Lexus ES 350
Entry level Bamboo
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – The stock market continued to hit record highs yesterday and, if you are one who benefits from such things, perhaps you are thinking about moving into a luxury car without spending your entire jackpot.
Based on a week behind the wheel, the Lexus ES 350 would be a great way to enter the low end of the luxury market.
It hits all the right targets – a high lux interior with bamboo wood trim, very comfortable perforated leather trimmed seats, ample room for two real adults in back, superb fit and finish, and pleasing response from the 268 horsepower, 3.5 liter V6 with 248 lb-ft of torque.
This in a front drive car that is EPA rated at 21 mpg around town, 31 mpg on the highway for a combined 24 mpg, if such things matter in a car that lists for something north of $40K. I checked in with a combined 25 mpg.
There is more than enough power here to merge quickly and safely when interstates beckon, then one can enjoy the quiet, stress easing interior that would be a genuine treat on a long drive, maybe to the other coast. There was just a hint of wind whistle in the test car, but fire up the standard equipment premium audio system with eight speakers and all that disappears. It was an excellent unit but if that is not enough, one can add seven more speakers as part of the Mark Levinson audio package.
If you are concerned about your new luxury wheels failing in places with only RFD addresses, it is worth noting that Lexus came out #1 in the recent Consumer Reports check on reliability.
One downside was the center console mounted mouse that controls the workings of the screen. It was too hyper for use while driving and even when parked it was easy to overshoot your selection.
A nice interior touch was the analog clock right in the center of the dash. I wonder if someday a manufacturer might add the sound of a bird chirping to mark the hour. I would guess it is a possibility if one day Ford brings back the Thunderbird.
Loaded up with a long list of options, totaling $6,522, the test 350 came with a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, the bamboo wood trim, power rear sunshade, heated and ventilated front seats, a navi system with an 8” VGA screen, one touch power trunk opener, and “Intuitive Parking Assist” among other things.
Add in $910 for transportation, and the test car carried an MSRP of $44,102. So you can get into a top rated luxury car while still stashing away some investment dough for that rainy day when the markets head the other way, as history tells us, they will one day.