ES is the least interesting line of Lexus. Why? Because it is not a
REAL Lexus, but a repackaged, upmarket version of Toyota Camry. The duo
is built at the same platoform and targets mainly at the USA
market. Naturally, it shares the cheap content of the mass-production
Toyota: front-wheel-drive, transverse engines and all MacPherson strut
suspensions. To Toyota, this mean enormous cost savings. To us, this
mean being cheated. Obviously, Toyota / Lexus hopes to cheat 70,000 or
so North Americans annually. Good luck !
and Audi are pursuing engineering excellence at an unpreceding pace,
Lexus ES350 is still going the conservative way. Its chief target is to
please its old customers with comfort and refinement – a soft soft
ride, a creamy V6 and automatic gearbox, excellent sound insulation,
NVH-absorbing bushings and engine mounts, good build quality, comfy
leather seats, Mark Levinson audio system… in this view, it is very
But once you drive it into the twisties, its harmony
disappears. On rough surfaces where BMW 3-series can overcome easily,
the softly sprung ES feels unsettled. Push it into corners, it lacks
the poise, accuracy and eagerness of European machines. With most of
the mass hanging over the nose, it steers reluctantly and runs out of
grip early. Its helm delivers little NVH but also filters all kinds of
information from the front wheels. It rolls alarmingly in the twisties.
All these qualities are predictable
for a front-drive, all-struts mass production platform. In short, ES350
is by no means a driver’s car.
is better in terms of performance. Its new 3.5-litre DOHC VVT-i V6
produces 272 horsepower, eclipsing BMW 330i. It has a 6-speed automatic
gearbox as well. 0-60 mph can be done in 6.8 seconds, which is not much
behind an automatic 330i. The problem is, its cheaper sister car shares
the same V6 with just 4 fewer horsepower. So,
still think you are not being cheated ?
about the design? After the stylish IS, GS and the forthcoming
new LS, do you expect the new ES350 to look so characterless? 5 years
on, who will remember this shape? Or the ugly dashboard ?
As always, ES is the missing link of Lexus, because it is not a REAL
Lexus. It may earn a lot of money for Toyota, as there are plenty of
aging customers who simply don’t care about driving fun, but it remains
a dent in the L-Finess.