You may ask yourself why would someone want to buy a Lexus ES350. In essence, the Lexus ES350 is essentially a really nice Toyota Camry. For the higher price you receive a much nicer dealer experience, a cushier ride, and overall a nicer car. This car has no sporty pretensions about it. The industry keeps moving towards sporty cars while this car retains the traditional luxury feel. Lexus has made strides to become a little sportier on other models, but this is a break in that formula.
The ES350 is designed using what Lexus calls “L-Finesse design”. The result of this design particularly in the ES350, is a bland car. The car tends to just blend right in. Those characteristics continue onto the inside with a simple design. The dash is soft touch and gauge cluster is very good looking. The clock on the dash looks like a cheap wrist watch which seems to take away from the interior. The seats are road trip worthy, though they have no real support for energetic driving. With plenty of real wood thrown around the interior, this car is a nice place to spend your time with a few things that seem dated.
The ES350 is powered by a once choice 3.5L V6 which is ULEV II (Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) certified. This engine is good for 272 hp and 254 lb-ft which is channeled through a six speed automatic transmission. The transmission does have manual shifting abilities but no paddles are included. Like the Camry, the ES350 is front wheel drive and is not available in all wheel drive form. Rated at 19/27 mpg, the ES350 posts respectable milage numbers. Though most drivers will not be speed demons the car is rated at 6.8 seconds 0-60 which is respectable in its class. Torque steer is well in check and the steering is very light. Driving the ES350 is a very uneventful affair. The car can literally just cruise along.
The car I had was a base model with optional equipment including heated and ventilated front seats, and a wood and leather trimmed steering wheel and shift nob. The sticker price for the vehicle I had was $36,645. That is nearly $3,000 more than the better equipped Buick LaCrosse. The LaCrosse is more engaging to drive and overall had a better driving balance. The interior of the LaCrosse also has more design character and feels slightly richer. I am comparing the ES350 to the LaCrosse in a harsh way and the reason is simple. The all new for 2010 Buick LaCrosse is trying through both marketing and design, to directly take on the ES350.
So this all seems to circle back to the beginning. The car drives like it looks, boring, fluid, yet comfortable. The dealer experience is top notch. The question I have is why pick this over the Buick LaCrosse? The LaCrosse seems to be more car for the money and is definitely more engaging to drive. Picking the Lexus ES350 over the Buick LaCrosse comes down to two simple reasons. The first is Buick has an image problem. Though it is worth noting they are working swiftly to try and change the brand’s perception. The second is the dealer experience. The Buick dealership does not give out free loaner cars and will not pamper you anything like the Lexus dealership. At the end of the day, the Lexus ES350 is a fine car, but now there is real competition in the price point now and Lexus needs to step up their game.