We'd be fudging if we didn't say that the new Lexus ES 350 has almost pushed the ES class out of entry lux category. But that's entirely by design. The newly revised sedan that enters life at a $33,170 price point has been refined to the nines for 2007.
Within the past year, Lexus has launched a major change in direction by adding a planned new, more dramatic design phase to its products. While traditionally understated Lexus vehicles will remain, some are getting more dynamic visual treatment. So it is with ES that emerges for '07 in sleek new dress, lengthened wheelbase, plus added power and a wide array of optional goodies.
This is not your minimalist Lexus sedan. Tack on two-plus inches underneath the more sculptured body and this highest-volume, front-drive Lexus fits quite comfortably in the mid-size range, with ample legroom front and rear. Premium brown walnut wood, polished metal and leather accent a more updated, refined interior. SmartAccess keyless entry and push-button ignition are among a variety of high tech adds.
The redesigned ES 350 has changed its name from last year's ES 330 for a reason. A hefty new 3.5-liter V-6, paired with a six-speed "intelligent" automatic, underscores it with 272-horsepower and lots of takeoff spunk. If fast blastoffs are a must, expect 0 to 60 in about 6.8 seconds. Dual exhausts highlight that ability. Despite added engine power, fuel economy is improved to an estimated 21 city/30 highway on premium fuel.
Safety gets a lot of attention in the ES 350. Side curtain, knee, and twin-chamber front airbags are standard. So is the tire pressure monitor, vehicle stability and traction control. Radar presets the optional Pre-Collison Package's cruise control to stay safely behind the car ahead.
We mentioned the $33,000 price range to enter the ES world. But a word of caution here. Start adding in nav system with spectacular Mark Levinson audio with all the bells and whistles ($4,050), ultra lux package ($5,380) PreCollision ($2,250) and more, and this can leave entry level in the dust.