How The Lexus ES 350 Has Finally Come Into Its Own

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus ES 350
The 2014 Lexus ES 350.
If, as the Phoenix bureau suggests, the Toyota Avalon is the new Caprice or LTD, then this must be the new Buick Electra or Mercury Marquis.  Not the grand leap that a Sedan DeVille or Continental was from the Ford or Chevy back in the day (late 60s/very early 70s, before the great Brougham plague), the Lexus ES 350 is still a significant step up from the Toyota sedan with which  it shares so much of its architecture.

Rear view of 2014 Lexus ES 350
2014 Lexus ES 350.
At its base price, the ES 350 is a remarkable value: $36,470 buys you a solid list of standard features (click here for that) which adds up to a very complete near-luxury automobile.  Ah, but this is Lexus, and as the recent review of the hybrid version of this sedan, the ES 300h, noted...you'll never find one like that on a dealer lot.

More than $8,600 in options found their way onto our tester: $500 for a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert (folks, these things work...giving you a good heads-up in the supermarket parking lot when a car is still three or four spaces away but headed in your direction), $110 for 17-inch split-spoke wheels with liquid graphite finish, $1,015 for a lane departure alert system with intelligent high-beam headlamps, $2,625 for a hard disk drive navigation system with backup camera, 8-inch screen, voice command, a single DVD/CD player, the Lexus Enform infotainment app suite, $400 for a one-touch power trunk, $500 for intuitive parking assist and$155 for rain-sensing wipers with de-icer.

Interior view of 2014 Lexus ES 350 (Birds-eye Maple)
2014 Lexus ES 350 interior (Birds-eye Maple shown)
But wait! There's more! No sense getting the ES 350 with the "plain" interior, right?  $2,935 snags the very popular Ultra Luxury Package with the bamboo trim interior (Birds-eye Maple is also available), heated and ventilated memory seats for the driver and front passenger, a panorama glass roof, power rear and manual door sunshades, a driver's seat power cushion extender (brilliant for those of us whose inseam is significantly different from our signifcant other's), ambient lighting and a power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel.

The effect is incomplete without the $300 bamboo (or Birds-eye Maple) and leather-trimmed heated steering wheel and shift knob.  Add $105 for a trunk mat and $64 for floor mats and you have an exact copy of our tester, which after $910 delivery, processing and handling fee, rang up at $46,089.

The 3.5-liter, 268 horsepower V6 has plenty of punch, gets pleasantly decent gas mileage (21 city/31 highway) and the crash ratings are all four and five stars. The ride is whipped-cream smooth and noise is a virtual non-factor except when you floor it and the twin exhausts make, for this day and age, a satisfying growl.

The ES 350 was, fairly in some ways, unfairly in others, branded as a "tarted-up Camry".  Switching to the Avalon plaform could have resulted in just a change in the model name at the end, but Lexus has found a way to make it more than that...and a nice car in its own right.