Review: 2007 Lexus ES 350
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The latest version of the midsize ES sedan from Toyota's upscale Lexus division remains based on the Toyota Camry, but looks and feels more like a Lexus than ever.
The ES is the top-selling car from Lexus, which continues as one of the best-selling luxury nameplates in America. And the restyled, improved early 2007 ES 350 should help keep the car No. 1 at Lexus and help allow that premium division to hold its position in an increasingly competitive market.
Lexus offers compact high-performance IS rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive sedans, but mainly is known for larger quiet, luxurious cars and upscale SUVs.
The front-wheel-drive ES always has basically been a luxury version of the popular Toyota Camry. So it's not surprising that the both the 2007 ES 350 and redone 2007 Camry have fresh styling, additional power and more features.
The wheelbase of the new ES has been increased 2.2 inches to 109.3 inches for a smoother ride and roomier interior. The standard wheel size is up to 17 inches from 16 inches, although wheels have all-season 55-series tires designed more for ride comfort than handling.
The ES 350 is no sports sedan, but doesn't pretend to be one. Leaving the sports sedan market to its IS gives Lexus more freedom to make the ES a luxury car.
The variable-firmness suspension of the 2006 ES is gone because of little buyer interest. Such a suspension is mostly desired by sports sedan fans who want to be able to switch to a firmer-ride suspension for better handling. The typical ES buyer couldn't care less.
The 2006 ES was called the ES 330 but the 2007 version is the ES 350 because displacement of its smooth V6 engine goes from 3.3 liters to 3.5 liters.
The 2006 version's 5-speed automatic transmission is gone, replaced with a more modern 6-speed automatic in the ES 350. The extra gear allows better performance and improves highway fuel economy despite the more potent ES 350 engine.
Estimated economy is 21 mpg in the city and 30 on highways, compared to 21 and 29 for the ES 330.
Steering is precise, and the soft ride is smooth, without being sloppy. Braking power is good, although the pedal has a rather soft action.
Starting the car now is done with a keyless fob and a dashboard pushbutton, which also turns off the engine.
Notchy Shift Gate
Newly optional is a pre-collision system that does such things as ready airbags, seat belts and brakes when, for instance, a skid is detected. The system is paired with newly available adaptive cruise control to maintain a set following distance from a vehicle.
A $500 Intuitive Parking Assist feature helps take the tiresome judgment from parking, and available steering-linked headlights provide safer night driving around curves. A $2,650 navigation system includes a rear camera to prevent hitting unseen objects directly behind the car when backing up. Large outside mirrors enhance visibility when driving.
The ES 350 is packed with standard comfort and convenience equipment. However, a new option is a $2,480 Premium Plus package that contains such items as heated and ventilated front seats and a perforated leather trim interior.
New Panaroma Roof
The ES 350 has virtually flawless fit and finish. There's good room in the extremely quiet interior for four tall adults, with an especially roomy rear-seat area. However, the stiff middle rear seat section is best left to the large fold-down armrest, which houses dual cupholders.
Gauges are backlit and clearly marked for an easy read under all lighting conditions. Major dashboard controls are easy to use, as are the front cupholders. A large, covered console bin can swallow objects such as cell phones and garage door openers, and front doors have storage pockets.
The hood smoothly opens on twin struts to reveal easily reached fluid-filler areas and a big plastic engine cover that holds down noise levels.
Sharing the Camry's basic design always has held down the cost of the ES, and few would object to a lower-priced luxury car.