That injection of power is part of front-wheel-drive ES 350's redesign for 2007. Gone is last year's 218-horsepower 3.3 liter V6 and five-speed automatic transmission combo, replaced by a 3.5-liter, dual overhead cam, 24-valve V6 with variable-valve timing and a ULEV emissions rating. This new powerplant offers up 272 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 254 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm and is mated to a six-speed manually-interactive automatic transmission. Its 3,580-lb. curb weight reflects a weight gain of about 100 pounds, though EPA-rated highway fuel economy has actually increased to 30 mpg, while a city rating of 21 mpg remains unchanged. Our week-long test on the roads of southern California yielded 20.9 mpg.
In addition to the more powerful engine, the 2007 Lexus ES 350 boasts a longer wheelbase, lower ground clearance, and slight increases in shoulder room despite a marginal loss in overall width. A suspension system consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear works in concert with a speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering assembly, as well as stability and traction control systems, to help the driver maintain control. Behind 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 215/55 Michelin Energy MXV4 tires are four-wheel antilock disc brakes, bolstered by electronic brake force distribution and electronic brake assistance technology.
Inside, the 2007 Lexus ES 350, available in one trim only, plays host to a long list of standard equipment. The $33,865 base price includes a $695 destination charge and represents an increase of only $850 over the 2006 model, despite numerous improvements. Among the ES 350's creature comforts are a power sunroof, genuine burl walnut interior trim, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel with secondary controls, power cloth seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Of course, as an entry-level luxury vehicle, there are also items like an ignition button, a premium sound system with a six-disc CD changer and MP3 player, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a trip computer with a tire pressure monitor. Safety items include front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and front knee airbags. Rear side airbags are found on the options list, as is a Pre-Collision System with Adaptive Cruise Control Package which includes active pretensioners, active electronic brake assistance, and intelligent cruise control. Also offered are a Bluetooth Audio package, heated and cooled front seats, a power rear sunshade, an upgraded audio system with navigation, and multiple premium and luxury packages that feature leather upholstery, power seats with additional adjustment and memory settings, rain-sensing wipers, and more.
Four packages were featured on our 2007 Lexus ES 350 test car, and when added to the base price and $695 destination charge, brought the total tally to $46,045. That's about $12,000 above the base price, in exchange for which we enjoyed an electronic parking aid system ($500); the Pre-Collision System package ($2,250); a Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package with Bluetooth compatibility, voice-activated controls, a rear camera, 14-speaker surround sound, and a six-disc CD changer ($4,050); and finally, an Ultra Luxury Package that added perforated leather upholstery, memory settings, a wood and leather steering wheel, a rear glass roof panel, rear side airbags, 17-inch Graphite alloy wheels, and more ($5,380).