First Drive Review: 2015 Lexus ES350–A Whole Lot of LuxuryI don’t usually like modern entry-level luxury sedans. The reasons as to why aren’t enough...
I don’t usually like modern entry-level luxury sedans. The reasons as to why aren’t enough to justify my feelings—they just don’t sit right with me. Perhaps it’s just the lack of milestones in my life (marriage, fatherhood, etc.), which renders a family-rig useless, much less a luxury variant. Or it may be that anything within the realm of “entry-level luxury” is just too… entry-level and a bit boring (for luxury price). So you can imagine how I felt when I picked up the 2015 Lexus ES350 from the airport stow ‘n go parking lot.
At first glance, the saloon did a good job of standing out of the lot’s background. Normally silver cars are hard to appreciate. But there it was, gleaming in the sun, emanating all of its monotone glory… which surprisingly wasn’t boring to look at.
The trademark “spindle” grille set an aggressive demeanor while the subtle body lines toned it back to classy. I admit while it probably would have looked better draped in a deep black or gunmetal grey, the handsomely brawny design wasn’t lost. Stance and ride height, however, would’ve benefited from the premium 18-inch wheels option (though I did appreciate the smaller wheel/bigger tire combo on rough roads). Even after leaving an eye-catching impression though, the sense of familiarity couldn’t be shaken.
Interior Comfort & Ergonomics
The ES was taken everywhere. A short road trip to Fort Wayne, IN and back, and two dinner nights in Detroit– highway driving was pleasant. It was engaging to an extent, but this isn’t exactly a driver’s car anyway. The V6 puts out a conservatively apt 268hp and 248lb-tq, providing a linear and fantastic fun climb to highway speed limits while maintaining tame drivability on city roads.
An impressive average/combined 24 mpg was seen right before handing the keys back to Lexus. My only gripe was the 6-speed automatic, which only took brownie points away from the car when it was manually shifted.
Daily errand runs became smooth and comfortable commutes. But it has luxury suspension, so no big deal right? Wrong. Michigan quite possibly has the worst roads in the history of all paved roads. Ever. Going down the road could net you a 50 percent chance of coming home in a tow truck (not really, but you get the point). Potholes and patchy roads in the ES350, however, were conquered effortlessly, eliminating the “I’m not drunk, I’m avoiding a pothole” syndrome that you’d normally become victim to. Have to brave a crappy road with a sleeping baby in the back seat? Challenge accepted and more than likely won. Lexus’ refined and comfortable suspension and tire combo are to be thanked in that regard.
The 2015's refined and elegant interior made up for the shortcomings of the newly-old exterior. A quiet and whisper-friendly cabin made for enjoyable conversation, only being trumped by a competent Mark Levinson premium navigation and sound system. Donned in note-worthy quality leather and wood trim were a heated steering wheel and shifter. Heated 10-way adjustable seats were snooze-worthy in only the best of ways. A simple yet attractive instrument cluster and infotaiment display pulled the classy interior together.
Not all was of high praise though. The exquisite interior was hindered by the finicky infotainment mouse selector, which had me reaching for the touchscreen most of the time instead. An analog clock found in the center of the proved to be pointless–again, classy–but I prefer something digital when I'm checking the time while driving. Even so I would recommend this to any family that ditches the airport and still takes long weekend drives to see relatives.
Drive Mode Select selection via spring-loaded knob allowed switchovers between Normal, Sport, and Eco mode. Normal being the obvious, Sport changing steering feel, and Eco supposedly saving gas. In Sport mode, the otherwise “floaty” steering feel gets a jolt of liveliness, tightening up steering feel. Eco mode did work on the highway trips. By how much? There was too much time spent keeping things fun in sport mode to give an accurate number.
With a price tag of close to $45,000 (add $811 for the 18’s), the ES barely touches the base MSRPs of its competitors within this luxury segment. That's loaded. It makes it hard to justify not considering a Lexus ES350 if you're in the market. For those who aren't, keep this one in mind when you get to that stage in life. As for me, I'm a believer now. You just get a lot of luxe out of entry-level. This thing shouldn't even be compared to its current lot of competition if you ask me. It's almost as if the ES belonged in a class of its own. And that's a good thing.