2011 Lexus ES350: Reassurance behind the wheel

9 Aug 2011 | 1,926 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds For our money, simpler is better. That's one of the charms of the 2011 Lexus ES350.   Low key, easy-going and a treat to drive, the ES350 is a totally intuitive automobile, that, despite having some pretty advance technology onboard, is still like a warm, soft security blanket for just about everybody. It's an easy car to figure out from the get-go .  There's no crazy electronic gear shift with unfamiliar patterns, no fancy audio/informational system that you have to pull over to the side of the raod to use safely if at all,  no rotary dial on the console that you have to master, and no set of gauges that are so blindingly colorful and complicated to  read that you need a 400 page owners' manual to understand it.     Instead, the Lexus ES350 is simply a well-equipped, sensibly and logically designed automobile that just about everybody can feel at home in immediately. By the way, the ES350 has another charm you'll appreciate--good gas mileage. It's rated at 19/27 . But thanks to a convenient gauge that provided an average mileage figure for a tank of gas, we happily discovered that we actually did better than the fed rating, getting 20 miles per gallon or even a bit better pretty consistently. Fuel costs are estimated at $2,048 annually based on 15,000 miles of driving at  $3 a gallon.  Of course, its true that the ES350 has a lot of pretty flashy competition these days, including BMW's 3 Series, Cadillac's CTS, Hyundai's Genesis, and plenty of others.  All of them have their strong points. But they all have distinctly different buyer profiles from the ES350. The ES350 is more like an everyman's or everywoman's luxury car, a car most folks can appreciate. Our tester was a deep sea mica example with a base price of $35,525 base price. For that money you get s 3.5 liter 288 horsepower V-6 mated to a six speed automatic transmission with a sequential shift mechanism, front wheel drive, dual exhausts with chrome finished tips, aluminum wheels, vehicle stability control with traction control,  and electronic brakeforce distribution on the anti-lock brakes. Other standard features incoude  Smart/Access with pushbutton start/stop, leather trimmed seats with driver memory, 10 way power adjustable drivber and passenger seats with two way power lumbar,dual zone climate control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and of course, full power accessories. Our car also included a number of options, lsuych as the navigation system, an ultra luxury package and other items, all of which brought the bottom line to $43,037. One significant standard feature is Safety Connect, which provides emergency help at the touch of a SOS button, roadside assistance, automatic collision notification, and stolen vehicle location services. You'll also wanbt to check out Lexus Enform, which you can get as part of a subscription along with Safety Connect. Lexus Enform provide you with Destination Assist, to help you get where you're going.  You call into the Lexus Enform Response Center, give them your destination, and they send a set of coordinates sent directly to your navigation system and available through the push of a button.  The Enform subscription also includes eDestination,which helps you sort and organize your preferred destinations into as many as 20 personal folders.     You can also subscribe to a number of XM offerings, incuding XM Sports and Stocks, XM NavWeather and XM Traffic, all of which are worth their weight in gold and make your driving experience an informed and pleasant one.      The ES350 feels light and supple on the road, with decently brisk acceleration when you need it.  The only fly in the ointment when it vomes from overrassisted steering which means that you need steering correction from time to time to keep the car precisely on course. The interior is plenty comfortable, with butter soft leather with double stitching along the edges, tasteful wood trim here and there, and well-lit gauges that have white lettering against black backgrounds.  There's plenty of room front and back, and that along with all the other qualities, makes the ES350 a terrific companion on long trips. Of course, everything fits together impeccably, and the ES350 has one of the strongest reliability records in the industry.  The car also is about as quiet as they come on the road.       As we said, the ES350 appeals to just about everybody, but don't expect it to be a "driver's performance sedan per se. It doesn't especially like hard cornering, tire burning acceleration or any similar things that enthusiasts may look for, but there are plenty of options for those folks, including some in the Lexus line itself.      It's like a pair of house shoes, in a way--comfortable, inviting, and just about indispensible.

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