition and added menu shortcuts for quicker navigation, as well as the ability to project turn-by-turn GPS navigation directions from your smartphone through an onboard app. The 2017 ES 350 also gains new standard equipment including rain-sensing wipers and the Lexus Safety System+, a suite of active safety technologies that help avoid various types of collisions.
If an entry-level midsize or full-size sedan is what you’re looking for, a few other options are worth considering before making your decision. One of the stronger offerings is the Genesis G80, formerly known as the Hyundai Genesis; it delivers an incredible amount of luxury amenities for the price and is available with a 420-horsepower V8 engine. Another solid option is the Acura TLX, which comes equipped with a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine but is available with a more powerful V6 and a highly sophisticated all-wheel-drive system that enhances handling in either dry or low-grip driving situations. And lastly, though it doesn’t exactly fall under the “luxury” banner, a top-trim Nissan Maxima, with a competent V6 powertrain and a cabin reminiscent of the more upscale Infiniti brand, warrants a test drive. The Lexus ES 350, however, still stands as a benchmark for its class-leading rear legroom and a cabin that seems to tick all the boxes that shoppers seek for luxury transportation.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
Improvements to the multimedia system include updated graphics, Scout GPS app linking, new menu shortcuts for audio, navigation and phone, a "back" button for the Remote Touch Interface controller and improved voice recognition. Additionally rain-sensing wipers and the Lexus Safety System+, which includes radar cruise control, collision warning and mitigation, and lane departure warning with steering assist, become standard equipment.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Lexus ES 350 is a midsize to full-size luxury sedan that seats five people.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, three driver-adjustable drive settings, LED headlights (low-beam setting only), running lights and foglights, rain-sensing wipers, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power-adjustable front seats (with two-way lumbar adjustment), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, perforated premium vinyl upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera and Safety Connect emergency communications. Also standard is the Display Audio interface (includes an 8-inch touchscreen and multipurpose control knob), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Scout GPS Link (smartphone navigation), Siri Eyes Free (iPhone voice control integration) and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod-USB audio interface.
Many options and packages are available, but availability can vary depending on where you live.
The Navigation package includes onboard navigation, a computer mouse-like Remote Touch electronics interface (featuring a new "back" button), voice controls, enhanced Bluetooth connectivity, text-to-speech functionality and the Enform suite of smartphone-connected apps and concierge services (including Lexus Enform Remote, which allows you to control certain functions with your smartphone). A 15-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system can be added to the Navigation package.
The Premium package adds driver-seat memory settings, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated sideview mirrors with memory settings and wood trim. The Luxury package includes the above equipment, plus heated and ventilated front seats and leather upholstery, but also requires that you get Park Assist, a power rear window sunshade, a wood or heated wood steering wheel, bi-LED headlights, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert options. The Ultra Luxury package adds the Premium and Luxury packages' equipment plus a panoramic sunroof, manual rear door sunshades, ambient interior lighting, a power driver-seat cushion extender and passenger-seat memory functions. The Ultra Luxury package also requires that you equip your ES 350 with a Navigation package, a power trunk, and the equipment required with the Luxury package.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The 2017 Lexus ES 350's cabin is modern and stylish. The analog clock in the center of the dash is a classy touch that breaks up the otherwise high-tech environment. Some examples of interior colors and trim materials available include a matte-finish bamboo trim and "flaxen" upholstery combo that creates a positively Swedish look. The richness of the materials varies depending on whether you opt for leather or stick with the standard perforated vinyl, but either way, the build quality is excellent.
The climate controls are simple to use, but the audio system is a little more complicated due to the sheer number of available media types. This is true whether you get the standard Display Audio touchscreen/multipurpose knob controller, or upgrade to the Lexus Remote Touch system included with the Navigation package. The latter is essentially a mouse-like joystick device that controls a cursor on a large centrally located screen. Although interacting with this interface is very similar to using a computer mouse, the ultra-sensitive nature of the controller can make it clumsy and distracting to operate while driving. For 2017, Lexus has added a "back" button in addition to the "enter" buttons added last year in hopes of improving ease of use. We haven't yet tested the revised setup so can’t yet comment on it. If tech features are important to you, we recommend playing around with Remote Touch before taking an ES 350 home.
Space is ample all around, and 6-footers will be quite content in the comfy front seats. Rear seat legroom, in particular, is very impressive, though taller occupants will find their heads touching the roof in ES 350s equipped with the optional panoramic sunroof. The trunk offers 15.2 cubic feet of space, which is average for this class. The rear seats unfortunately do not fold down, however, and only a pass-through is offered.
Every 2017 Lexus ES 350 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side and side curtain airbags, and front knee airbags. Also included are a rearview camera, Lexus Safety Connect (automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location and an emergency assistance button) and, new for this year, Lexus Safety System+ package, which bundles the pre-collision system, lane departure warning (with steering assist to help keep the car centered in its lane), adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlight control. The pre-collision system is a fairly basic forward collision warning system, though it does have the ability to apply the brakes automatically in a potential crash situation and it's able to detect pedestrians in addition to other vehicles.
Other optional equipment includes front and rear parking sensors and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert.
In Edmunds brake testing, the ES 350 came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet, which is a longer distance than that of most of its direct competitors.
In government crash testing, the ES 350 earned a perfect five-star rating for its overall performance, with five stars for total front-crash protection and side-crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the ES the highest possible Top Safety Pick+ distinction with top Good ratings across the board in its moderate-overlap front-impact, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design also was rated Good for whiplash protection in rear impacts, and its front-crash prevention merited a Superior rating.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2017 Lexus ES 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard. The EPA's estimated fuel economy is 24 mpg combined (21 city/30 highway).
During Edmunds testing, a Lexus ES 350 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which is more than enough power for most situations but only about average for the class.
The 2017 Lexus ES 350 delivers a refined and comfortable driving experience, bolstered by a healthy V6 engine that's smooth and responsive. At highway speeds, the cabin remains remarkably silent with little wind, road or engine noise. Bumps and ruts in the road are also nicely absorbed, though the extreme isolation results in a less engaging driving experience.
The ES 350 shines by taking the effort out of daily driving. Its steering is featherlight to lessen the load of low-speed maneuvering. And though it’s still relatively accurate, it also effectively removes all sensation of connection to the road.
Three selectable drive modes are available (Eco, Normal, Sport) that alter the accelerator response and steering effort. Being that the steering still feels light in Normal mode, many drivers may prefer the slightly heftier Sport mode setting, which provides a greater sense of stability.
If you're looking for midsize luxury sedan that embodies quiet, comfortable transportation, the 2017 Lexus ES 350 is a fine choice. You'll find many excellent sedans in this price range, though, so if you prefer a sporty driving experience or high-tech features, there are better options.