By on June 3, 2010

It’s hard to fault the 2010 Lexus ES 350. There is no hint of rattle. The suspension feels as though it would take the worst New England washboard roads with aplomb. The steering is responsive and precise, and the handling crisp at modestly extra-legal speeds on Clifton VA’s marvelously twisty, hilly byways, despite 3,600 lbs of mass–almost parsimonious in this age of bloat–although you get the feeling you might begin to push the limits of crisp if you go much faster around here.

When you punch the gas the six-speed slushbox practically says “yes sir!” and salutes as it downshifts, and the melodiously burbling 272 hp, 3.5 L V6 blasts off. The ES has as much power as the South Seas had breadfruit back in Captain Bligh’s day. I mean, I can’t help thinking it would have blown The Rip Chords’ “Hey Little Cobra” right off of the track, along with the Stingray that the Cobra shut down back during the LBJ administration.

Oh, it would be nice to have RWD, as when you whomp the fun-pedal you feel the nagging symptoms of pull-power, a little bit of steering this way and that from cracks in the road, although I didn’t spin the tires once, a problem that plagued me with a VW Eos and other FWD fun cars. It’s actually amazing what this thing can do despite the absence of an optimal power train configuration. And if Heaven bestows it upon you, you are not going to sell it for the cash and hang onto your old WRX or whatever performance sedan from at least five years ago currently gives you your jollies.

Or maybe you might. Inside the Lexus there is space and comfort front and back, despite my elongated torso, which pushes my scalp to the roof in just about anything with a sunroof, and in this thing, too, though barely. But the damn greenhouse has such narrow slits that I feel like I’m in a space capsule, which would be fine if that were the moon down there. But it’s not the moon, it’s just Northern Virginia. Still, it’s beautiful out here in horse country. But even on the blasted Beltway, driving by Tyson’s Corner, I prefer to see my surroundings, and not just navigate through them.

Thanks to Will Meyer, of sureshotinc.com, Arlington, VA, for letting some maniac drive his car for TTAC

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39 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2010 Lexus ES350...”


  • avatar
    V572625694

    Too many cars have gun-turret slits for windows these days. Not sure why–is it just “the style,” or is there some structural reason? Glass heavier than steel perhaps?

  • avatar
    IGB

    A bit off topic but vanilla is still the worlds most popular flavor of ice cream.

    So goes Lexus.

  • avatar
    Rada

    What is amazing about this model is how absolutely quiet the engine is from the outside. You can’t hear the idling engine ten feet away, at normal day sound levels.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    Way overpriced for what it is. ie a glorified Camry. Just have a big L tattooed on the purchasers forehead and be done with it.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Way overpriced for what it is. ie a glorified Camry.

      Overpriced? It’s 35,175 vs. $29,045 for V6-XLE Camry $29,045. That seems like a fair price for the much nicer interior, higher feature content, better dealer experience and longer warranty.

      Overpriced is also quite a criticism from someone who calls himself “BMWfan”.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Overpriced? Rich coming from “BMWfan”. I like BMWs (I own one at the moment), but they quickly get ridiculously priced for the money when you start adding options that are standard on the competition. If I didn’t value BMW performance handling, which many don’t, there is no way I’d have purchased one.

      The ES isn’t a rebadged Camry. They share a platform but the interior, exterior, and suspension are all completely different. The only thing shared is the engine and general transmission design. Hell, the Highlander, RX350, Venza, and others share the same platform. Are they glorified camrys?

      edit: beat to it by jmo

    • 0 avatar
      drifter

      Nothing defines overpriced more that corolla sized 1-series unless you are BMW salesman.

  • avatar

    I wonder if it has traction control which would prevent squealing tires on takeoff?

    Nice article David,
    Oded

  • avatar

    The windows are large compared to those on the Buick LaCrosse, It’s all about the exterior styling.

    I last drove one of these back in 2006, soon after this design was introduced. It felt better than I expected, but then I expected a marshmallow.

    I don’t buy the “guzzied up Camry” criticism. It looks different enough than a Camry, and the interior is much nicer than a Camry’s.

    Reliability was iffy at first back n 2007, with reports of transmission flaring. Lately, though, owners report very few problems for the 2007 on TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. Not enough participants yet for other years.

    I would like the survey to cover all models and model years from 1995 on. Just a matter of getting enough owners involved.

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    meefer

    For the intended mission, the ES350 is a home run. Solid, reliable, luxurious everyday driver with just enough power to make you feel like you got a deal.

    To the crowd who bemoan platform sharing: then I am pretty sure you can’t buy a single car made today for under $50K. This is an example of how to do it properly by generating enough differentiation to create a unique product.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Wow, it’s a Buick that Buick, err Opel, doesn’t build.

    Lincoln, same goes for you. This is your competition.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Just had my mother a longtime Cadillac Sedan de Ville-DTS driver lease an ES 350. Her local Cadillac dealer told her a new DTS lease would be twice the cost of her current one (on a GM vendor purchase plan). After driving a CTS she liked the ES 350 better. Nice job GM, losing a longtime loyal customer. Those that say the ES 350 is a glorified Camry are entitled to their opinion however given the sales success of the ES 350 apparently the people that buy them are well satisfied and in disagreement with that concept.

  • avatar
    jimmy2x

    Considering that this is an “enthusiast” crowd that generally comments here, I suspect that I am one of the few that actually owns this car. While, like all cars, it has a few quirks, the ES is easily the nicest car I’ve ever had. Seats are very comfortable with quality leather. Switches are kept to a minimum (touchscreen NAV) with everything being fairly intuitive (here’s looking at you Acura). Power very good, handling OK. This is a compromise I was happy to make as driving a brick over SE PA roads is not my idea of a good time.

    I’ve owned the car for about four months and have yet to find anything that did not denote quality construction.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    “The steering is responsive and precise”

    Um, as compared to what? A milk float truck? The steering in the ES is fresh from the dentist numb and so full of Aunt Jemima that it should make waffles. Anyone looking for a car that’s even moderately entertaining to drive should stick to the IS, or better yet, avoid the Lexus brand entirely.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    @jmo and @quentin

    Easy boys! I bought my BMW CPO when it was 3 years old, so I am not the rich man you assume me to be. I also do the majority of wrenching on my car for the minor stuff. Yes the Lexus is overpriced for what it is, because by the time you add some options, it is well over the price quoted by jmo. The “dealer experience” mentioned by jmo is almost as bad as that of BMW. Have you priced an oil change at a Lexus dealer jmo? BTW boys, as mentioned by Quentin, some BMW’s are purchased for their handling qualities (that’s why I bought mine) are you seriously implying that ther Lexus handles better than the Camry upon which it is based? I have driven both vehicles, and if that is your argument, I want some of what you’re smoking. BTW I also own a newer Acura, however I, unlike some others, realize that it is just a Honda with a slightly better interior, and a slightly better warranty. Leather seating in the waiting area and a free cup of coffee is highly overrated.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Well, comparing a CPO Bimmer to a brand new Lexus and call the latter “overpriced” isn’t convincing.

      How about compare a CPO ES to a brand new Bavarian junk that doesn’t even have real leather as a standard equipment for value?

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    @wsn

    I sense Bimmer envy. Take a deep breath, go down to your local BMW dealer and take a test drive in the most basic 3 series. Then come back and talk to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing you. Many of my friends did not understand the BMW mystique until they drove one, and i’m not talking about a leisurely drive around the block. I saw a saying once on a website that sums it up nicely “from the outside you can’t understand it. From the inside you can’t explain it” For you to compare cars based on what the seating surfaces are shows me that you don’t get it, and to call them “Bavarian junk” shows me that engineering was not your major. I think if you take the aforementioned test drive,you too will be as convinced as I was.

    • 0 avatar
      kaka777

      @BMWfan
      I could be wrong, but it seems from your posts that you have just recently fallen in love with BMW.
      I’m about to turn in my BMW 525 in a month when the lease expires, my experience was that the charm quickly wore off.
      After a long day at work, i found myself uncomfortable in the car, longing to be in something more plush (like the es350).
      No doubt the 5series is better in turns and stability, I am eagerly counting down the days till my lease expires. I have heard good things about the MKS!

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      It’s a damned nice car. Have you people seen the sales numbers above for the Impala? Come on. Most people should be so lucky. Compare to BMW all you want, but don’t talk value. Any “premium” brand that so much as offers a model without leather seats should be ashamed. I’m looking at used 328xis and IS250s, and at least I know I’ll never sit on plastic in the Lexus. Same issue with MB…premium cars should not have seat coverings from “Big Lots”. Even more disgraceful is that they choose pleather instead of cloth, to fool the uninformed.

      I may choose the 328 over the IS, but first I need to find one of the damned things that’s equipped half as well as the average Maxima. For value (and unfortunately at present, hideous styling) look at Acura, where every car is well equipped at the base level.

    • 0 avatar
      kaka777

      @slance

      Why dont you look at the last generation acura TL (till 2008 model year)?

      Sporty,fully equipped and great looking, not to mention available with under 25k miles in the low twenty thousands.

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    High door sills are for crash compatibility with SUVs and crossovers

    The es350 is pricey b/c Lexus is not Toyota nor do they want to compete on customers for new cars. (i.e few people cross-shop a new es and a new camry). This is intentional

    BMWfan, there is BMW envy but some of the grips are valid. If you do apples to apples (leather, xenon, features people actually want) the BMW is a ripoff vs a Lexus new vs new.

    Also the starting price can be high. What does a 328i with standard options run? Like 38-40k? Or paying 60k for a 5 series and no leather.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      You’re just guessing, aren’t you?

      I think that this explanation is just an urban myth perpetuated on blogs across the interweb. My personal guess is that the Chrysler 300 looked cool to many people and the influence has snowballed since.

      My belief is that the actual anti-intrusion beams are no where near the tops of the doors, so the greenhouse could be expanded anytime that the auto designers think that it will help sell more cars.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      I think Srogers may be right about the door sills.

      Anyone KNOW, ie actually work in auto design/engineering

    • 0 avatar
      SLLTTAC

      Subarus, for example, have large side windows and meet crash standards for crash “compatibility with SUVs and crossovers.” Small windows may give the perception of strength, but perhaps cars with large windows are just as safe.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    @kaka777

    Actually I have been in love with BMW’s since the mid 70′s after driving my Cousins 2002 in Germany. I have never liked the 5 series, although the new one seems like it might be the best one so far. Previously, I only thought the E39 was worth anything. If you are looking at going to an Es350 I suggest you take a look at the 2011 Avalon limited. It is 95% of the car that a Lexus is, at a lower price. It is also much less confining than the ES350, and the back seat is much more useful. The redesign was well done, in my opinion. In your current BMW, do you have the sport seats? I have found that the standard seats in any BMW just don’t cut it. Don’t get me wrong. Plush and floaty does have its place, but In my mind Lexus is overpriced for what it is. ( and I never said BMW was not) That is even more obvious after Test driving the Avalon. My main point to all of this was that a Lexus is just a tarted Toyota, no matter what others may say. BMW does not slap something else in their cars and rename them (unless you consider Alpina). Granted, Lexus does the pseudo luxury thing slightly better than Acura, but is that really saying something? Good luck with whatever you decide to buy, but make sure you test drive the new 5 series first. You may just stay in the fold.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I have driven many of the Lexus ES 350s. They are the loaner cars at Lexus dealers. When I drop off my car (RX350) they send me on my way with a free loaner ES 350 for the day. The cars are quiet, luxurious and handle well enough for city/suburban driving. The price that the year old loaners go for, and the price of the used ES models on the lot (most are 3 year old, back from lease car….the dealers have the paperwork to prove it) is amazingly high compared to other CPO makes. That’s why there are lots of different makes and models….different tastes in cars. For the Lexus customer, they’re right on the mark with the ES 350.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Hideous vehicle. I’d take a Buick Lacrosse over this without question. Actually, I’d take just about anything over this.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    If we must have regulators, for the lord’s sake let’s have them doing something useful. I would like to see NHTSA develop standards for glass area, mirror size and placement (high beltlines and oversized mirrors lead to mirrors that block driver view to the left at intersections and maneuvering in tight places) and overall visibility. Betcha we will find it is possible to meet side impact standards without compromising visibility. Y’know, if we can see out of the car we might be able to AVOID more accidents and not have to worry about any kind of impact.

  • avatar
    Driver123

    Hehe, yeah BMW envy

    Every time I drive in my 535 and I see Infiniti M I hear ‘I wanted BMW but I could not afford it’ and ‘value for the money’ (puke). And ES screams ‘I don’t care about cars I want my family room couch and Lexus badge to show to neighbours’.

    Stop pretending. You either care about cars – then go get bimmer or you dont – then stop posting opinions about cars.And have you actually driven one or are you comparing on edmunds ‘oooh, but this comes with leather and BMW doesn’t’? So what – I won’t get ES/GS/RX with triple leather and I’ll take BMW with cloth anytime.

    Someone compared 1 to Corolla based by size… Size matters huh?

    All the time I see Lexus it is in the left lane barely making speed limit while talking on the phone, to his SO or enjoying their ML sound system

  • avatar

    All this talk about how entry level BMW’s don’t have leather cracks me up. I wish my car didn’t have leather seats. I HATE leather in a car. The vinyl on the BMWs looks every bit as convincing as the leather does but with one advantage, long after the car has outlived its usefulness, the seats will still look pretty good. Can’t say that about the leather seats in any car.

    As for the ES350, I agree with most points. It’s an exquisitely made car, incredibly quiet and smooth but the one thing I disagree 100% with is this: “The steering is responsive and precise, and the handling crisp at modestly extra-legal speeds on Clifton VA’s marvelously twisty, hilly byways…” No, not even close. I’ve driven the ES350 and its steering is as precise as a Lincoln Town Car’s.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    The buyers of ES 350′s are not in any way the same buyers of 3 series.

    The former want a more traditional luxury car (read road isolation) and the later want a performance orientated car (read road feel).

    To me it’s ridiculous trying to compare the two cars as they attract completely different buyer segments.

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    mtysmsi you are absolutely correct. Lexus competes more for the Mercedes/Jaguar buyer while BMW is more competitive with Audi or Acura.

    i too hate the small window (gunsight look) that seems to be so prevalent. Currently I am holding on to my 2000 Avalon because the newer ones have about half the visibility of the earlier model. The more glass the better, can’t stand the feeling of being in a capsule when I am driving.


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