DRIVING by the seat of your pants, the engine roaring at full noise as you dive into tight twisty corners, is not for everyone. For some people, a luxury saloon is all that’s required to feel comfortable on the road, a big spacious sedan to get you around town in style.
The Lexus ES 350 Sports Luxury is that luxury sedan.
Lexus’s connection to the luxury saloon goes back many years, back to the days of its first assault on its European rivals, with the LS 400, with the Japanese car maker following that model with the smaller and less expensive ES 300.
The 2017 ES 350 is the next incarnation in the series, and offers spacious seating (particularly the rear seat), an impressively quick engine, and an exceptionally well refined cabin designed to help it battle its Euro opponents.
Fitted with the now familiar spindle grille, it’s bold shape is unmistakable thanks to its sheer size, with halogen projector-style headlamps incorporating L-shaped LED daytime running lights (the L-shape represents L for Lexus, though you do have to use a bit of imagination to see this). LED’s are also used in the rear lights.
Sports Luxury occupants can settle into ventilated front seats (which offered a very supportive and comfortable ride), with ten-way power adjustment, three zone climate control, and heated rear seats. Unwanted glare and heat can be warded off with rear side sunshades.
The first impression in settling into the new Lexus ES is quality. Comfort is high on the list too and the mid-size Lexus has the ability to iron out almost everything Australian roads might throw at it. It looks the goods too, particularly in Onyx Black. On the downside, it’s not as quiet as some of its rivals but it doesn’t miss by much.
Still inside, the dashboard styling does feel old and dated, with its wide ends, but there’s plenty to take your focus away from this, including a 15-speaker premium Mark Levinson audio system (which sounds amazing), headlights with auto high beam, pre-collision safety, and radar cruise control.
There’s also blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning, as well as the Lexus Enform suite of apps that allows you to feel connected and informed with everything from the weather, to local attractions.
The suspension is very soft and throwing the ES into a tight twisty corner does make you feel like you’re going to end up on your lid. Under heavy breaking the car lurches forward and when you have finally stopped, the ES almost turns into “a jack in the box”, moving backwards and forwards until the suspension has finished its trampoline act.
The steering is too light for our tastes but the car does react fast enough in moments of need. Brake-pedal response is the other area that we’d like to see improved, the pedal feel is way too spongy, lacking any reassuring firmness.
The ES350 is truly aimed squarely at those who want luxurious cruising and commuting rather than driving excitement, and is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 engine producing maximum power of 204kW and peak torque of 346Nm. A combined fuel consumption scores 9.5l/100kms, however, the best fuel consumption we achieved was 12l/100kms, which is a little thirsty.
A nicely matched six-speed automatic transmission drives the ES through the front wheels, and under overtaking acceleration it promptly drops a gear or two to give you added torque. However, if you needed to merge out of an intersection, or launch of a set of lights, the front wheel drive is terrible.
The torque steer and bouncing wheel movement when taking off from a standing start made the ES 350 hop, skip and jump all over the road. We find it puzzling why Lexus would continue to manufacture this car with the front wheel drive system. Let’s face it, if they are truly wanting to continue their assault on big Euro brands, this car should be a rear wheel drive.
In its current skin, it really shows the Camry heritage the ES is based upon.
It hits the road at $81,662 and comes in a range of colours (aside from the Onyx (Black) we cruised around in). These include Sonic Quartz, Mercury Grey, Premium Silver, Graphite Black, Vermilion, Metallic Silk, Deep Metallic Bronze, Titanium and Deep Blue. Four interior trim options are also available.
Our 2017 Lexus ES 350 Sports Luxury was provided by Lexus Australia. To find out more, contact your nearest Lexus dealer.
Road Test: 2017 Lexus ES 350 Sports Luxury
Pros – spacious and comfortable; feature packed.
Cons – front wheel drive; soft suspension and steering.