By on September 2, 2016

twofiddy

I’ve long since learned not to give advice about car purchases to individuals who are not already rabid car enthusiasts. It wasn’t a lesson that arrived immediately, or without difficulty, but it’s one that I have finally and regretfully internalized. My brother Bark has not yet learned this lesson, so feel free to continue sending him Ask Bark submissions, but my days as a would-be car-shopping guru are over.

Yet there are times that I cannot dodge a particular request, whether for reasons of politeness, expediency, or my own self-interest. When those times arise, I usually recommend a Toyota, unless the questioner has stated that she absolutely does not want a Toyota, in which case I will recommend a Honda. If a Honda is not acceptable, I explain that anything else amounts to a roll of the dice and as long as we’re rollin’ the dice we might as well get a Viper ACR and screech our barbaric yawp down the back straight of Virginia International Raceway the way Harambe would have wanted us to had he not been assassinated by the Illuminati.

So when a co-worker at one of my contracts asked me about her next new car, I quickly evaluated her demographics (50-ish, upper-middle class), current vehicle (previous-gen Sonata) and desires (“As much luxury as I can get”) before responding, however reluctantly, with an endorsement of the Lexus ES. This, of course, led to an examination of the pricing and equipment for the Lexus ES. Despite numerous conversations on the subject, I cannot decide if the front-wheel-drive luxo-Toyota represents a blatant cash grab or singular value for money. There’s only one way to decide issues like these, but since Tina Turner let Thunderdome burn to the ground we’ll have to settle for deciding based on the considered input of the Best & Brightest.

For the prosecution: Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to show you that the Lexus ES is perhaps the most offensively-overpriced Japanese passenger vehicle since the Acura SLX. You remember the Acura SLX, don’t you? No? Well, take my word for it.

What, pray tell, do you get for the base price of $38,900? Just about what you get for the $32,295 MSRP of a Camry XLE V6. The powertrain is the same, the interior space is about the same, the driving experience is eerily similar. The XLE comes with heated seats; the ES requires that you pay extra. That’s a six-grand bump for the privilege of avoiding a Toyota dealership. Well, come to think of it, that might be reason enough to pay the extra money.

Both cars offer a premium audio/navigation combination option, but it’s cheaper on the Camry. The ES350 has an “Ultra Luxury” package that gives you a panoramic sunroof and genuine upscale wood trim, but unless you really need that stuff, there’s no equipment-based reason to choose the Lexus. Warranty on the ES is 4 year/50,000 mile basic, 6 year/70,000 mile powertrain, while the Camry warranty is 3 year/36,000 mile basic, 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain. If that bothers you, it’s possible to cover the gap with a Toyota extended warranty for much less than $6,505.

If there is any argument to be made for the ES350, it must rest on the intangibles and/or the interior experience.

esinterior

Check that out. It’s obviously a flattering photo, but even in the cold light of dealership fluorescents it’s pretty nice.

camryint

This is a lesson in how much differentiation you can get with the same hard points. There’s much more gap here than there was between, say, the interior of my 2006 Phaeton and the cabin of a 2006 Bentley Flying Spur. The question is whether it justifies the price increase.

There’s one more difference to consider. You’ve no doubt read that the ES350 is on the “Avalon platform” instead of the “Camry platform.” The “move to the Avalon platform” was certainly reported with sycophantic glee by all the usual suspects. So what does it mean, to be on the “Avalon platform”? Realistically, it means you have a 111-inch wheelbase instead of a 109.3-inch wheelbase. There are certainly times when an extra inch-and-a-half can make or break a relationship, but unless you’re in the real-estate business this won’t be one of those times.

In short, the Lexus ES is a waste of money, a sham, a sad attempt to impress neighbors who are mired too deeply in their own concerns to be aware of your petit-bourgeois pseudo-triumph. Get the Camry, save some money, be a real person instead of a real housewife.

For the defense: You have heard my counterpart prattle at perplexing length about the purported practical product parallels between the mighty Lexus ES and the humble Camry, be it an “XLE V6” or otherwise. Well, my friends, I am here to tell you that the ES350 is never cross-shopped against a Camry. Let’s take a look at its more probable competitors and I will show you, once and for all, that the Lexus is the smart shopper’s choice.

Consider, if you will, the Acura TLX. It’s slightly cheaper than the ES350 and offers slightly more feature content — but what’s gonna happen when you have to sell it? Look at the market for 2008-model-year examples of the TL and the ES. The Lexus fetches a couple grand more and it appears to sell faster, as well. And while the Acura has historically been reliable in most non-transmission-related areas, do you really think that the TLX can match the ES for low frequency and severity of repair?

The optional equipment on offer is also slightly different. Acura has AWD, but Lexus has the panoramic roof and the different wood trims. If you’re in the mood for as much luxury as you can get for each dollar, your business needs to stay with the L-in-an-oval dealer.

What about the new Buick LaCrosse? It’s actually slightly more expensive than the Lexus in the “Essence” trim that most closely matches the base ES. Residual value? Come on now, you can read the numbers just as easily as I can. That goes for reliability as well. It’s hard not to think that the Lexus will actually be cheaper to own than the Buick. Lastly, there’s the prestige gap. It’s very real. Drive a Lexus ES, and your friends might think it’s an LS from a distance. Drive a LaCrosse, and they’ll ask you if you’re willing to haul some mulch in the back seat before you take it back to Hertz.

Finally, there’s the Lincoln MKZ. It’s very much the avant-garde choice, from styling to powerplant. Truly, it’s hard to imagine the MKZ and the ES350 appealing to the same person. But if you’re one of the people who would consider either, then many of the same caveats that apply to the Buick are also present here. It’s also worth noting that the MKZ doesn’t really line up with the ES in terms of powerplant choice. The anvil-like reliability of the Toyota V6 probably isn’t going to be a noted feature of any Ford EcoBoost engine, and even if it is there’s more complexity (read: more need for service) in the turbo powerplants.

So I submit to you that the Lexus ES is the most sensible, the sanest, the safest choice out there for your near-luxury cash. It looks good both inside and out. It is based on proven, reliable mechanicals. And it’s easy to sell when you’re ready to bid it adieu. Is it a Camry with a fancy frosting? Perhaps. But in this case, the frosting makes the cake.

Those are the arguments. What say you, B&B? My heartfelt personal advice would be to get an Accord if you can live with a Honda, and a Lexus IS350 if you can’t. But the Camry and ES are both best-sellers for a reason. The only question is whether the Lexus MSRP juice is worth the squeeze.

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216 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Looking For Value at Lexus...”


  • avatar
    MPAVictoria

    “There are certainly times when an extra inch-and-a-half can make or break a relationship”

    Ha!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Is she leasing or buying? That might make a difference.

    If she’s “into luxury,” keep in mind the Lexus buying and ownership experience is also going to be a lot better than what she’d get at the Toyota joint. The Toyota store by my house is so crowded that it looks like a damn circus.

    Hard to put that into dollars and cents, of course, but it’s worth considering. It might make a difference to me.

  • avatar
    Der_Kommissar

    I just can’t stand the exterior styling of the current Accord. I also have never enjoyed the service experience at honda- its usually adversarial, along the lines of “our cars don’t break” when they are explaining that your imploding AC system must be a one off piece of bad luck. Otherwise, its an excellent car.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      “I just can’t stand the exterior styling of the current Accord. ”

      That’s funny, because while I love the exterior styling I think that the interior, or at least the dash, looks awful and cheap. That’s probably the biggest thing that keeps me from giving them serious consideration.

      • 0 avatar
        johnds

        Funny, because I think the interior looks pretty good and built tight. Did you drive the base LX? I do know they remove features such as a locking glove box, and there is cloth on the door panels, as opposed to leather on the higher models. I don’t think anything else in its class, Ford, GM, Toyota, Chrysler, VW are close. I also got to drive a 2016 Accord sport for 5 months/ 6,000 miles. I think it would be a great replacement for my 2007 Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      Eyeflyistheeye

      That’s interesting. The Accord sedan and the Pilot, surprisingly, are the only cars I like from Honda’s current lineup. Everything else either looks cheap or ridiculously overstyled.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I can’t stand the Pilot’s new rear fascia, or the unholy design mess that exists at the apex of the join of the A-pillar, fender and leading DLO edge. So it’s down to the Accord for me.

        It’s not like Toyota or Nissan are all that much better, though.

        • 0 avatar
          johnds

          I think the front design of cars and trucks are changing so much because of the pedestrian design rules. A lot of cars are designed so that pieces break off during a crash, as opposed to impaling the pedestrian.

          After looking at a few pilots, I think the rear design squared off like the 2003 Pilot was…

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            For me, it’s the way the rear lights literally look like there are pieces missing.

            I don’t really mind the Pilot / Ridgeline front fascia, though.

          • 0 avatar
            King of Eldorado

            Kyree — One of my design pet peeves is the use of the hatch/trunk cutline to abruptly and pointlessly change the taillight design. (See my former 2005 BMW X3.) It looks like you somehow bashed in the hatch leaving the rest of the rear undamaged, went to the junkyard for a replacement and found one, but oh wait, wasn’t that the year they changed the taillight design? Oh well, it fits perfectly physically, so I’ll live with the weird non-match-up of the taillights….

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      I think the 2013-15 is much better looking. I don’t care for the wheels on the 2016-17. I did drive a 2016 Sport in modern steel for 5 months, it looked great. I think this is a car that looks better in certain colors.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I stopped giving recommendations a while ago. Too many times, I’d say check out these models of car, only to have them buy something completely different than they were asking about. then when they didn’t like something about the car they bought, I still had to hear about it.

    “Both cars offer a premium audio/navigation combination option, but it’s cheaper on the Camry.”

    The Camry also doesn’t use that execrable abomination called “remote touch.”

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I give people advice well within their parameters, and tell them to check out cars A through D. All of them are comparable and fit their price range allocated in their search. Often times, I will include listings at dealers which are reasonably priced to show them a baseline.

      Every_single_time, they’ve rushed to purchase option E or F on day one of their search, at a lower trim level or with a weird engine option, something like that. Not what they said they were searching for.

      Then they decide they don’t like it, and I hear about it. I want to point at the email I sent them, “See here? Where is what you picked on this list of what I suggested? Oh, it’s not?! Crazy!”

      So now I just do a meh meh this or this and don’t waste my time.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        That reminds me of July 2013, when a good friend of mine needed a new car for a new job that had a lengthy commute. I recommended she just pony up for a Corolla or Civic, or to get an Elantra if she couldn’t afford either of those.

        So she turned up with a warrantied 2009 Cobalt LS (in teal, yuck). This was immediately before the ignition-switch issues became apparent. Although she rags cars out, the Cobalt was, independently of that, a giant piece of sh*t. She insisted that I’d recommended the car to her, but couldn’t find the email, text or Facebook message where that had happened.

        Because I’m not that stupid. All I said, when she announced she’d bought the car was, “nice”, just to spare her feelings.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Lol, teal.

          I hate that! Don’t seek my approval if you didn’t listen to my dang recommendation! Cause now IDGAF.

        • 0 avatar
          kablamo

          It’s ignorance it really is.

          A few years back a friend bought a car, I asked what she got: “a Civic or a Saturn, I’m not sure”. Well, it was a Saturn.

          If a customer asks a salesperson for a Civic and he walks them up to a Cobalt, lots of people won’t know the difference. Hard to fathom for enthusiasts, but not to average folks feeling anxious/overwhelmed about the car buying process.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            My mother-in-law owns an old 4Runner that she wants to get rid of. In great shape. Dealer offered her $1,000 and acted like he was doing her a favor. I told her it was worth $5K easily, and I am happy to sell it for her.

            She’d rather take $1K from the dealer, because he would do the paperwork with the DMV for her.

        • 0 avatar
          Wscott97

          Ha. I think we’ve all experienced that. You have to be nice and say you like it because you know it will hurt their feelings when you tell the truth and you look like a real jerk. But in the end, somehow telling them it’s nice makes them think you recommend it.
          My parents are the worst offenders when it comes to buying the opposite of what I tell them. It’s happened 4 times already.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I read this a lot in the comments, but it totally isn’t the case for me. Almost all my friends and family either drive something I recommended or that I personally found.

      No idea why. I drive a Dodge and N* Cadillac. My knowledge is obviously not wisdom.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    I actually prefer the dash design of the Camry over the Lexus

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Lexus for me. I am 100% in love with the “vintage Denon cassette deck reinterpreted as a car interior” thing Lexus has applied across its lineup. The reality is all of these cars largely drive the same as far as this lady is concerned, and to be completely frank the Lexus brand carries the most cachet and resale value. It’s kind of a no brainer IMO, even if you don’t have a Japanese bubble era audio equipment fetish.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      ” I am 100% in love with the “vintage Denon cassette deck reinterpreted as a car interior” thing Lexus has applied across its lineup.”

      I KNOW.

      It’s enough for me to prefer the RC-F over the M4 just based on the center console

      — signed, a kid who spent all his money on a Denon DCD-620 CD player in 1989 and listened to it through headphones because he couldn’t afford any other components

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Haha!

        Now that I have some money I am slowly feeding that childhood obsession with glorious 80s hi-fi. I don’t even need high quality stuff- no need for streaming Pandora and listening to MP3 mixtapes from college. I just want that glorious brushed black metal and all the flashing lights. I have an old Technics turntable in my kitchen… the stroboscope is so key, and actually really useful lol. All I need now is the graphic EQ and the power amp with big VU gauges.

        • 0 avatar
          cimarron typeR

          Huge fan, I still listen to my “natural sound” Yamaha CD changer. My bro still rocks out his Boston Acoustic bookshelves (the ones with the really faux wood grain)
          I’ve re-purposed my Altec Lansing bookshelves to surround sound duty.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          I also have an old Technics turntable that I bought in the late 70’s. It’s the model below the one with the stroboscope which I thought was a a bit trivial at the time. It’s a well made unit, quite heavy with the 4 rubber isolators that I still use to this day. I plan to buy a pre-amp to run it through my home theater.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Agreed with both of you. If I had had the money I would have bought a 2013+ LS despite the fish mouth because I love the new interior look.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Interesting – taste in cars aligning with taste in stereo equipment. I bought a Bang & Olufsen setup in high school, a few years before that.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      the sad thing is, the HMI for the radio/multimedia in this car is the absolute worst.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        Does it really matter for most modern buyers though? They’re going to cue their content on their phones, stream it via bluetooth, and adjust volume or change tracks via steering wheel controls. Unless changing inputs from bluetooth to the radio is wonky I don’t think most customers will care.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Does it really matter for most modern buyers though?”

          Um, yes?

          ” They’re going to cue their content on their phones, stream it via bluetooth,”

          and when they can’t figure out how to do it because the UI and controls are an ungodly mess, they’ll raise hell at the dealer. Believe me, I’ve seen customer feedback on automotive infotainment systems, and it’s both voluminous and vitriolic.

          “Unless changing inputs from bluetooth to the radio is wonky I don’t think most customers will care.”

          what I’ve learned is that people who talk about what “most people want/do” actually have no idea, they just assume everyone else is like them.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Fair point, especially with the lack of redundancy. But I think basic controls can be accessed through the steering wheel

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        @JimZ

        No, it’s not. It is actually far easier to use the hard buttons on a Lexus to switch sources and use the transport controls for the audio system than it is to do it on the Toyota.

        People absolutely hate the Remote Touch system, but I would bet that very few haters have actually lived with the car. Yes, it’s not really that good. Commonly used functions are almost entirely redundant, which makes it a moot point. The only thing you can’t do easily is screw with the Nav system while you’re driving. There’s a hard button for literally everything else.

        • 0 avatar
          JD23

          My mother has a 2015 ES with navigation and I have never heard her complain about the interface. I told her that the internet is aghast at the horrid mouse interface and she shrugged. Apparently, she didn’t get the memo from JimZ.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Those straight lines will age well, unlike what some other people are doing.

      *Looking at you Infiniti, with your bulging center console and wavy bullsh*t.*

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Another reviewer of the two knob set up said it reminded him of an old Marantz receiver. Haven’t been able to unsee the comparison since.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The current Lexus interior design motif is awesome.

      The exterior design and infotainment interface? Not so awesome.

  • avatar
    facelvega

    Since as we’ve established, she doesn’t care much about the car as a design object, then is the lady in question the kind of person who will feel a tiny bit of happiness getting in the car every day just because of the knowledge that she has a luxury brand car? It seems like she has said yes. In the long run, the privilege will probably amortize to about a dollar and change per day, not enough for a decent cup of coffee.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Agree. The core question is what she means by “as much luxury as I can get.” Does she mean the physical attributes of quiet ride, features and soft touchpoints where Genesis will probably kick the ES’s butt? Or does she mean the more metaphysical tingle of knowing her bag says Gucci?

      Like you, I’m betting it’s the latter, and that’s where the intangibles of a brand deliver tangible profits to their owners – they allow the owners to charge a higher price and reap a higher margin for the same merchandise.

      I should quickly add this isn’t just a trait of women. How much more will men pay for a vehicle that says “Porsche”?

  • avatar
    Coopdeville

    Having just went through this, but while comparing the ES to the Avalon, but also to an Accord and a Tacoma, because f apples to apples. I can heartily agree that I have no idea whatsoever if the ES is a good value or not.

    All I know is that I was able to pick up an Avalon Ltd of similar year and mileage for $5k less than an ES, so an Avalon it was. I don’t care that I have now single-handedly lowered the average age of ownership by a full 30 years, I’m laughing all the way to my bank in my discount Lexus.

    What’s this Camry you speak of? Never seen one before. And if you try to tell me that my interior space is similar to a “Camry’s” because of some made up quackery like “hard points,” I will fight you.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      Everyone forgets about the Avalon…not sure why.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Because it’s for boring old people and isn’t marketed.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          Avalon: Toyota’s Grand Marquis.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The Avalon, when equipped with PEP 132A competes well with the likes of the Acura Legend, and the Sable Premier! Show the customer the Avalon Advantage.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Guilty as charged.

            I’ll take the Mercury (Toyota) over the Lincoln (Lexus).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You won’t get a good tee time at the golf club with that attitude, Daniel.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            As long as I can get my clubs in the trunk, I’m happy. Can’t wait till my kid is old enough to tag along.

            Country Club? Like my Dad always said: “Don’t forget where you came from, and watch out for fast women.”

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I just always assumed you were quite fancy!

          • 0 avatar
            Coopdeville

            @JimZ: Correct on the Grand Marq, but nobody makes those anymore. Panther love has to go somewhere, and it might as well go to where the reliability and safety is.

        • 0 avatar
          Coopdeville

          “Because it’s for boring old people and isn’t marketed.”

          Can’t confirm, am not old.

          Corey I’ll come pick you up one day and change your mind. ;) You’ll be falling all over yourself to trade in the Cadi.

          Hands down the “best” ride I’ve experienced since my dad’s ’97 air-ride Town Car. Quotes used because I know most folks on this site would consider that type of ride and handling to be a sin, but this car just eats up those highway miles. Bonus: epa rated at 29 hwy, and I just averaged 32 at 80 mph on a 100 mile trip.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Lol, I don’t doubt you on the Avalon’s ride. I know they had that “Cloud Class” advertising a few years ago (which I found both aged and rather chintzy).

            DeVille goes for sale soon anyway!

          • 0 avatar
            Coopdeville

            “Cloud class” Lol. I don’t remember those but that about describes it. Only downside is that the frame is obviously previous gen (’11) and it has about the same stiffness as the old Town Car did too, but I can overlook that for the price range I was shopping in.

            Maybe I should have waited for the DeVille! Those are getting hard to find in non-hooptied out condition, and I looked for a long time. Closest I found was a spotless ’94 Fleetwood for $9k something but it was all white and not ideal as my dd lol.

            What are you replacing with, if anything?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The DeVille is being sold to make room for the Tahoe I got a couple weeks back. It’s part of my larger two-car strategy of one large sedan and one 4×4 vehicle.

            Do you want mine?! ’93, white over tan, 93k miles. Located in Sharonville.

          • 0 avatar
            Coopdeville

            Sounds like a decent plan. I want but sadly this is not the time. All fun funds are spoken for until the house situation is sorted. It wasn’t even the right time for a dd, but that was quickly becoming a need vs want situation.

            Plus I don’t know if I need more than one grandpa car at a time. If I sell the bike it will be replaced with a fun car or small 4×4.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            From my shopping used, the large 4x4s aren’t noticeably more expensive than the small CUV AWD items because the segment is so hot right now.

            It’s REEEdiculous what they’re asking for used SUVs these days.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          The Avalon isn’t for “boring old people”, it’s a boring car for old people. Big difference.

          Old people like simple controls because they can’t see all those buttons and odometers and such, and just want to know how fast under the limit they’re going and how much gas they have (in the tank).

          They don’t care much about the audio because they can’t hear that well after all those Pink Floyd concerts, and they’re not driving far, so they want ease of entry/exit and comfy seats.

          Old people want good visibility so they can see things before they plow into them,, and want to see out the back window using just the rear view mirror, because they can’t twist and turn around like they used to, and want to know what they just backed into.

          GM used to build cars just for them, about 20% of the retail market (I just made that up), but now only Toyota does. And if you think I’m ragging on old people, I ARE one of them!

          In fact, I’m planning on getting an Avalon myself, as soon as my 2005 Buick Lesabre is out of the shop and I can trade it in. I’d have kept my ’95 Altima with only 58K if I hadn’t, er, the F150 hadn’t backed into me. The old guy in the F150 said he never saw me.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “And if you think I’m ragging on old people, I are one of them!”

            Few things have ever been more evident.

          • 0 avatar

            You are talking about 90-100 years old right? Because lot of old people in their 70s in area I live drive sports cars, two seaters and classic cars. And BTW better than so called “young people” who mostly looking at their iPhones. Avalon is not much for old people but for those who do not about cars.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    If you are so disinterested in driving that the ES and Camry are on your list, then wouldn’t you be happier in an RX or RDX?

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    “Drive a LaCrosse, and they’ll ask you if you’re willing to haul some mulch in the trunk before you take it back to Hertz.”

    Thank you. As Buick serves GM’s ambition to gradually replace UAW junk with Chinese junk, I doubt they’ll be able to maintain their status as the assumed prostitutes of the automotive world; but the joke is very funny today.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    What about NVH management? If the Lexus does a lot better with NVH it helps with the perception of quality and can justify the extra money.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My boss drives a newer Camry XLE V6 that I’ve ridden in a few times. It’s nice… but it certainly doesn’t ooze luxury.

    Even my stripped down ’04 BMW 325i that I used to own had more of that intangible “class”. Sure it was only a half-decent sedan with good handling and a fairly spartan interior, but I got a lot more compliments on it than my previous car, a ’01 Honda Accord Coupe.

    And that’s what you’re buying with a Lexus ES350, a nicer badge…. and more of those little touches that you get with a luxury brand.

    Cost effective? Nah, but still a perfectly reasonable purchase.

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    “as long as we’re rollin’ the dice we might as well get a Viper ACR and screech our barbaric yawp down the back straight of Virginia International Raceway the way Harambe would have wanted us to had he not been assassinated by the Illuminati.”

    Harambe might be gone physically, but he’s still with us in spirit. You should still do this in respect for him. Harambe would do the same for you.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’m so tired of hearing about that damn gorilla. It’s all over the internet still.

    • 0 avatar
      IAhawkeye

      lol, it’s funny cause at the time it happened no one said a dang thing about it minus just being mad about a rare gorilla being shot.. but here we are 6 months later and Harambe’s the biggest meme(I guess that’s what you’d call it) around.

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    While I never pay MSRP for a car, I’d gladly consider an ES if I were in the entry-level luxury market. In fact, it would be my first choice. Why?

    First off, I don’t have time to waste with RWD in an entry-level luxury car outside of a unicorn CPO stripper 320i with stick. I think cramped accommodations in exchange for a better experience during 0.5% of the times I intentionally drive enthusiastically is a poor tradeoff.

    I owned a 1993 Camry V6 built in Japan during the bubble-economy era of peak Toyota. There is no Toyota-branded product sold in the United States in 2016, barring the Land Cruiser that even comes close to the solidity, build quality and general thoughtfulness built into that car.

    The good thing is I can still get a newer version of my 1993 Camry in the ES350, replete with foot-mounted parking brake and mirror controls in the same general area.

    While the TLX is a natural competitor to the ES350 and should have the same reliability, the transmission choices leave me out in the cold. I don’t like the fact that the 4-cylinder is the only car in the world using the unproven Honda 8-speed dual clutch transmission (and Honda doesn’t have the best trannys either), and in a half-assed way of differentiating it from the Accord, the V6 comes with the same crap ZF 9HP transmission that my drivers have in their Promaster Cities and always complain about.

    In fact, I would say the TLX is a bigger ripoff than the ES350. With the ES350, you get an authentic Lexus with the quality, serene ride and Lexus ownership experience. Face it, nobody buys these cars for handling or performance anyways, they just want a luxury car with a comfortable ride and in that case, the ES is brilliant. With the TLX, you pay more than the Accord for dodgy transmissions, from one of the only two luxury brands (Lincoln is the other) that manages to have less cachet than its plebeian parent and resale value far below what a Japanese luxury car should have.

    As for the MKZ, Ford’s current philosophy goes against everything I want in a luxury car. In fact, you can say it’s not what a luxury car should be (I’m here all week, try the veal!). While the SYNC niggles, leaking cam cover and broken engine mount on my Focus fixed under warranty have been tolerable for a $15k car due to its character and performance (to be fair it’s never left me stranded), I don’t want that in my luxury car. Not to mention that my experience with the Transits have been breathtakingly horrible and that scares me on the MKZ for the same reason, Ford has dropped a ton of unproven and expensive to fix technology on these cars and I don’t want the headache of dealing with them now or later if I have to pay this much.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      The Lexus doesn’t ride much better than a Camry – in fact, if you put on the base Camry’s 15 inch rims with tall sidewalls, and better tires, you’d have a real cream puff.

      And the Priuses don’t have the 90s Toyota solidity but they’re at least as reliable as the 1992-1996 Camry. The Toyota Prius C might be the most reliable modern Toyota ever and the jury is out on the new TNGA Prius but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that it will be excellent by the second model year. The last car with the 90s Toyota quality is probably the IS300 / LS430 but maybe the SC430 although I doubt it.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      “In fact, I would say the TLX is a bigger ripoff than the ES350. ”

      It’s interesting that you say that, because when the TLX first launched I thought that it was a great looking car. But the more I see it and get to read about it, the more I think that it fails to live up to the TL line that it replaces. I know that Acura, for whatever reason, decided to replace both the TL and TSX with a new model, but the TLX feels more TSX than TL. Perhaps they meant for TL owners to move up to an RLX, despite the price difference?

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      That’s what I keep telling my soon be in laws in their 2001 Avalon and 2010 Corolla. You can’t buy that car again in a Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      So, you don’t like the Lincoln based on your experience with a Ford economy car and a commercially-focused van. Right…

      I see Corollas with broken door handles, so no Lexus LS for me!

      • 0 avatar
        Eyeflyistheeye

        Never mind that I drive a Ford that’s more related to the MKZ than your Clinton-era Taurus and is the mother car to the Lincoln MKC, another C346 vehicle, or manage $750,000 worth of Transits daily, I apologize that my statement made from hands-on observations and supported by statistics offended your Ford fanatic sensibilities, which are rooted in an era when Ford was building downright atrocious vehicles. I still despise the Poling/Nasser-era Ford vehicles, for the simple reason that they were executed by people who clearly didn’t give a flying rats’ ass about making good cars.

        For what it’s worth, I love my Focus enough that when I got my current job, instead of trading it in, I kept it and decided to pay it off quicker. And that’s something I knew I wouldn’t have done had I purchased a contemporary Corolla or Civic. I’d say it’s a better driver’s car than the Mercedes CLA. But, obviously I don’t like the fact that the cam cover was sealed with RTV instead of a gasket, and motor mounts shouldn’t break in two years. The Focus is rated poorly for reliability and Ford should really focus (yes, I know) on improving its quality.

        As for the Transits, I think Ford did a rush job of adapting it to the American market. They’re not durably built, which to be fair, applies to its Eurovan cousins, and the diesel emissions system clog under delivery driving conditions, which the vans are clearly marketed to do. To be fair, they look great, are comfortable to drive and have the soul of Richard Parry-Jones in the suspension. But, we don’t buy these wanting gigantic Audis, we want things that work and are rugged.

        While Mulally was awesome, he brought the same problems to Ford that he did at Boeing, in a quest to leapfrog everyone else, he was a proponent of untested technology which is why the 787 turned out the way it did, and Ford was kinda stuck for a while with PowerShift problems, MyFordTouch, EcoBoost engines that don’t deliver what they promise and they still haven’t gotten all the way there in quality. I’d definitely consider another Ford in the future, but every car company has a market where they’re not the best at. I’d certainly never buy a Tundra over an F-150, but for resale value, reliability and proven mechanicals, I’d take an ES over a MKZ.

        But Corollas with broken door handles nyuk nyuk nyuk!

        • 0 avatar
          DirtRoads

          So wait a minute, what’s wrong with the 787? You build a ground-breaking, new technology flying bus and expect it to be all perfect out of the box? They are pretty damned good airplanes. I have a little personal knowledge of them, which is why I ask your opinion. You seem to know something about Boeing airplanes.

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            The 787’s development was a disaster and its intro into service wasn’t the best, but it’s not a flawed design. While its long term benefit to Boeing’s bottom line is questionable (they’re only just barely starting to make $ on the frames they deliver, never mind pay back the costs involved in the program), the plane itself appear to be a success. The airlines that have them are happy, orders continue to come in, the -9 has been on spec, the -10 is on schedule.

            Even the unloved -8 will still be a relative sales success, as it’s currently outsold the 767-200+400, the 747-100, the 747-200+300, A340, A330 NEO, A380, the stillborn A350-800, and nearly equaled the sales of the best selling pax version of the 767, the -300ER, and the 747, the -400.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    Price a Lexus ES w/a panoramic sunroof and the MSRP jumps to $48,000 due to the mandatory purchase of other packages. Yikes.

    Price a Hyundai Genesis w/a panoramic sunroof and the MSRP = $43,000.

    But as OP already has a Sonata, not going to pound the table for the Genesis.

  • avatar
    yamahog

    I think the RX is a bigger cash grab than the ES but that’s like saying a mugging with an implied gun is qualitatively different from a mugging with an implied knife – there’s a difference but it’s all in your head.

    I like the ES over the Avalon/Camry for one reason –

    The ES is (check the VIN kiddos because Lexus recently moved some final assembly) built in Japan and the Avalon / Camry are built in America. The American built cars seem to have lower quality and according to Consumer Reports, the MY2013 Avalon has about 10% more issues than the ES. The hybrid ES300h is incredibly reliable. That said, if you want the highest quality car you can get, get a Toyota Prius C.

    • 0 avatar
      Eyeflyistheeye

      If I were to buy an ES or RX, I’d specify a J-VIN. My friend has a CPO RX made in Cambridge, Ontario, while the car is perfectly fine, I’ll get what I want when I pay that much for a car. Hell, when I was considering a Corolla back in 2004, I was still going to specify a J-VIN since they were out there at the time.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Well, with Lexus, the models I like happen to be only made in Japan (like the GS), so it’s a moot point anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          a car’s reliability/durability are all about the design and not the assembly point. The whole nattering about where it was built was popularized by VW fans trying to make excuses for their unreliable cars. “Oh, that one must have been made in Mexico.” Sorry, VW’s problems have been design flaws and parts quality. failing ignition coils and HPFPs aren’t the fault of the assembly plant.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @JimZ, ding ding.

            A pile of $hit components, expertly assembled, is still a pile of $hit.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I absolutely agree, having had three Mexican-built Volkswagens.

            And if a company can’t maintain a quality of assembly across the globe, you should blame the manufacturer…not the country of assembly.

          • 0 avatar
            yamahog

            And yet Ford Tauruses in the 80s with Mazda/Japanese built transmissions fared better than American built transmissions.

            And yet, consumer reports says Japanese made Fits fare better than Mexican made Fits.

            And yet, the ES350 has better long term durability than Avalon.

            I think the American built components meet the spec and Japanese component plants have better tolerances. It’s not fundamentally that the MFG can’t enforce quality standards, just that it’s easier to get components that exceed the standards in Japan factories.

            And it’s not uncommon for some Lexus models to have different part numbers than their Toyota platform-mates for the same type of part. Most Toyota technicians I talk to believe the Japanese made parts / cars hold together better. And that’s been my experience as well.

            But Jim, your bread is buttered by American manufacturing, right? How objective are you?

          • 0 avatar
            spookiness

            This a thousand times.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “And yet Ford Tauruses in the 80s with Mazda/Japanese built transmissions fared better than American built transmissions.”

            different designs, so it’s safe to assume the Ford transmissions had design flaws.

            “And yet, consumer reports says Japanese made Fits fare better than Mexican made Fits.”

            They only started building them in Mexico after a re-design. can’t compare different cars. Besides, Consumer Reports (I’m a subscriber, so I can read what they say) marks it down for things like worse ride, NVH, and a poor UI for the infotainment. None of that is due to where they assemble the thing, it’s all design.

            “And yet, the ES350 has better long term durability than Avalon.”

            You can’t compare a Lexus to a Toyota. The stuff which appears to be troublesome on older Avalons are electrical/electronics. All that says to me is that Toyota spent more on developing the ES. So what does any of that have to do with where it’s built?

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        My Forester (one of the few J-VIN ones) should have dispelled any notions that Japanese assembly is a magic bullet. It rattled just like any other Subie.

    • 0 avatar
      SpinnyD

      Es is now built in Georgetown In a new building next to plant 2 Camry/ Venza line.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    If I want it to be a big Toyota Sedan, I’m buying an Avalon. You’ll never convince me that the Lexus is somehow better assembled than the Toyota, or built of higher quality components, when they are all being spit out by the same Georgetown, KY factory.

    And to piggyback on Bark’s column today. If I’m buying CPO the Avalon is much better value.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      For $41K or so, I’d get a fully-loaded Avalon; it would cost me another $10K or so to get a Lexus so equipped, and not because of anything I care about. Beside that, I actually think the Avalon has a better design than the ES.

      Literally, the only thing I’d miss from the ES on an Avalon is a power tilt-telescoping steering column, which isn’t available on the Avalon (though it is available on competitors like the Taurus, Impala, Azera, Maxima, Charger and 300).

      • 0 avatar
        notwhoithink

        “For $41K or so, I’d get a fully-loaded Avalon;”

        Pfft. For $41k or so I’d go with the Genesis G80.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          $41K is now the base price for the Genesis G80, which is a notable increase over what it cost when it was a Hyundai. But I think more features are standard.

          I don’t do base-model cars. But for the $48K price of the Lexus, I could have a G80 equipped like I want, and I’d get that instead, if I were going to keep it indefinitely.

    • 0 avatar
      2drsedanman

      That’s certainly the reason I bought a 2015 Avalon XLE new. There’s not that much price delta between a base Avalon and a Camry XLE, but there is a huge difference in how they seem to be put together (dash, seats, door solidity, etc).

      Also, the volume knob on my Avalon should be the industry standard. It reminds me of the old Kenwood home stereo systems from the 80’s. Of all the superfluous sh!t that could be left off of a car, why take the volume knob?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “As much luxury as I can get”

    This statement telegraphs that she is more interested in appearances than value, and therefore should buy the Lexus.

    The Camry and Lexus are cleverly designed to part ways on the *perception* of luxury, but not necessarily value. No impartial driver will claim the Camry is more luxurious, but they might claim it is a better value. Since she is not looking for value, the Lexus is the right choice.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The Camry was refreshed for 2015.5 and the ES for 2016. You’ve got the 2012-2015 interior here on the Camry, though. For the 2015.5-present version of the Camry, the gap is even smaller, because the Camry got quite a bit of an upgrade at that time.

    For me, the biggest argument against the ES is the Genesis G80 that I could get for the same money. Never mind being RWD, it just feels like a more substantial car. It’s probably going to last about as long, and if you’re keeping it until it’s fully depreciated, resale value is a smaller factor.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That G80 looks like more money than it is, seriously. And I’m not pro-Hyundai in the slightest.

      However:

      I wish they’d display it in darker colors more often, as it definitely doesn’t look as premium in silver/grey.

      The winged badges are gauche, and need to be removed/remodeled or something.

      (The G90 has nice lines too, and no DLO fail – though the price might be overreaching the badge still like the Equus?)

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Yup. This photo is a better comparison to that spiffy ES shot:

      http://www.caranddriver.com/photo-gallery/2015-toyota-camry-xle-test-review#19

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      Has Hyundai solved the ride issues and general quirkiness of the previous generation? A lot of people here seem to test drive spec sheets more than actual cars.

  • avatar
    Chiburb

    The correct answer is to return to the Hyundai dealer for a new Azera or Genesis G80. Loyalty cash back, at most invoice pricing, and if the G80 she’ll never have to go to the dealership again: valet service is included (with loaner drop off).

  • avatar
    gmcd

    Can’t comment on the new model but have an old 1998 ES that is still going strong. Built like a tank and being Camry based cheap to fix. still glides fairly serenely albeit with a few squeaks and groans. When it was passed down to my son I bought another Lexus. Call it brand loyalty or lack of imagination if you like but it does what its supposed to do – ease my commute, brilliantly.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      I had a 99 ES300, and agree it was a great car. Just a nice, peaceful ride. A bit boring, but I liked it for long commutes. Also, the AC on that car was insane, you can run a meat locker out of it.

      I sold it with around 150k miles on it, about the only real repair in the cars history was an alternator (twice as the previous owner used a cheap one). In hindsight, I probably should have held on to it as a 3rd car. It was just getting a bit long in the tooth and I was tired of it.

      I had a friend with the identical year Camry, and even though I could see some platform sharing, it was a substantial upgrade in every measurable way.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I haven’t driven recent examples of the two, but I can formulate some questions that may help in the choice:
    1. Compare the leather in the Lexus with that in the Toyota. Is there a difference in feel, thickness?
    2. Compare the carpets in the two cars. Same question.
    3. Drive the two cars back to back (to the extent possible). A luxury car (not a “sport sedan”) should isolate the driver from what’s going on outside: ambient noise, engine noise, road noise, bumps. Does the Toyota do that as well as the Lexus? Toyota understood that from the get-go: “luxury” means an isolated cocoon. That’s what made the LS-400 so wonderful.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      1) Yes. Even the standard Lexus leather is considerably softer than what Toyota is using. And the ES has a (rare, but out there if you look hard enough) semi-aniline upgrade available.

      2) Not a big difference

      3) The NVH difference between the ES and Camry is major and immediately noticeable. The Avalon splits the difference but is much closer to the ES. But few ES customers are interested in having a Toyota badge.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I’d cover my bases by recommending a test drive of all three. Explain how similar the Camry, Avalon, and ES are, explain that seat comfort, interior appointments, pricing, and dealership experience will vary between them, and set her loose to test drive all three. She knows what her definition of luxury is and can pick which one fits it.

    Throw in the Accord Touring V6 sedan while you’re at it. It may as well be a Camry XLE.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    agreeing w/the general mood of the comments….

    find a way to get the OP into a Q3/Q5/GLC/X3.

    OP deserves it….underconsuming via a Sonata deserves some cliche, trite German splurging.

    Or if OP genuinely is a practical type of person, buy a 2016 Genesis and plow the savings into some Hermes leather.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I am cognizant of Lexus’ value and quality, but simply can’t get over that vajayjay spread by a speculum grille they sport nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Harsh but true. So does this mean the Subaru B9 Tribeca has been dethroned?

      My wife wants a Lexus… I find them ugly and bloated, plus its basically a Camry with a different badge. Even my wife admits that buying such a vehicle is “giving up”. I knew someone with Avalon, Japanese Buick is the perfect description. It was about the most boring car I have ever been in. It didn’t feel special or luxurious at all. I’d rather have a Hyundai.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    WHAT! She doesn’t want a crossover?
    If true I would have to say ES. ES is to near luxury class what S-Class is to the full size luxury class; competitors could be better in one or two ways but it remains the overall winner.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    What about a finely aged CPO Lexus LS?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I bet she’s leasing. Lexus CPO lease terms are not fun.

      If she’s buying, and is willing to put up with the size, a 2013ish CPO LS SWB is a nice recommendation.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    My fiance’s father is the perfect subject for this discussion. I’ll go in reverse and state up front that he ended up buying a used ’13 ES300h with 30k miles for about $30k. GM-turned Toyota family since the mid 00s, they had already had an ’05 Highlander that ran until 170k with minimal fuss, an ’09 Prius that racked up 90k with a solid 35 minute each way highway commute likewise with no issues and decent lifetime MPG. Next they bought my fiance her ’12 Camry SE when she started medical school. Next was a used ’13 Camry XLE hybrid bought nominally for himself but quickly transferred to his younger daughter who’s finishing her undergraduate degree. He was looking to reward himself with a luxury car, but he is also a very frugal and pragmatic person who loved his Toyotas, and was absolutely jazzed about the Hybrid system in his Prius (he’s an electrical engineer turned upper management guy).

    This basically shoehorned him into either an Avalon hybrid or ES300h. Accord Hybrids are thin on the ground and he wanted something ‘nicer.’ Non hybrid stuff in this segment got sub-30mpg highway ratings for the most part which was a mental barrier for him I think. German stuff was either too expensive new, not efficient enough, or had the potential for high running costs out of warranty.

    I went on some test drives with him, both the Avalon and ES300h were contenders, the Lexus having the nicer interior, the Avalon being available new for close to what he was looking to spend on a certified/used ES.

    They’ve been very happy with it I think. I personally find the ICE joystick abhorrent to use, and the plastics on the lower part of the door cards are subpar to what you’d find in a 1992 Camry DX. A seemingly stupid nitpick, but the overall impression of the interior is the cheapness is just thinly veiled/hidden. The ride is taut compared to previous ES cars, overall I think of this as a mistake. Avalon is about the same actually. AS refined as Toyota’s HSD might be, I still find that the 4cyl motor kicking and making excessive noise to speed up when pushed is unbecoming of the ES nameplate. Gotta get that creamy smooth V6! Overall a good buy and I think it will give reliable service with low servicing cost and low depreciation. But it doesn’t feel “special” to sit in or drive.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The M35h didn’t even get consideration?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I guess not. I had shown him a wide variety of stuff including a new 4cyl TSX or even a heavily depreciated un-loved RLX, Lexus GS, Hyundai Genesis, etc, etc.

        For him, the Toyota track record and his positive experience with the HSD in his Prius had basically made up his mind before we even went test driving so it very quickly boiled down to new Avalon Hybrid vs lightly used ES300h. So much for my spreadsheet that I geeked out over writing up!

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      The way you speak of your fiance’s father I am sure he is a typical millionaire next door. Am I right?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I’m not one to pry into peoples’ financial standings too much and nor do I want to broadcast someone’s wealth to the wide world of the internet, but suffice to say that yes he’s got it going on. I do my best to emulate his best practices and habits, and hope to some day be in a similar situation.

        I think that the current ES is basically the modern day Buick. For folks that want to reward themselves and experience the pride of ownership of something that shows that they’ve arrived, but not overly so and with a sort of Midwestern modesty built in, all at a palatable cost and good quality.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I got a chance to put some miles on a 2015 ES recently and it left me decidedly unimpressed. This really is the most un-Lexus Lexus you can buy.

    The interior upgrades are a very thin disguise over the standard Avalon interior and hard plastics can bee seen everywhere. But the worst aspect is the ride quality which manages to feel floaty and vague and yet seems harsh over expansion joints.

    My advice would be to get a real Lexus and look for a used LS or GS. If that is not an option then a number of other brands will provide better value at this price point.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      The large rims are an issue, I spent some time between a new Camry and ES, and the smaller rims make a world of difference in ride quality.

      The ES had big rims and rode incredibly harsh and noisy whereas the Camry had a quiet, composed ride.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The best answer here is to buy the 3 year old LaCrosse with 16,000 miles that Grandma’s adult children are hot to dispose of on Craigslist. Let Buick’s lousy resale value work in your favor. #1 or 2 in three year JDP dependability study depending on the model year.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      This is my strategy in a couple years. Let the baby boomer death surge commence.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The Buick resale is based on ATP and not msrp, then the 5 year comparison with the ES has them at the same price. You could even go less expensive 2.4l LaCrosse that my Mom picked and see 24-26 mpg with no highway, city only.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Norm,
        You don’t get to invent a new metric to try to show Buick in a positive light. Resale value is calculated off of MSRP. Industry standard.

        What you are really saying is that Buick average transaction price is really low because Buick dealers have to put so much money on the hood to entice people to buy them.

    • 0 avatar
      TomHend

      This is my thinking too, I can’t fit in an ES.

      However Steve Lang (ex TTAC) has a reliability index that brings the Lacrosse in at average and the MKS at above average (Taurus below average)

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    If she doesn’t live in snow country and so doesn’t need FWD, then the answer is a CPO GS350, or take a slightly bigger risk and get a 10-year-old cream puff LS. Both cars will be reliable and offer more luxury than the ES.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The Lexus GS sinks like a rock in value during Edmund’s longterm review. Even Carfax would give them what they want.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Norm, you repeat this a lot but only provide the half that fits your biases. Edmunds had a fully loaded GS. Fully loaded examples of a car generally depreciate faster than more modestly equipped ones. The car was new enough that it may have been undervalued by the software that didn’t recognize the F Sport trim level as well. These two points are discussed in the article you are citing.

        And you’re working with one data point. From 3 years ago. You might get away with this on a MT forum, but most of the folks here see through this.

  • avatar
    rjg

    I think this article and comments nicely illustrate how, when we disapprove of someone’s car choice, we point out the lack of value by focusing on specs and price. But when it’s a car we love, the price is justified cause YOLO, “it has soul” and is the only way I could get x,y and z features that I MUST have.

    • 0 avatar

      The bigger takeaway in this article and its comments is that too many people let the opinions of their family, friends and neighbors drive their purchasing decisions–including car nuts. And I don’t get that.

      I mean, maybe this an open question. People that will sling a car around a track at high speeds nonetheless shirk at what “they might think”. I don’t mean any disrespect or insult, but I just don’t get it. If you see yourself as some kind of bohemian or rebel, how could you invest so much in other people’s perceptions? Wouldn’t the correct response be to thumb your nose at what “they” think?

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        If you use your car to get to work and have a boss, it does matter what that person thinks, as they have a lot of say in pay increases.

        If you’re self employed, what will your clients think if you show up in a new Lexus vs 3 year old Mercedes vs 9 year old BMW?

        I agree with you in the broad sense that other people’s opinions of what we all drive really shouldn’t matter, but practically speaking it’s hard to ignore what other ‘specific’ people think.

        • 0 avatar
          baconator

          Yeah, this. And frankly if you’ve got the kind of career where you’re making luxury-car money, social signalling really impacts your personal pay.

          Even Warren Buffet drives a 10 year old *Cadillac*, not a 10-year-old Neon SRT with a fart-can exhaust.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            He sold that DTS already.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            Honestly, if you love cars but accept this as a rule, your job sucks, no matter how much you make.

            I work in a building filled with people who make lots and lots of money, and the parking lot is plenty of fun so it can’t be universally true.

          • 0 avatar

            “If you use your car to get to work and have a boss, it does matter what that person thinks, as they have a lot of say in pay increases.”

            “And frankly if you’ve got the kind of career where you’re making luxury-car money, social signalling really impacts your personal pay.”

            I believe both of you, but I just can’t wrap my head around it. Why would what I’m driving to work have any relevance if I’m bringing in the bacon for, say, an investment house? Is the idea that if I “signal” I’m not a big dog and expect to be pampered as such, that I’m saying I’m happy with my lot in life?

            Just trying to understand it.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          @jkoss22

          95% of the populace won’t know the difference nor will they care assuming the vehicles are properly cared for and clean. They are all “nice cars”.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          I think the people whose car has an effect on their careers are few and far between.

          My brother was working contracts in IT in an image-obsessed city – Toronto – and went for years without owning a car at all. He was in the $200k income bracket. My father was a manager and even at one point an owner of machine shops, making in the low six figures. He drove rusty Oldsmobiles. I do see colleagues making $50k driving new Audis and Mercedes. It doesn’t seem to be helping their careers any. At the same time, my work car’s market value – now that I’m no longer taking the bus – is well under $2,000. No one seems to notice or care.

          For the most part, coworkers won’t even see what you’re driving, even if they care about it. Maybe if you’re a salesman, realtor, or something like that, it might matter, but otherwise, just do your damn job well and drive what makes sense to you.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    LS LS LS LS LS

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Coming from a family that cross shopped a 2013 MkZ with a 2013 ES: Due to launch troubles in Hermosillo, the ES had far superior fit and finish.

    Currently: The MkZ has more substantial luxury features (gimmicks) through flare. No visible roof ditch, inset lights in the head liner, a superior ‘premium’ leather, and lastly – it’s cheaper. The hybrid Lincoln is 5k cheaper.

    I think the Lincoln pays attention to detail through design and marketing features. Black Label editions won’t be found in a Lexus dealership. Dealership experiences will be the same.

    My mom owns an ES. Probably because of peer pressure and status. I find the car offensive in it’s lack of styling, but I like it’s assembly quality. I think the MkZ has caught up in that regard, however. Even the slightest hiccup at a launch will cost you dearly.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’d like to see the current ES and MKZ contrasted side by side.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        I always told if Derek got me really drunk the night before, he could get me to do a simulated quality corporate audit on a press vehicle. Doing one on a MkZ vs a ES would be a riot. The Lincoln dealership asked me to leave when she went in to buy their first MkZ on the showroom. I had a melt down on supplier quality issues in actual public.

        If I got drunk during the audit, it would be even more entertaining.

        I would have to black out to not see stamping mars, evidence of ecoat boil out, reflective lens mars, uneven body fits, wrinkles in leather seats, uneven window blackout, weather strip and flock run symmetry issues, and supplier paint mis-match in peel and color hue. I’d probably write a page of obscenities about an open body hem for f*cks sake.

        The front fascia of the MkZ my mom wanted to buy was the biggest piece of sh1t that I ever saw. I could have probably masked molded in color black features away from their garbage time air dry better during a drive by shooting and shat out a turd with less sink marks and flashing than that aborted piece of plastic. I always wondered if Magna Decoplas were the sh1tlords involved with that monstrosity. The surface finish probably had a rougher texture than the folliculitis on my d1ck.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “You’ve no doubt read that the ES350 is on the ‘Avalon platform’ instead of the ‘Camry platform.’ ”

    That can be explained by the fact that it’s true.

    The Avalon and ES 350 share a platform and the same wheelbase. The Camry, Highlander and others also use a version of the same platform, but with a slightly shorter wheelbase.

    Not sure when the truth became “sycophantic”, but it is accurate.

  • avatar
    Paragon

    Let me just point out that an all-black interior, even in a luxury car, appears as low-rent to me. Would never even consider any new vehicle with an all-black interior. It’s like reverting back to a B&W TV after having already experienced a color TV. I demand color, as in attractive, contrasting hues. Thus in your Camry or Lexus ES, I’d be most likely to get or suggest the Camry. Plus, that would be the cheaper car, and I tend to avoid wasting money. Or, not spending money when I don’t have to. You know, the whole “a penny saved is a penny earned” thing.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    If you put every option on a Camry to match a base ES, it’s awfully close in price to a Lexus ES, so I don’t think the “premium” in price is much to get upset over.

    And the fit and finish are MUCH better on the ES. Paint quality, panel match and gaps, interior finish, quality of plastics, quality of leather, extra sound insulation, extra features not available on the Camry etc. Plus you get an additional year of warranty. All that for like $5,000 more is not highway robbery.

    I never really got all that upset with “this car has a cheaper car’s chassis underneath, therefore it sucks!”
    My wife has a Lexus GX that basically has the same suspension as a 4Runner, it’s not even close to being the same vehicle and we’ve owned both.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “My wife has a Lexus GX that basically has the same suspension as a 4Runner, it’s not even close to being the same vehicle and we’ve owned both.”

      Ehhhh. I’ll defer to Gtems for data points and Excel confirmation on that one, but I don’t think that’s correct. The GX has air suspension.

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        It’s a mix and match from a lot of sources, but I’ve rebuilt the front end, the parts are the exact same with the 4 Runner.

        I will concede GX does have rear air bags instead of coils (unfortunately), but the shocks are the same dimensions as I used OEM 4Runner shocks for the rear. Many people swap the rear air bags with 4 runner coils when they need replacement. The front has conventional steel coils that are the same from a 4Runner.

        My point is, there’s a lot derived from a cheaper car platform but still represents a substantial difference with the finished product.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I see!

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Having driven some of everything in terms of Toyota SUVs, I will corroborate jacob’s points, particularly is speaking of the 03-09 GX vs the 03-09 4Runner. The seating position and roof height alone make them feel distinctly different behind the wheel. 4th gen 4Runner is still legs out car-style seating with a low roof, the GX is more classical SUV. Add in a crap ton of insulation and a marshmallow air suspension, and the GX definitely feels a cut above in terms of luxury and ‘wafting’ sensation as I like to refer to it. 5Th gen 4Runner finally switches to the more chair like seating position with a higher roof and it drives in a very refined way, but still lacks the ability to set an adjustable air suspension to ‘comfort’ and basically drive along with a morphine drip hooked up. Haven’t driven a 10+ GX460 so no impressions there. my 3rd gen 4Runner with KYB struts up front (stiffer than stock) rides like a freaking oxcart compared to all the others.

  • avatar
    baconator

    So true! I rode in the back seat of a brand-new ES350 last night, and the interior design and quality were really a cut above what the Germans offer at this price point. It’s the only car you can buy for under $40k that I’ve gotten in and thought, “wow, this is really nice.” Doesn’t hurt that the whole dashboard might have been designed by Nakamichi.

    And yes, it’s non-trivially nicer than an Avalon or XLE Camry: The leather has a more softer and less grainy texture, the dash materials are less reflective, there’s real wood and more of it, the carpet is thicker, it’s considerably quieter, and the LED interior lighting creates a very warm feel. Is all that “worth” another $100-150/month on a lease payment? I wouldn’t make fun of anyone who voted yes.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Life is too short to base things on resale value.

    For full-size, entry-level sedans would pick the new LaCrosse (with the upmarket suspension) or the new Cadenza over the ES.

    The LaCrosse with the upgraded suspension is a more fun drive and the Cadenza looks better/more premium than the ES.

    Plus a good chunk of the deficiency in resale value is made up by getting the savings up front in a deeper discount from MSRP (which impacts resale value).

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      True, but life is also too short to drive a Kia and interact with their dealership network for service visits. Not that I disagree with your resale value argument, but right there next to it on my “life is too short to” list is $35-40K Kias, followed closely by buying a FWD LaCrosse when driving fun is part of my decision matrix.

  • avatar
    BoogerROTN

    Observation #1: That interior photo from a 2016 ES350 appears to show power mirror controls very similar to my 2005 Pontiac Vibe. Are they really still using that same switch gear? I know it was pretty standard across Toyota models for like a dozen years, but come on.

    Observation #2: Just buy a CPO Avalon for $23K and call it good. You local Carmax always has one ultra-low mileage XLE in stock at around that price (Ambien included).

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    I purchased my first Lexus (1993 LS400) as a used car from the Lexus dealership in about 2000. When I made my first service visit with appointment, the write up was standing in the lot, had me park next to my loaner and helped me transfer my crap into said loaner. Yes, the $75 oil change was a little steep ( in addition to a couple minor issues to be addressed)-but they not only washed and vacuumed the car but when I arrived the next day they had the buffing wheel out and were giving it the once over. Total wasted time spent waiting around maybe 2 minutes. This was on a {then) $11K car.

    I have owned 2 since and they are not cheap but the service “experience” alone is worth the difference. We now have two Toyotas and I will not set foot in a Toyota dealership if I can avoid it. Great cars-crappy dealerships. YMMV.

  • avatar
    MWolf

    The Toyota. I can’t justify buying the Lexus in my own mind if it has the same features (minus some fluff) as the Toyota. There’s still plenty of luxury to be had with more value. You just don’t get a Lexus badge and wood and a giant sunroof.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I get the feeling that this woman would pay extra just for the badge. An unscrupulous dealer could probably glue Lexus badges on a Camry LE and shed go for it, wheel covers and all.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    It is entirely possible to get a 2016 MKZ with the 3.7L V-6. You don’t get the new Continental-look front end, but if you’re scared of the EcoBoost and don’t want the Hybrid, its a great choice.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      As a further plus it’s a badge that no one would pay extra for, so even if an unscrupulous dealer glued it on a Fusion 2.5S with steelies and plastic, he wouldn’t get this woman to bite. Amiright?

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I can’t stand the current interiors in Lexus (circa 2016). The cursed analog clock proliferated into IS even. A number of necessary controls are located so I have to contort like a mime just to reach something. My 2009 was excellent, and I’d love to stay, but Lexus interior makes it impossible. I tried RX, too. Despite the overall size of the car, it’s just as terrible as the rest of them.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “A number of necessary controls are located so I have to contort like a mime just to reach something.”

      I feel you might not be a normal shaped human being if this is the case.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    On paper, the Camry is clearly the smarter choice. It’s objectively the equal of the Lexus for less $. However, the Lexus’s advantages are intangible and hard to quantify. Interior design and quality is clearly one of those. But it goes beyond that. Some of the amenities are dealership specific, but Lexus generally provides the sort of high end ownership experience its buyers are likely used to encountering elsewhere in their lives. If she is tech challenged, Lexus dealerships provide tech consults to help explain the operation of the cars systems to the buyers on delivery. Lexus Enform can help keep track of your vehicles maintenance and let you know when its due as well as schedule it for you.

    Dealer service facilities will be far nicer. The Lexus dealer here has massage chairs, starbucks, and free food. Some offer pick up and drop off valet services for the car. You can get a loaner if they have the car more than a couple hours. The local one here offers a shuttle within 10 miles. They also offer a neat and thoughtful perk – airport parking and service. You can schedule your service appointment during an out of town trip. Lexus has reps at the MCO Hyatt you leave your car with and then proceed to your flight. While you’re gone, they’ll take the car to the dealer for the service, and when it’s done, drop it back off at the airport hotel so you can pick it up when you get back in town. All of these things and other niceties are the sort that its impossible to put a price tag on, but if you can afford it, are really nice to have.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Wow, it is ugly even on the inside!

  • avatar
    maderadura

    Yeah, but isn’t this ES 350 an Avalon underneath and not a Camry? It grew up.

    http://www.autotrader.com/car-reviews/2014-toyota-avalon-vs-2014-lexus-es-whats-the-difference-229780

  • avatar
    pb35

    The last time I recommended a car to anyone was when I recommended a Neon to my mother in-law in 1995. Nuff said! I retired from my position as automotive consultant after that debacle.

    As for Lexus, I know several people that have and enjoy them but just not for me. I’d rather pay 48k for a Chevy (SS).

  • avatar

    I choose vehicle on the basis of style and driving dynamics. I aam not a sheepish American and do not give a sh**t what other think about my purchases. I had Toyota in the past and it was enough – I always was looking with envy on Honda Accord drivers.

    So if it was up to me I would choose Fusion Titanium. It looks better, it drives better and it is the same 6 grands less than the worst ES. Well, I already did few years ago and I am happy with my purchase and Ford’s I owned proved to be pretty reliable too. If I liked MKZ I would buy MKZ – I ready to pay for better style and interior. I test drove MKZ and liked Fusion better, even stylewise.

  • avatar
    Jeff Snavely

    My parents just bought their 3rd new ES350 after owning the 2 previous generations.

    Having driven all three and helping him explore other options here are my thoughts:

    They tried a few small CUV’s (MB GLA, Lexus NX, BMW X1, Acura RDX) and found the controls/infotainment in BMW & Acura to be way too confusing. They didn’t like the turbo engine in the NX but my mom did like the GLA (which I think is a terrible vehicle).

    They drove the new C-class at my suggestion and liked it but questions of much higher price for similar features, reliability, ownership cost and depreciation didn’t offset the nice interior.

    Pricing out the Lacrosse as you did shows a shockingly high price and of course massive depreciation.

    In the end the ES350 was by far the best combination of luxury, space, comfort and value. Compared to a C-class or 5-series there is just no contest – now that the 5 drives more like a Lexus what’s the point of spending $20k more on it for less luxury?

    A few years ago I drove the loaded Camry V6 with them and the step up to the Lexus is absolutely worth it for the cabin and exterior alone. The Camry always feels like a tarted up cheaper car but the ES feels authentic.

    This time around I was amazed at the value – for around $45k they got nav, the new Lexus safety suite of driving aids (unfortunately the active cruise isn’t all-speed for stop & go like the MB), and most importantly – COOLED SEATS.

    For anyone who hasn’t tried them, this is the one luxury feature that towers above them all, especially if you live in a hot climate. Surprisingly few cars offer them and when offered, surprisingly few have the option (I’m looking at you new C-class!).

    Having driven the new ES350, it really does drive great – such nice smooth instant power compared to the turbo 4’s in all the competition. Such a smooth quiet ride, such a beautiful interior.

    Also, it finally feels decent when turning — the previous generations always felt to me like they didn’t want to be turning at any speed but this one feels good.

    This 2016 ES will be an amazing used car buy at around $25k in 3-4 years.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    I guess I will just never understand why non-spec sheet features are treated as ephemeral. The improved NVH has been measured and reported on in the media, whether it’s the result of better suspension isolation or simply more insulation it is real. Cooled seats and seat memory that includes steering wheel and side mirror adjustments are my most valued “luxury” features. Not a side show; the main reason to spend more. The interior, all of it, is different. Better leather, door inserts, dash design that is apealing… It may or may not be worth the extra coin to a given buyer, but dismissing thier choice as badge whoring is simple minded, pretending platform sharing is badge engineering is disingenuous, and the real answer is test drive both (not spreadsheet both, DRIVE THEM, new and used if available), and let an informed driver/buyer make thier own choice.

    • 0 avatar
      rjg

      +1

      Although I find this site quite entertaining, there seens to be a tendency to dismiss anything with a luxury badge as pure fluff. Personally, I don’t really understand why some folks here don’t find interior design and quality important in their purchasing decisions. That’s the one aspect of the car you’ll have to deal with and enjoy 100% of the time.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Things immediately dismissed on TTAC as pure fluff:

        1) Items with AWD rather than 4×4.
        2) CUV items which are not real SUV trucks.
        3) FWD vehicles as enjoyable to drive.
        4) New cars.
        5) Luxury cars, unless they’re a bespoke-type Rolls Phantom or Bentley*.

        *Those are too expensive, and are for ostentatious trash who should’ve bought an American car like the Continental**.

        **Oops that’s FWD based and sucks.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    Put it this way: were I going back in time to show 1950s GM one vehicle as the standard-bearer for the future, it would probably be an ES350. It’s the definition of a competent, reliable, comfortable, general-purpose people transport. There’s nothing wrong with it. There are no caveats, no worries, and no thought required to buy one.

    This article might be a better argument that the Camry is value-priced.


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