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2007 Lexus ES 350 Review

Easy Does It

A three-quarter front view of a 2007 Lexus ES 350

In short: A quiet, comfy luxury cruiser of a sedan.

While auto enthusiasts preen over tight handling, raucous exhaust notes and being able to feel the road, many folks find these to be drawbacks in a car. They consider driving to be a nuisance; an aggravating exercise involved in getting from A to B. They want an effortless drive and a plush interior that makes their commute as easy as possible.

Lexus sold almost 70,000 of the last generation ES annually to customers who essentially fit this bill. Now comes the new ES 350, a car that should make its target audience even happier. Filled with soft leather surfaces, glossy red-stained wood and some of the best-quality plastics around, the ES 350 coddles its occupants with comfort and convenience. Our fully-loaded tester came with all the toys necessary to make the neighbors go “ooh,” like cooled seats, double sunroof, rear parking camera and a Mark Levinson DVD sound system. These things add up pretty quickly, and the tester shown here had more than $13,000 worth of options on-board putting the ES 350 into the rarified air of the Infiniti M35 and Acura RL. This is luxury territory it can certainly live in; just don’t expect it to keep up in terms of sporty driving.

Interior views of the 2007 Lexus ES 350

In fact, the ES 350 bestows a feeling of isolation that rivals Outer Mongolia. Every aspect of driving involvement seems to have been purposely sucked out. The thin, wood-rim steering wheel doesn’t have chunky race-inspired grips so common nowadays. The dead pedal—if you can call it that—is gently sloped and carpeted like in an SUV or minivan. The supple leather seats are wide, without any of that silly lateral support that pinches your love handles. The ride is soft, though not floaty, soaking up most road imperfections. The engine is so quiet you might forget it’s running at stop lights. Car nuts might find it hard to believe, but many consumers consider these all good things.

This is a car that puts you at ease like soft jazz or a La-Z-Boy—“soothing” comes to mind. The steering isn’t exactly numb; it’s just leisurely and effortless on the forearms. It’s easy to start coasting happily along, tra-la-la, while the rest of the world passes you by.

But just when we were getting used to this serenity, we were reminded why we’d take responsive over leisurely any day. While breezing along Los Angeles’ busy 110 Freeway, an old lady in a Toyota Camry (which is the basis for the ES) decided she’d fancy changing lanes regardless of whether there was a shiny red Lexus next to her or not. After honking, swerving and missing a tiny Datsun roadster, disaster was averted, but the ES 350’s reactions weren’t particularly exemplary. That loose steering was less than confidence-inspiring and it could certainly cause an over correction had the situation been worse. You’d probably get used to it and this certainly isn’t a problem strictly associated with the ES 350 (there are plenty of cars out there far worse), but it shows why having performance-able handling is so important—even if you view cars as a transportation appliance akin to a nice Kenmore.

Views of the dual sunroof on the 2007 Lexus ES 350

These observations are largely based on personal preferences, so let’s mention some others that all drivers can appreciate—or frown upon. The build quality really is excellent, with every millimeter of the interior made of Grade-A materials. Although they’re pricey, the many tech features are useful and mostly user-friendly. The voice-activated touchscreen navigation system tied to the stereo and Bluetooth telephone is an intuitive device that’s easy to program (although the voice commands take too long). The dual sunroof gives an airy feel to the cabin, but the rear cover is next-to-impossible to open and close from the driver seat. Speaking of sun and glass, the rear window severely reflected our tester’s tan interior, turning the glass nearly opaque when the sun hit it right. A power sun shade prevents the glare, but doesn’t help visibility.

There were other nit-picks, like the seat temperature controls hidden at the base of the center arm rest (pictured above) that oddly slides back and up. The large storage bin underneath houses a power outlet and iPod auxiliary input, but there is no hole to sneak a wire out requiring you to jam the bizarre armrest over it. Other than that, though, the interior and the Lexus ES 350 in general should make its comfort-minded drivers very happy. Just don’t expect many driving enthusiasts to be lining up for its keys.

Read a review of the 2009 Lexus ES 350

A three-quarter rear view of a 2007 Lexus ES 350

Warranty/Service: 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty; 6-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty; 24-hour roadside assistance; free first maintenance.

QUICK SHEET
Base Price: $33,170 /As tested: $46,045

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

Engine: 3.4-liter V6
Horsepower: 272 bhp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 254 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Curb weight: 3,580 lbs
Wheelbase: 109.3 in
Length/Width/Height:
191.1/71.7/57.1 in
Turning circle: 36.7 ft

Brakes: all-wheel disc with ABS and electronic brake assistance

Safety: front airbags; front side airbags; front knee airbags; side-curtain airbags; optional rear side airbags; tire pressure monitor; optional radar pre-collision system; optional radar cruise control; optional rear parking camera

Suspension: independent front and rear
Traction:
traction control; vehicle stability control


0-60 mph: 6.8 seconds
Top Speed: 137 mph (governed)

EPA City: 21 mpg
EPA Highway: 30 mpg

Likes:
posh and quiet interior; user friendly controls; powerful and fuel-efficient V6; lengthy safety list

Dislikes: too much driver isolation; overpowered steering; awful rear window glare; expensive

Check out other Lexus models
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PJR080406
(Updated: 08/11/09 SV)

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