Lexus adds a dash of performance to its plush entry-level cruiser
Lexus says that the completely redesigned 2007 ES 350 is a better car, in every way, than the original 1990 Lexus LS 400, calling it faster, quieter, and more powerful than that ground-breaking luxury sedan. Add in newly refined design, upgraded interior materials, and a dash of performance and handling that the previous-generation ES 330 lacked, and it looks like Lexus will have no problem moving the 70,000 ES 350s it hopes to sell when the car goes on sale in April. Prices have not been set yet, but Lexus Group Vice President and General Manager Bob Carter promises that the new 2007 Lexus ES 350 “will be a leader in its segment in terms of value.” The 2007 Lexus ES 350 is designed to appeal to luxury customers who look for comfort before sporty handling and performance. If a sports sedan is what you crave, check out the Lexus IS. But just because the ES 350 is a luxury car first and foremost, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t accelerate, brake, and turn with talent. To that end, Lexus has installed a new 3.5-liter V6 engine under the ES 350’s power dome hood, making 272 horsepower on premium unleaded for an estimated 0-60 mph acceleration time of 6.8 seconds. Lexus estimates that the new ES 350 will also be fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, with 21-mpg city/30-mpg highway gas mileage ratings and an expected Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle II (ULEV-II) certification. A new six-speed automatic transmission sends the V6’s power to the front wheels – all-wheel drive is not planned for the 2007 Lexus ES 350. The new ES rides on a fully independent MacPherson strut suspension, and the standard 17-inch wheels are steered by a speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion setup. The four-wheel-disc braking system includes ABS, EBD, and brake assist, and every 2007 ES 350 gets traction and stability control. Because the redesigned 2007 Lexus ES 350 is about luxury, it comes with a wide array of standard and optional features. To ensure comfort, each ES 350 is equipped with a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, 10-way power adjustable front seats with 2-way power lumbar support, and automatic climate control. The audio system includes a six-disc in-dash CD changer, eight speakers, and an auxiliary jack into which your iPod can be plugged. Other standard features include a moonroof, genuine wood and metal interior trim, bright Optitron gauges, and the Lexus Smart Access system with keyless entry and ignition. Occupant safety is also critical to Lexus, and the ES 350 includes dual-stage front airbags with a dual-chamber front passenger’s airbag, dual front knee airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags for all outboard passengers. Among the nicer options for the 2007 Lexus ES 350 are lush leather seats with heating and cooling, a panoramic glass sunroof, a power rear sunshade, and a Bluetooth wireless communication system that operates through the stereo system. Lexus also offers dynamic radar cruise control, intuitive parking assist, and stereo upgrades that include an integrated navigation system and Mark Levinson premium surround sound with 14 speakers and DVD audio-video capability. On the safety side, you can order rear side-impact airbags and the Lexus Pre-Collision System that readies the brakes and seatbelts for an unavoidable impact. The 2007 Lexus ES 350’s styling is a big improvement over the previous ES 330. In profile, it possesses a similar style as the existing car, mixed with elements of the redesigned 2007 Camry (on which the ES 350 is based) and the Toyota Avalon. Viewed from the front or rear, the new ES 350 looks terrific, with a substance and presence that the ES has always lacked. Interesting design elements include scalloped front fenders and rear quarter panels, which mimic the shapes seen inside the car. The interior is beautifully rendered, exuding quality and simplicity with just-right amounts of wood and metal trim combined in a beautiful two-tone décor treatment. The Lexus ES has always served as a sanctuary for its owners, and it appears this new version will continue to make people feel like they spent more money than they did. Based on a preliminary inspection, our view is that the 2007 Lexus ES 350 is going to be quite popular, and may ultimately serve as the benchmark against which other luxury – not sport luxury – sedans are judged.
Photos by Ron Perry