By on February 25, 2016

2012 Lexus ES350, Exterior, rear 3/4, Image: © 2012 Alex Dykes/The Truth About Cars

TTAC commenter Sobro writes:

Bark,

Insert friendly greeting and small talk here. I was lucky that Sajeev is a sunroof enthusiast as well as a Ford fanboi when he promptly answered my question about the clunking roof in my wife’s 2003 Lexus ES300.

At 170,000 miles, her glorified Camry is nearly as grounded to the ground as it ever was. However, she is starting to get antsy about driving a 13-year-old car. She prefers a sedan with a worry free, quiet, comfortable ride. I prefer she drives the wheels off this car (or it goes to 250,000 miles, whichever comes first) and we pay the occasional $1,200-1,500 non-maintenance repair bill.

We have been hit with the first one already: a busted rear main seal. Sadly, my opinion is not being polled.

With six more years of commuting left until retirement (which, incidentally, would put this car right at 240k), can you recommend a worry-free Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) sedan that would make her forget the ES, or should we start looking for a new car?

I won’t rule out any non-German model. It just has to have the same quietness and sofa comfort of her current ride. Oh, and I don’t want to spend more than $35,000 new or $20,000 used. KBB says the 2003 ES trade-in value is about $3000. Its value to me is incalculable.

Thanks,
Sobro

I was incredibly excited to get this e-mail — until I realized that it was from Sobro, and not Kevin Sorbo. That’s alright, though. I’ll still gladly answer your question, even though you are neither Hercules nor a Pokemon, because it’s my first opportunity to become an automotive “Eskimo Brother” with Sajeev.

You’ve given me a rather large set of parameters to work with, so I’m going to do my best to narrow it down somewhat and provide you with some good options for your lovely wife, who deserves to drive toward retirement in comfort and style. I’m also going to assume that she’d like to continue enjoying the accoutrements of a near-luxury brand, or a top-level trim at the very least.

The easy recommendation would be to go get another Lexus. A new ES350 isn’t too far outside of your price range (around $38,000 before the wizard negotiators of the B&B work their magic), and I can virtually guarantee that your wife will like it. However, that’s the safe, easy (dare I say settling) way to go, and people don’t write to Bark for safe and boring recommendations! OH YEAAAAHHHH!

Since it sounds like you’re looking to keep the car about six years, there’s going to be a mild difference between going new or CPO when it comes to the slope of the depreciation curve that you’ll be experiencing. Your e-mail leads me to believe that you’re a practical man, and every dime saved in those years leading up to retirement is valuable, so I’m going to focus on CPO offerings.

Again, we could do a certified 2010-2011 Lexus ES350 for right at $21,000, and that’s not a terrible option at all. If she doesn’t need the L on the hood, newer, lower mileage Avalons are in your range. But since we’re open to other ideas, let’s see what other options might exist for your better half.

A CPO 2012 Lincoln MKZ with low miles book out right at $20,000 retail, and I think your wife would find the ride to be very similar to that of the ES300. As we’ve discussed in these pages before, the Lincoln CPO warranty is a very strong offering, and would cover your wife for the remainder of her commuting days. If the badge isn’t that important to her, there are 2013 and 2014 CPO Ford Fusion Titaniums available in the $20,000 range, too.

Another near-luxury option would be the Buick LaCrosse. 2013 models can be found within your price range. While the General’s CPO program isn’t as strong as those offered by Lincoln or Lexus, the LaCrosse should be a fairly bulletproof car. She’d get a little bit more space and a lot more power in the big Buick than in the other options in her price range. Believe it or not, the LaCrosse and the ES350 are cross-shopped against each other all the time in the real world, but you can get a much newer and lower-mileage Buick for the same price as a ES.

There are other options in your range (Acura TSX, Chrysler 300) that some in the B&B might ultimately recommend, but based on the little information I have, they don’t seem to fit her definition of comfort and style.

So, WWBD? At the risk of sounding like a Ford shill (yet again), I’d let her drive a newer ES350 and MKZ back-to-back and let her pick the winner between the new and the familiar. After all, happy wife equals happy life — or so I’ve heard.

[Image: © 2012 Alex Dykes/The Truth About Cars]

Are you unsure as to why Ford is the greatest company ever to grace the human race with its presence? Or maybe you just want some car-buying advice (BOOOOOORRRRRING)? Write to Bark at [email protected] or use your thumbs to find him on Twitter at @barkm302.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

123 Comments on “Ask Bark: What’s The Lexus Replacement Consensus?...”


  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    35k new & 20k used.

    What are the reasons you chose these two random numbers? Care to expand as to why you would limit your pre-owned choices like that? you could find a nice Avalon used but will struggle for a decent one at 20k.

    How about find the car fits her needs and wants? We can agree that most likely a new(er) ES is going to be the answer.

    If you want to save some serious cash, go get an ex-rental rocket Chevy Impala LTZ of the 2013 vintage. Checks all the boxes you indicate can be had for sub 15k.

    Buick Lucerne or Lacrosse? again, checks the boxes as does an ex rental rocket Camry which is the same as a 10 year old ES.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Seems another ES is the way to go. If she is antsy about potential issues on a 13 year old sedan she knows, something potentially less rock solid in terms of perceived dependability than another ES seems like a no go.

      Regarding the Lacrosse, I could never get comfortable in one. Something about the shape of the seats doesnt agree with me. Obviously this is pretty subjective, but I’m short and stout and my lady is tall and trim, and we both hated the few Lacrosse loaners we had.

    • 0 avatar
      Sobro

      Bark, I do wish you had warned me you were posting my question. I would have been here sooner to answer the B&B’s questions. You gave good advice, and plenty to think about.

      Herewith some answers:

      ^What are the reasons you chose these two random numbers?^

      I agree they are fairly random. My thought was if we went with $20k used now I could buy new for myself in 6 or 7 years when she quits commuting. If she buys new now then the “isolation chamber” would most likely live in the driveway for the next 20 years. Which answers the B7B comments about depreciation. Buy and hold, my friends. As far as the $35k figure goes, I’m cheap.

      ^Regarding the Lacrosse, I could never get comfortable in one. Something about the shape of the seats doesnt agree with me. Obviously this is pretty subjective, but I’m short and stout and my lady is tall and trim, and we both hated the few Lacrosse loaners we had.^

      Before she bought the ES she test drove the Camry and “didn’t like the ride”. I don’t know if the ES of the time had a softer suspension or just better seats, but that’s a distinction without a difference for her purposes.

      ^Really if you’re into that kind of vehicle you’re better off in a Panther or a Lesabre/Bonneville^

      She Carmaxed her 2000 Bonneville to buy the ES due to impending possible catastrophic failure but really loved the ride and perceived power. Her Mom used to have a 3rd Gen MGM and she would rent a car when visiting rather than drive that cruise ship.

      ^That said, the Lincoln MKZ or Cadillac CTS would be a good choice. Or a loaded Camry, which is an ES without the L on the hood, if she doesn’t like the bigger Avalon.^

      We were discussing Caddillac the other day in reference to my Ask Bark letter and she said she didn’t test drive a Caddy at the time. It was probably fruitless then, but is a possibility now. The Fusion family is well regarded by me.

      ^What about a CPO Toyota Avalon? Or Lexus RX? An Acura TL might be an option too.
      ^

      The Avalon is a possibility, every CUV is right out, and I thought the TL had a “sporty” ride.

      ^If she doesn’t care about the luxury badge try out an Impala (the EpsilonII model, not the old w-body) equipped with the 3.6L V6. Its powerful, comfortable, very quiet, and has a very low TCO. Chrysler 300 sedans are soft and comfortable, but the styling is bold and aggressive. Plus your wife may grow to like HEMI horsepower. ^

      Good suggestions. Thanks

      ^Two thoughts on your rear main seal leak, since it isn’t a very common thing for this generation of Toyota engines:
      1. Are you sure it isn’t a clogged PCV? Or one of the PCV hoses getting kinked? These problems would create crankcase pressure, and the first symptom is a rear seal leak.
      2. How bad is the leak? Like dripping out or does it just leave a drop on the driveway? On one of my vehicles, I had the drop rear seal leaking where it just left a drop on the driveway. For that car, I stopped using 5W20 Mobil 1 synthetic and went to a regular 5W30 oil. After I made the change to the thicker oil, I could see that the rear main seal area was still damp but it didn’t drop oil on the ground anymore.^

      Leak has been repaired, but the PCV and valve cover gaskets were replaced 6 months before the main seal problem. Thanks for your input.

      ^The RLX is bigger, floatier, less/not sporty, more formal, etc. Basically what a 59y/o grandmother would prefer.^

      It seems to be a bit new for the jury to be in on long term quality, but I had not though about the RLX.

      ^The best recommendation is to get your wife out for a good day and test drive some of the cars being discussed here.^

      She test drove 8 or 10 different models/brands before buying the ES. I’m sure this time around will be no different.

      ^but avoid the 20″ tires at all costs!^

      She be rollin’, they be hatin’

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        Thank you for the reply Sobro, as a Denverite, I love your avatar!

        Follow up question/rebuttal perhaps to your 35k on new buy and hold strategy. As scary as it sounds 35k does not by that much car these days, especially if you are talking out the door. If you live in Denver and figure in your 8% sales tax, you are actually talking about a 32k car give or take a dollar or two.

        Back to my rebuttal, would it perhaps make more sense to up your entry amount even if it requires waiting another 12 months ( surely you can keep the ES on the road for another 15k miles) to purchase the car? If you were able to move to say, 50k price point, perhaps you can find a ride your lucky lady will enjoy commuting in for her last five years and then continue off into the sunset as well happy as a clam.
        Most likely she will drive less once retired, why not enjoy your last years in the salt mine commuting in something that truly makes you happy and maybe in some ways eases the burden of heading in to work

        • 0 avatar
          Sobro

          The $35k figure is just ballpark, but $50k scares me. I hope the wife’s ES love lasts another year. We’ll just have to see if another big repair bill sneaks up. I’m SOuthern (in Nashville) and a BROncos fan, hence the username and avatar.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Raptor, GJC SRT or Miata. Tough choice.

    But seriously, I would just re-up with a CPO ES if that is what makes her happy.

  • avatar
    MPAVictoria

    Solid recommendations but I would like to offer one more. A CPO 2012-2014 S80. They are a very nice, solid sedans that get decent gas mileage and have fantastic seats. Additionally, Volvo has the best CPO program in the business and because no one wants a big Volvo sedan they are super affordable used.

    Disclaimer- I liked this advice so much that I followed it myself about 20 months ago and bought a 2012 CPO S80 with 9,000 Miles for less than $28,000. Great care for the money in Canada and I believe it is the same in the US.

    • 0 avatar

      I like S80s, but in Canada they are NOT cheap. I don’t know what it is, but they maintain their value annoyingly well.

      Get the 3.2 or T6, both should be solid. The 3.2 especially, since its been around for a while and doesn’t have any fancy turbo charging or such.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Volvo 3.2s have a nasty oil drinking habit due to a switch to low friction rings and super low viscosity oil. Damn shame, as that should be a million mile motor otherwise (understressed, natural aspirated, well balanced I6 with gear driven valvetrain). S80s are also known to not ride particularly well, but I’ve never driven one to confirm.

        • 0 avatar

          Hmm, I thought the oil drinking was hit-and-miss on the T6, not the 3.2. That IS a shame.

          As for the ride, I have driven one, and I found it pretty soft and comfortable. Mind you, I was expecting a ‘poor’ ride as indicated in the reviews, so maybe going in with that expectation affected my perceptions.

          • 0 avatar
            MPAVictoria

            The oil drinking problem does exist but it is far from common. And I think the car rides very well though of course your mileage may vary.

        • 0 avatar
          focus-ed

          What’s wrong with low viscosity oil? My old Focus has been on steady life support of MO 0w20 (0w30 before it) since almost new. I may have other issues with it but it never used any oil (well, some of it sipped through the corroded oil pan until that was replaced;). Oil change intervals between 6 and 9k miles (so plenty of time to burn a quarter if it had appetite for it). Nobody should expect to keep the engine together with molasses like oil, it better flow well, just not shear within the whole operating temperature range.

          Now, speaking of reliable Toyota (or Lexus) that get ditched at 170k – what a shame. I know of worse things (than main seal) and if the body is good (no accidents) and the rest of the drivetrain solid (enough) I’d spend that new car money to buy her up – surely she’s not a car guy and knows better things to spend on (and yet save money in the process). I’d keep this money unless the Lexus was the only vehicle in the garage (and occasional in-family loan was not an option).

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Nothing wrong with low viscosity synthetics per se, heck I run the manufacturer prescribed 0W20 in my ’12 Civic and my fiancé’s ’12 Camry. What’s notable though is that when this trend of lowering engine friction started, many previously problem free engines suddenly started to have issues with oil use. Understandable, given the challenges of keeping a thinner fluid from getting past ‘looser’ rings.

      • 0 avatar
        MPAVictoria

        I don’t know I got mine in Canada and I think I got a steal.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      Having owned Volvos, I must say that volvo ≉ lexus in terms of reliability. A CPO is a good thing, but when you have to leave your car at the dealership all the time to chase gremlins, that makes commuting difficult. Op said, “non-german” when perhaps he should have expanded that to “non-european”.
      Comfortable or not, a Volvo is fussy and those that buy a Lexus get used to the good life of not having to do much to their car but add gas and occasionally change the oil. When a Volvo pukes a fancy expensive sensor or some dumb seal fails and leaves a greasy spot on the garage floor, this is when the difference between genuine reliability and the backstop of a warranty is expressed.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I was also thinking about Buick when I read the comments. When I look at used cars, the asking prices for used Lexus (Lexi?) seem pretty darned ludicrous. I know that they are well-build and reliable cars, but they seem to cost nearly the same amount used as new based on dealer asking prices.

    American luxury brands, however, have a much steeper initial depreciation curve. I’m thinking Cadillac sedans, Lincolns, and Buicks here. My Dad bought a CPO Buick Lucerne a few years back. It had 24k miles on it and cost exactly half of what a new one stickered for. I don’t think Sobro’s wife would like that model, though. It’s big and quiet but otherwise pretty unrefined. The newer LaCrosse looks like a better comparison to a Lexus ES, though I haven’t driven one.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Yea, I had a Lucerne. It was still a 3800 in (sort of) H-body so I can’t hate on it too much, and I think some people on here rip it more than it deserves, but the Park Avenue it replaced was a better a car.

      Really if you’re into that kind of vehicle you’re better off in a Panther or a Lesabre/Bonneville (or rolling the N* dice on a DTS).

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I just drove my friend’s 2009 Lucerne CXL with the 3900 and I would hardly call it unrefined. In fact it was smoother riding, quieter and more refined overall than several other cars being discussed here including a recent Toyota Avalon that rode like it was riding on 44 PSI tires(they were 35 psi)a new style Impala, any Panther car and the current Charger and 300. The only one area it was less refined than some of these was full throttle acceleration which is totally unnecessary given this motors generous torque curve.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Back in say about 2010, myself and three tallish to tall friends rented a 3500 powered Impala for a 6 hr each way road trip. Lots of room, lots of power, decent economy. I know the W-Body cars get a lot of flack, but Zackman isn’t crazy.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          As much as I like W bodies as bang for the buck rides, they are not at all close to what OP’s wife is used to, even comparing a 2014 top of the line LTZ to her 13 year old ES300. Interior quality just isn’t there, suspension tuning isn’t there. W bodies feel like really old bones when you drive them, especially over uneven or broken pavement. They also seem to age rather poorly. A 5 year old Lexus will feel basically like a new Lexus, a 5 year old w body feels like… well, a 5 year old GM product.

          Having said all that, I would totally consider scooping up a cheap used low-mile Impala Limited. A Black LT would be choice.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Oh, I wasn’t suggesting a W-Body for the OP. Just musing on the pros and cons of W-Body cars in general.

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            I have a 2012 W-body Impala LT, and although it’s great for my needs, it has nowhere near the refinement of a Lexus or even an Epsilon Impala or LaCrosse. That being said, the current Camry, at least in lower trim levels, feels like a definite step down to me in just about every way.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            re Dave

            I definitely hear ya on the w body long distance cruiser thing, I drove down to Norfolk VA from Central NY with my dad on a business trip back in 2011 rental Impala with the 3500 High Value V6. It’s not the hotrod that the newer 3.6 cars are, but the powertrain and transmission is well matched. 211hp from 3.5L sounds pretty lame in this day and age, but that car had that low down lazy torque that could shove you off from an intersection or climb a hill without dropping a gear. No discomfort in a straight 7.5hr stint either.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Maybe GM changed something after mine was built, or your friend has magic tires, but I went from an ’07 Lucerne CXL to a ’14 Charger R/T with 18s and the Dodge has the Buick beat on everything except build quality (FCA has none to speak of), rear head room, and headlight power.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        TTAC management should attach a “Ponchoman49 is a GM dealer” disclaimer to every post he makes. A guy with zero credibility would have more than this guy.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Absolutely.

          In fact, given that there are Acura and Lexus and Toyota (not to mention other brands) salespeople constantly pimping & shilling, also, TTAC should try to force a disclaimer policy that is tagged to and automatically follows any car/truck salespeople posting comments on TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      “American luxury brands, however, have a much steeper initial depreciation curve. I’m thinking Cadillac sedans, Lincolns, and Buicks here.”

      And you’ll likely be spending those savings at a dealership on repairs if you decide to own it much past 60k miles.

      I would say a 10 year old Lexus will give you less headaches than a 5 year old Cadillac.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Taking advantage of the domestic depreciation curve made much more sense when the overall car or at least drivetrain wasn’t junk to some degree. Today ehhh…

        • 0 avatar
          jacob_coulter

          Very true.

          In the past, with something like a Buick, at least you were getting a bulletproof 3.8 engine or a 4.6 with the Lincoln. The foundation was solid.

          Although most of the Northstar run from Cadillac ended up being ticking time bombs with the head bolts that probably led most into the junkyard before their time.

  • avatar

    If she like’s the Lexus, she will probably buy another one. The ES is like four wheeled Ambien–they numb you to the outside world and you’ll sleepwalk to the Lexus dealer for another one.

    That said, the Lincoln MKZ or Cadillac CTS would be a good choice. Or a loaded Camry, which is an ES without the L on the hood, if she doesn’t like the bigger Avalon.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I recommended the Avalon as an option too.

      I thought about 2-3 years ago (maybe more?), Lexus switched the ES from a Camry base to an Avalon base?

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        +1 for the Avalon. Pretty much an ES. You just pay less for less as far as the dealer experience is concerned. Allowing for a new one, rather than trading one used car for another, when virtually nothing has changed between the current old and the new old.

        I’d also look at a Crosstour, but I’m probably the only one who would. It drives more Toyotaish than most other Hondas, and is around $35K in some trims. Never yet met anyone who have one who don’t like it. Nor, truth to be told, anyone who don’t have one who do like it….

        Not sure if anything by Acura fits the budget anymore, but they are good as well.

        If someone really likes a Lexus, despite supposed reliability improvements across all makes, I’d still stick with a T or H, just to minimize any chance of negative surprises.

      • 0 avatar

        They probably did switch to an Avalon base, but I think the same platform underpins both–just in different sizes?

        Anyway, I agree with you energtik–I’d go with the Avalon. I still think it’s more car for less money.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      The new CR has both an MKZ top pick and an MKZ do not buy in the used car recommendations, apparently the MY is an essential thing to track. Not doing split screens on my phone so I’m not going to list years and risk getting it wrong. I think it was outside the paywall, but as a subscriber I may have gone into the pay to read stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I’m guessing 2012 is a top pick and 2013 is avoid.

      • 0 avatar
        Zoom

        MKZ sub-categories in the years listed below are very good or better, with the exceptions noted. Probably MyLincoln Touch problems and/or user complaints about the lack of buttons.

        For what it’s worth:

        2012: Very Good (Audio System: Fair)
        2013: Poor (Body Integrity: Fair; Body Hardware: Good; Power Equipment, Audio System: Poor)
        2014: Good (Power Equipment: Good; Audio System: Poor)
        2015: Excellent

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          You’re correct. I didn’t mean to insinuate that the 2013+ MKZ was unreliable. The 2012 works with CR’s methodology better. The 2017 should up ratings as well. It’s a Lincoln refresh that adds actual buttons back.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    My fiancé’s dad just picked up a very clean used ’13 ES300h with about 30k miles for $28k. Very loaded up car with heated/ventilated seats and heated steering wheel, rear window shade, etc, etc. If you’re coming out of a used ES as it is, I would think it’d be a very smooth and familiar transition. It came down to either that or a new leftover ’15 Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium which were going for about $32k as I recall. The ES has a nicer interior with more gadgets but the drivetrain is the same and NVH/suspension tuning was basically identical.

    So either one of those could be a very safe bet. Want to save some dough, a Camry XLE in any of its powertrain configurations (I4, V6, Hybrid) could be worth a look as well. You could pick up a new one for about $23-25k depending on which engine you prefer.

  • avatar
    ajla

    …DontsayGrandMarquis DontsayGrandMarquis DontsayGrandMarquis…

    I like the ES350 idea.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I prefer far more sport than what the ES offers, but in keeping the theme.

    What about a CPO Toyota Avalon? Or Lexus RX? An Acura TL might be an option too.

    I know nothing about Toyota or Lexus CPO. I have only used Porsche and BMW CPO and have been VERY pleased with both. I have always felt like they have taken care of every issue, even a couple that might have been classified as wear and tear.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      I like the idea of the RX. They are just as bulletproof, extremely quiet, and offer easier ingress/egress than the ES. And to those in the B&B who said the new model won’t sell because of the wild styling – my experience has shown otherwise. In my neck of the woods, I see at least 3 or 4 of the 2016’s a day on my commute.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Can’t go wrong with the Ford. Although a case can also be made for V6 Accord sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I think Accords might fall short on the NVH front and suspension tuning compared to a pillowy older ES (from the days before everyone demanded a sporty ride). The Fords are definitely quiet enough, but the Fusion SE I drove fell short on suspension tuning and shifting logic compared to the Lexi I’ve experienced. The Toyota 2gr hooked up to even the old 5spd auto is just such a peach of a powertrain combo. Super smooth and effortless, shifting is predictable and logical. Hybrids cut both ways, there’s no gears to shift and electric motor torque away from a light is nice, but there’s simply no way to make it sound pleasant when the 4cyl engine kicks in as you accelerate briskly.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    I think the ES and Avalon are wonderful choices. She might as well test drive an RX while she’s at it.

    Also, have a look at Hyundai’s offerings, particularly the Genesis and Azera.

    And don’t forget about the Acura TL/TLX.

    As a side note since were speaking of cushy, isolation chamber sedans, I got a look at the upcoming Lincoln Continental at the local car show.

    I really liked it. It has a presence that I find refreshing and harkens back to past Lincolns. The car was locked, so no interior impressions but so far, so good.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    From a value proposition, any of the higher trim level mainstream cars is a better choice than one of the prestige brands. One of my coworkers bought a 5 series BMW a couple of years ago, which he now regrets, not because it’s a bad car, but that is was $20,000 more than the equivalent high trim Fusion/Camry/Accord.

    I have a similar vintage Fusion Titanium. There are a few exterior trim details on his BMW that are a little nicer than what’s on my car, but that’s about it. I would say the interior of my car is nices, especially the front seats.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Friend of mine has a hard-loaded Fusion Titanium. In no way is the interior of that car a nicer place to be than my pauper-spec 2011 3-series, never mind a 5-series. It just has more toys.

      As I like to say, if you don’t appreciate what makes a BMW (sub whatever premium car floats your fancy) $15K better than a Camry (sub whatever mid-sizer), buy the Camry and spend the money on something you care about.

  • avatar
    Sam Hell Jr

    Great deals to be had in my neck of the woods on lightly used mid-trim Fusion hybrids. Hard to match ES for cush, though.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    If she doesn’t care about the luxury badge try out an Impala (the EpsilonII model, not the old w-body) equipped with the 3.6L V6. Its powerful, comfortable, very quiet, and has a very low TCO. Chrysler 300 sedans are soft and comfortable, but the styling is bold and aggressive. Plus your wife may grow to like HEMI horsepower. Plus IMO its a pretty sharp car. Virtually any Japanese or American car of recent vintage will give you the six years of trouble free service you seek so shop based on style/aesthetics. Life’s too short to drive a spreadsheet car.

    Is she set on having a sedan or are crossovers an option?

    • 0 avatar

      I like the 300, really, I do. I get them about 80% of the time I rent, usually in S or 300C forms. Buuuuut, they aren’t very reliable in the long-term. Good cars to lease, not great to buy.

      The Impala (current) is a good suggestion though.

  • avatar
    r129

    This should go without saying, but if considering the $35k new car, go with something that doesn’t depreciate like a rock. Perhaps a new Avalon would fit the bill, if you don’t want to make the stretch to a new ES. Having spent time in both the new Camry and Avalon, I don’t think that the Camry feels sufficiently premium compared to a Lexus, but the Avalon comes close.

    If going with the $20k used car, by all means choose something that depreciates like a rock. The MKZ is a fine choice, but the LaCrosse is roomier and just feels more plush to me, but if I had to choose, I would rather have a 2014+ Impala over the LaCrosse. I had a well-equipped 2LT w/leather as a rental, and it was a wonderfully comfortable and capable car.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      I think this is right on. Test drive a new Avalon and you might have your answer.

    • 0 avatar

      While depreciation certainly makes used Buicks and Lincolns more appealing and used Lexuses (Lexi?) less appealing, depreciation probably isn’t as much of a concern to someone who it sounds like is going to drive the car until the wheels fall off. It sounds like they are keeping the car at least 6 years and possibly forever – and putting 13k a year on it for the next 6 years – so by the time they are done with it it’s not going to be worth much anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        r129

        Even if I’m planning to keep a car for a long time and depreciation isn’t a big factor for resale, I don’t like the idea of buying a brand new car with awful depreciation knowing that I can get a 1 or 2 year old equivalent for $10k less. Sometimes, when there are really spectacular deals to be had, the new Buick will make sense.

        On the flip side, buying new becomes more attractive when the used version of the same car is only a few thousand less. Just the way I see things.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          The 2yo version of the car is NOT the same. It has two years of wear and tear. 2 years less primary warranty. Someone else’s farts in the seats. Someone else’s choices in colors and equipment (unless you get lucky).

          The first few years of a cars life ARE expensive, but they are also the BEST years of a cars life, so it makes perfect sense that they are.

          I have absolutely no qualms about buying used, but I fail to see the value proposition of buying BARELY used cars – especially premium cars. They are not enough cheaper. Nothing worth buying depreciates as much as you think it does either, given how easy it is to get a substantial discount on most new premium cars today.

          • 0 avatar
            onyxtape

            I don’t know about that…we’re shopping for MDX’s now, and 2-3yo ones are about $10k-$15k less than a new comparably-equipped one if you look hard enough. That’s 20%-25% off the cost of entry, with still lots of warranty left over.

            But man oh man why did you have to mention the farts in the seats. That’s going to ruin me for used cars now…

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            I don’t disagree that the 2 year old version is not the same, and that there are perfectly good reasons for buying new. However, if one is considering both new and used at different price points (like the OP), I think there are certain cars that make more sense to purchase used vs. new.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        “A new ES350 isn’t too far outside of your price range (around $38,000 before the wizard negotiators of the B&B work their magic).”

        Unless something has radically changed (any up-to-date Lexus aficionados here?), there’s not much wiggle room on the new price of even the ES350 (which, by the way, *IMO*, is not that great a vehicle and less a Lexus in that smooth, refined, well-trimmed, quiet, well-assembled way of the past era Lexus ES300 or ES330).

        I don’t understand how the ES350 is as successful as it is. It’s lost the genuine premium-ness & refinement that Lexus used to bake into it in order to ensure it feels much better than a Camry.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          DW, have you driven a 13+ ES? I just have and the interior trimmings are fantastic. I could find few nits to pick aside from the joystick nav input, what a pain. But the quality of materials, touch point softness, assembly, were all faultless. Add to that the fact that modern Camries have LOST a lot of the quality touches “where you don’t look” and there is a VERY perceptible gap between an ES and a Camry. The Avalon is firmly in between the two in terms of finish and material richness. We may never see ’92 Camry overkill ever again, then again adjusted for inflation a 4cyl Camry LE no longer costs $31k either.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            The ES350 has less soft touch interior materials inside, less sound-deadening material and a much firmer ride vs the ES300 or ES330, ***IMO***

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            The firmer ride I will agree on. Insulation perhaps, I was slightly surprised by the presence of wind noise in the ES300h, but tire noise is well taken care of. I poked and prodded around the interior, specifically making the comparison in my mind to older Toyotas and Lexi, I honestly could not find any issues with lack of soft touch materials. Now the Avalon, that definitely starts to creep into the cost-cut zone comparatively, but even that is an improvement on the 07-12 cars, which coincided with Toyota jumping the interior quality shark with the 07-11 Camry.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Like much of the B&B I would say a Lincoln MKZ is a must test drive, also I like the Volvo idea either S80 or S60 depending on size, if you want to play it extra safe the Avolan is a great choice if the size is right, but you will not get the bang for the buck as you will with the others.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Bump up the used budget to the mid-twenties and get another Lexus ES. She already likes the car so that’s half the battle: spend the $$$ and get her what you know she likes. Case closed.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      This.

      Push her away from the car she wants and you’ll get the blame for anything that ever breaks down or that she otherwise discovers she dislikes about it. That can be the lesser of two evils when you’re talking her out of an idiot idea like a Volkswagen but she’s already sold on the safe choice here.

      Don’t find trouble.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Heh, I’m the opposite of this. My wife wanted a CPO X5 and overrode my veto because it’s her car. Every time that f*&$ing thing has a problem which is much more frequent than our older XC90, I remind her of my feelings. She summarily tells me to go pound sand.

        My new tactic is that each time it breaks down, since she loves it so much, she gets to take it to the dealer for warranty work or to an indy if it’s not covered by the shrinking coverage that is BMW CPO.

        Kyree knows what I’m talking about.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Two thoughts on your rear main seal leak, since it isn’t a very common thing for this generation of Toyota engines:
    1. Are you sure it isn’t a clogged PCV? Or one of the PCV hoses getting kinked? These problems would create crankcase pressure, and the first symptom is a rear seal leak.
    2. How bad is the leak? Like dripping out or does it just leave a drop on the driveway? On one of my vehicles, I had the drop rear seal leaking where it just left a drop on the driveway. For that car, I stopped using 5W20 Mobil 1 synthetic and went to a regular 5W30 oil. After I made the change to the thicker oil, I could see that the rear main seal area was still damp but it didn’t drop oil on the ground anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      I don’t think a crank seal leak, after 175k miles, is all that unexpected. I would replace the seal and have the transmission serviced while it is out.

      If the aforementioned is out of the question, I would agree with your oil change suggestion. Valvoline MaxLife Synthetic 5w-30, run it for a couple of oil change intervals to see results.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    My mom is in a similar boat, but with slightly different financials; she has a 2013 ES350, and is looking to replace it. She has some admittedly odd criteria; she wants FWD, she likes “toys” or gadgets, she wants something upscale/upscaleish, and she doesn’t want a small German car (probably, she’s been asking about Audis). She’s looking in the $40-50k range.

    She’d get another ES350, but they haven’t changed anything significant since she got hers. I suggested she check out an Acura RLX, it will be a little less common, it’s the “flagship” Acura for whatever that’s worth, and the street price is about $10k less than sticker. So for the OP, maybe an older RL?

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      I can see the attraction of the RLX – who doesn’t love a ‘bargain’? But I don’t see what the RLX gets you over the TLX. Sure, the RLX is less common, but is that a good thing? If I had a choice between the TLX and RLX and they were similarly optioned and priced, I would go with the TLX.

      On the topic of flagships, I think that Acura’s flagship for the last 15 years has been the MDX. I would also argue that BMW’s flagship is the X5 and Audi’s the Q7.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    I am surprised by the ES’s issues. I had an ex with a similar aged GS and that god damned thing was bullet proof. I did a lot of wrenching on it to saver her $. Toyota ‘perceived’ quality, I suppose.

    If I had to put my current gf in a car – it would be a luxury car – probably a MkZ or MkS. Hell, it could be anything so long as it has a f*cking heated steering wheel and seats. She loves heated anything and runs the heated seats in the middle of the summer. She wanted a rental Fiat just because of that heated steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Not looking to confront, but how did you do a lot of wrenching – enough to save the owner some real money, I guess – on something that was bulletproof?

      Are we talking a lot of oil changes, or brake jobs, or tire swaps, or – ?

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Obviously he was trying to sabotage it and increase his stock stakes in General Motors!

        Around here we have a first gen Scion XB, I guess “bullet proof” means re aligning various body panels regularly.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Actually, I’d put my girlfriend in a Competition Orange Mustang GT with a manual.

      That way I’d have to drive her around in it (she never learned to drive a stick).

      Manipulative? Yes. But…Mustang GT.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    My vote is Avalon…. but you can do better…..

    If you look really hard, I bet you could land an Acura RLX for under 30k all in.

    Although it’s heavily panned when compared to its competitors at MSRP….. at 30k out the door, it blows everything away.

    It’s a solid car, just kinda bland looking but that optional KRELL audio system will make your forget about all your worries.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    FWIW, CR reliability rankings::

    ES350: 70% better than avg

    Avalon: 43% better than avg

    MKZ w/Ecoboost: 7% worse than avg

    LaCross: 8% better than avg

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      What’s the standard deviation? Measures of central tendency are relatively meaningless without a measure of dispersion. If you happen to be numerate. Many people aren’t…

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        It’s the great mystery of CR reliability ratings. I don’t think they ever plainly disclose the spread in the data. However, here’s a link with a table of the average problem rate in 2015 for all cars from 2006-present. Combining that with the type of percentages Richard Chen gave will give a very basic idea.

        http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/04/reliability-histories/index.htm

        I wish CR would disclose this sort of thing at the model level, but I’m guessing the bulk of readership doesn’t want that complexity. Or might stop subscribing once it became apparent that 50% better than <1% doesn't mean much.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          This is why I prefer to look at J.D. Power’s Dependability numbers. While people might disagree on what a real “problem” is, PP100V is at least a useful metric.

        • 0 avatar
          319583076

          Precisely. At best, CR gives you some relative rating, but there’s absolutely no way to assess the value or utility of 25% better than average. In other words, they’re selling something that at best is a half-truth.

          While I understand most people don’t understand distributions and don’t want to be bothered, some of us do and want to be bothered.

          But as you point out, pulling back the curtain more likely than not would expose the fallacy(ies) inherent in their “service”. My guess is, anti-intellectuals would probably more than replace the loss of savvy subscribers just to show those pointy eggheads what’s what.

          Ragnarok, oh Ragnarok!
          Wherefore art thou?

    • 0 avatar
      BoogerROTN

      But how many white, gray and black circles/half circles does that equate to?

    • 0 avatar
      Zoom

      The MKZ downgrade from CR is completely due to the infotainment unit and lack of buttons on the IP. Everything else gets a red “very good” or better from 2012 onward.

      I have never tried MyF/LTouch or the button-less IP.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The best recommendation is to get your wife out for a good day and test drive some of the cars being discussed here. Have her try out a current style CPO ES, a Buick LaCrosse, an Acura RLX or one of the current Lincoln FWD based sedans. Cadillac will probably be out as the majority of there sedans are tuned for Germanic hard rides, even the XTS. Want a FWD largish sized sedan with V6 power, a smooth quiet ride, a big trunk and loads of trunk space for less than 25K used? The n an Impala LTZ might do the trick. I have recommenced this car to several folks and they were impressed with them enough to buy a lightly used 2015 example but avoid the 20″ tires at all costs!

  • avatar
    GS 455

    Has your wife driven a new ES350? If she likes to sofa ride of her 03 ES300 she may not like the ride of the newer ES350 and Avalons as both had their suspensions stiffened up to offer more “performance”. Consumer Reports has been fairly critical of the changes in the ride of both.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’d agree with Bark – stick with the ES. You can find Infiniti G35/37s and Acura TLs in the same price range, but if she’s into a serene Lexus driving vibe, stick with that. It’s certainly a car you won’t go wrong buying.

  • avatar
    BoogerROTN

    I’ve been in the market for three late model (’12+) sedans of late: Avalon, MKZ 3.7 and SHO. The MKZ or SHO would have to be CPO; I’m willing to forgo it on the Avalon.

    That said, unless you live in CA, TX or FL, those cars can be real “unicorns.” And if you have a specific color combo in mind, forget it. Short of a buy-and-fly to SoCal or paying for CarMax to ship one from elsewhere (and I hate the thought of using CarMax, out of principle), I’m sort of SOL.

    Perhaps I will have to settle for a Fusion. Color and options I want and at a pretty good late-model discount…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The Church has been recommending the CPO CD3 Zephyr for some time. I didn’t care for the CD4 I sat in at the auto show much at all but I agree with Bark’s suggestion of a back to back comparison with Lex ES. For S&G I might throw TLX in the competition as well but I think for <35K you're stuck with the all around decent Honda I4 and coming from a 6 this may not be acceptable (although the Toyota 3.3 wasn't exactly a hot rod motor so it might have similar output to Honda's newest I4).

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    The ES were great cars (and boring) if you want that old school ride, but I’m not impressed with the newer ones.

    I’m sure most of the issue is the huge rims they now put on them, and even the car publications have mentioned how unsettled the ride is on the latest generation.

    I drove a brand new ES and new Camry back to back as rentals and the ride was much more serene on the Camry, mainly because the Camry had 16″ rims. It really was night and day.

    Also, the mouse operated system on the newer ES is absolutely awful, I don’t know why Lexus went in that direction vs a touch screen. Almost a deal breaker in of itself.

  • avatar
    Sobro

    Thanks for all of the comments. Currently third from the top of the post are some answers to some questions. We aren’t going to pull the trigger on her beloved ES just yet, but the next $1500 repair may load the gun. Being in Nashville, I looked at the local Lexus dealer’s web site and MSRP for a new ES they had in stock was $49,000.

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    CarMax is showing some good prices on Genesis models with low mileage. Have you considered a Honda Accord EX-L V6 or Touring? 30 -34k msrp new.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      If she likes the old ES’s ride and noise abatement, I’d point her towards an XLE V6 Camry instead. The Accord is soft, but the XLE even more so. And probably quieter. Neither comes close to the interior quality of that older ES, though, so they’ll both feel like a step down in that sense.

  • avatar
    Anonymous Coward

    If we’re willing to look into the mid 20’s for a CPO, I’d at least consider a Hyundai Equus.

  • avatar
    Chan

    This is an answer looking for a question.

    She clearly wants another car like the ES, so she should get another ES.

    That car is the definition of “comfort and reliability for your dollar.”

  • avatar
    meefer

    The Lexus replacement is almost always another Lexus. The only reason mine wasn’t was due to the HOV access for plug-ins. So get her another ES, hybrid if you can find one locally as she won’t care and you’ll save a bit on gas. Generally CPO models have a much smaller premium for hybrid drivetrain.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    If you live where it snows a Lexus RX, if you don’t then consider a 2005 Lexus GS. It’s the last year of the 2nd gen for this car and I think they were a better, simpler car than the 3rd gen GS. These are more like an LS, so in my mind they are a ‘real’ Lexus. Look for a one-owner, cream-puff. These cars are extremely robust and can likely go 400K miles. So, if you find said cream-puff with 80K miles, it’s really more new than not. Front suspension parts are the only thing that’s in any way chronic on these. My own GS is looking rough from 16 years of daily driving through a 6-month winter, but the interior and mechanicals are like new still. An odd choice, but I stand by it.

    • 0 avatar
      Sobro

      I like the GS but don’t they have a stiffer suspension than the ES? I will recommend she test drive one since the current model is about the same size as the ’03 ES. But I don’t think ’05 is new enough to replace an ’03.

      • 0 avatar
        Lightspeed

        I’d say a bit stiffer and it is RWD, but again, it leans more towards the LS than the IS. Yes, 05 is getting on, but I really think these and the LS of the time were the high water mark for quality, at least until 2013-14. They seem to have their mojo back since the ‘spindle-grille’ came out – believe it or not!

  • avatar
    redliner

    Used Kia K900? Too much car? How about a used Azera? I usually don’t recommend Hy/Ki cars, but they seem to fit the bill here.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The obvious answer is “whatever she darned well pleases” within the budget. Have her drive everything in the price range. Happy wife, happy life, and all that crap.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I agree.

      And ” she is starting to get antsy about driving a 13-year-old car” should not be a worry.

      I still drive a 1989 Camry V6 every day. Fires up every day. Gets me there and back, safely and comfortably. I’m not worried.

      Yes, all cars will eventually break down. But a well-maintained car should last a lot longer than 13 years, even beyond a million road miles.

      Now, the new-car itch? There’s no cure for that.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Rear main seal? My M-i-L’s first Lexus was a 2005 ES330 (bought new), and it had the rear main seal problem. Fortunately, it was noticed by the dealer just before the 70,000 mile powertrain warranty expired. It had just started seeping, but they replaced it, free of charge.

    She’s driving an 2008 ES350 now, a CPO car that she bought in 2011 with 45,000 miles. It just turned over 100k, and it’s been trouble-free.

    The last couple of cars before the ES330 were Cadillacs (a ’94 RWD Fleetwood Brougham, and a 2001 De Ville), and they were both garbage.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    RLX
    RLX
    RLX
    RLX

    + KRELL AUDIO

  • avatar
    hp12c

    SoBro = South of Broadway?

    Back on topic: CPO ES FTW

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The Avalon is the best Buick you can get. Toyota may not be able to quite figure out how to emulate German suspension tuning or the door thunk, but it sure has the domestics beat at their own game.

  • avatar
    gmcd

    yes it’s been said but as the owner of a 1997 ES with 220K and still going strong I’d suggest sticking with what she knows and likes. A newer ES will be comfortable, reliable, and a known quantity. Unless she is gung ho for something with different driving dynamics the Lex/Toyota ticks the boxes. BTW the V6 Camry, while sensible, does not come close even tho’ I bought one for my daughter to use (yes she complains but I will not buy her a BMW or a Fiat).

    • 0 avatar
      jimmyy

      After I replaced the Green X tires with V rated tires on my newer Hybrid Camry, it became a completely different car which can take corners so much faster. Makes me wonder if the BMW handling is mostly the result of sport tires. FYI … I selected the V rated tires after I saw them on German sport sedans.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    I hate people on this site sometimes – lots of insecurity issues and “car guy” BS rather than listening to the customer. Listen to your wife : It is pretty much bright as day that she wants another ES. Get that or an Avalon, or if you want to join the crossover thing, an RX.

    Buy a CPO one, buy the extended warranty for additional security, and don’t get her anything even approaching sporty. Regardless of the anecdotal crap people are spewing about Volvo’s etc, statistically a Lexus will be the best vehicle you can buy, and an ES is perfect since it part shares with the Camry meaning it is a very well developed platform. It will be tomb silent, luxe as cars that are way more expensive, and carries that slight bit of badge whoring that everyone seems to crave.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    A Buick LaCrosse is a good buy in CPO form, most Buick dealers share w/ Cadillac and thus have slightly better dealers/customer service than Chevy.
    In fact didn’t a Buick out-Lexus a Lexus in a comparison test?
    I’d go with a CPO Genesis, but FWD is a requirement.
    Our neighbor just bought a new ES. Nice interior, but not incrementally better for the price premium than the Buick.

  • avatar
    theonewhogotaway

    I’d buy the newest Hyundai Azera Limited that fits the budget and call it a day. Beats the Lexus 350 by a lot as far as creature comforts and luxury goes. Plus it has that Warranty…

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    Based on the criteria, I’d definitely be looking for a CPO 2013-2014 Lincoln MKZ. First off, the thing looks great, inside and out. Nice ride, soft-and-supple interior materials, and a proven drivetrain. Find an AWD model and enjoy a little less torque steer when you stomp the gas. In my experience with this gen MKZ, and I found them easy-cruisers, with a natural driving position, no seat-related fatigue, well-assembled, and satisfyingly quick.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Once you get used to Toyota or Honda reliability and resale, nothing else will do. And, the new Toyota or Honda products are so much safer because of the corner crash test. Get her a new Accord or Camry then put V rated tires on it immediately. You will be set for 20 years.

    And, avoid anything with a German, Detroit, or Korean nameplate on it.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Once you get used to European seats, handling, and interiors, nothing else will do.

      Just like you pay extra for clothes that fit, or for a meal at a good restaurant, the “savings” you get from a Toyota or Honda aren’t worth the sore back, unfulfilling ride, and cheap plastics fumes.

      Avoid anything with a Japanese, Korean, or Detroit nameplate and you will be fine.

      I figured this out when I bought my first Saab. My back wasn’t sore after a long drive, my feet were warm in the Winter (instead of my shins being warm and my feet freezing), handling was precise and still compliant, interior plastics didn’t wear-out prematurely.

      No way I’m ever going back. People will try to scare you with reliability myths, but then they ride in my ’02 and marvel at how it feels like a new car. Meanwhile, they’ve owned and junked three Accords in the same time span…

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      For a minute, I forgot there was anything besides German, Detroit and Korean nameplates.

      And, it would be a fukking boring world with just Japanese autos and trucks. Keep ’em.

  • avatar
    ViewsFromThe6Speed

    I’m a bit late to this discussion, but according to KBB you can get a CPO 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Sedan fully loaded for about $32k-$36k.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Seth Parks, United States
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Kyree Williams, United States