By on October 26, 2016

2017 Lexus ES350

This will not be my most popular Ace of Base. Why? Well, the general consensus of most gearheads is Lexus sedans are awash with gravitas, exhibiting all the excitement of a sleepy sloth and the soul of plain oatmeal.

That’s you and me, though. The harsh light of reality reveals a legion of people in our nation with their Diamond Anniversary in the rearview mirror and a regular booth at the Golden Corral. Their backs ache and their feet hurt. Truth be told, they’d probably rather not be driving at all, preferring to stay home and watch NCIS reruns.

As we know through their unending, plodding, and infuriating inhabitation of the left lane, the default choice for many of these silver-haired retirees is the Toyota Camry, generally in beige — sorry, Predawn Gray Mica. Buyers of this ilk are not ones to go without their creature comforts; witness the existence of Snuggies and the E-Z Lift Chair. A respectable percentage of all Camrys sold are the high-zoot XLE model with a V6 mill under the hood. It stickers at $35,260.

This brings us neatly to the base, $38,900 Lexus ES 350. The current ES and Camry share platform bits, but the ES is also heavily related to the Toyota Avalon, sharing its 111-inch wheelbase. Forgoing all the option packages does mean drivers will have to suffer the indignity of not having a sunroof or the Mark Stevenson Levinson sound system, but the ES demographic shouldn’t spend too much time in the sun, anyway. And SiriusXM’s “’50s on 5” will sound just fine through the standard stereo.

That $3,640 gulf between the Camry XLE and a base $38,900 ES 350 becomes all the more reasonable after exiting yet another appointment with that insufferable eye doctor and shuffling behind the wheel. Depending on one’s exterior colour choice, buyers can select from no fewer than four different interior colour combinations on the base model, from stoic blacks and greys to a peanut-buttery flaxen hue. Lexus hides the platform sharing well, with nary a major switch or dashboard display shared with the Toyota commoners.

The center display, it must be said, is mounted far-and-away up on the dash, peppered with icons and colors which simply look like out-of-focus hieroglyphics to the Ben-Gay set. The rest of the interior errs on the conservative side of handsome. An analog clock sits between the two centre vents, just like certain Infinitis and the timer on the wall at bingo.

Stand-out $0 Matador Red and Nightfall Mica are the anti-beige choices here, although the embodiment of Bert from Sesame Street is available as Satin Cashmere. The name Autumn Shimmer sounds like a stage performer strutting her stuff during amateur hour but is actually a striking shade of bronze.

Start checking off the superfluous option boxes and the price quickly creeps uncomfortably close to fifty large. At that price, excellent alternatives exist just a pencil’s width away. However, for those looking to grab a bit of attention in the 55+ park, the chrome Lexus spindle grille on a base ES 350 may do nicely. Your shuffleboard teammates will simply think you spent the grandkid’s inheritance on new wheels.

Reliability, comfort, and a luxury badge on the nose of a (kinda) cheap set of wheels? Sounds like a good Ace of Base candidate to me.

Not every vehicle at the lower end of its price spectrum has aced it. The ones which have? They help make our automotive landscape a lot better. Naturally, feel free to roast our selection and let us know if there are other models you’d like included in this series.

The model above is shown with American options and is priced in Freedom Dollars. Dealers may sell for less. Don’t forget, NCIS is on at 9:00.

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82 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2017 Lexus ES 350...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Gravitas is not the same as sloth. Gravitas includes the capability for slapping callow yoofs upside the head. Or getting someone else to.

  • avatar
    FThorn

    I had an ES and currently have a (well, I guess TWO) Camry/ies in my stable at the moment.
    They are great for long drives. Just drove COMPLETELY around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario (LO in a short half-day in one sitting).

    Got rid of the harsh-er riding, latest Accord Sedan. Nice, cheap car, but every family member complained about the ride. It drove nicely around Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course when I tested it against its main mid size sedan rivals in a hosted event.

    In short, I like the ES/Camry twins, and think used ones are THE bargain in sedan offerings.

    • 0 avatar

      The Camry is a terrible used car value because they hold their value quite well. An ES on the other hand with slightly over average mileage and a bit of prior paintwork from a less-than-cautious prior lessee is a tremendous value.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        They are selling 2015 used Camry’s for the same price as same year Malibu’s, Fusions, 200’s and Sonata’s at several dealerships we went to the past few weeks so I don’t see Camry’s holding much value in there first couple of years.

      • 0 avatar
        FThorn

        I should say I think used ESes in God’s waiting room, aka Florida, can be real bargains.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      How does the insurance compare since this one of the most ticketed vehicles or their drivers the root cause?

      http://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/18/drive-a-lexus-it-may-be-the-most-ticketed-car.html

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        That CNBC article says ES300, not ES350. All ES300’s were 12 to 23 years old at the time of Insurance.com’s review. Ignoring the relatively small sample size cited, the take home message of the review is that people driving older cars receive tickets more frequently.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m not sure this is a good AoB candidate, at least not when the Avalon exists.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Bingo.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Fiance’s dad was between a used ES300h and a new Avalon hybrid. They are indeed very close, interiors are mostly a matter of taste but the ES has enough extra lux touches (heated leather steering wheel) and a few areas with nicer trim/finish that might sway some folks. I personally like the Avalon interior.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Right what is the compelling case for the ES350 v the Avalon?

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The Lexus badge is full of dignity and Palm Beach Edition goodness, and the Toyota one isn’t.

          *I also personally find the exterior on the current Avalon hideous because of the front end.*

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            Yeah, I will agree on the Avalon’s front-end. It’s questionable.

            You know what would make a good AoB in this segment? The current Impala.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I like the looks of the Impala, but having been in a rental spec one, the interior was down there about 2% better than a base Sonata in the quality department. I question in the upper trims whether they have that 3.6 timing chain issue (anything else?) sorted out as well.

            I’d like to get in a well-equipped Impala and see how much better the trim is.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @psarhjinian, Base Impala? NO.

            Impala LT2 with V6 and heated seats? Now you are talking.

            CPO Lacrosse that has been smacked with the depreciation stick as hard as the ES350 and Avalon get smacked? Decent value.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            With the 2.5L 4cyl? I think not! Likewise the pleather/cloth combo on lower LT models is not a good scene.

            It’s got a good heart in 3.6L guise, but it really needs the higher trim goodies to really shine.

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            Well the front end on the Lexus vehicles is even worse!

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Your Lexus dealer.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    You’re beautiful, refined, intelligent and delightful.

    But you’re a sedan.

    I’m sorry, it just wouldn’t work.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Watching my FIL sit huffing to recover from the pain of folding into his ES before driving away proves the fridge has wisdom. He’d be so much happier in an NX, but… he likes sedans for play and a minivan for work.

  • avatar
    carveman

    Their backs ache and their feet hurt from working to put food on the table, putting their kids through school, keeping the house warm in winter and cool in summer,m paying the mortgage and keeping the wolf from the door.

    As my dear old dad used to say.

    I’m old. You may not make it.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “I’m old. You may not make it.”

      And he probably said that before knowing that America would turn into a nation of 400-lb. 40 year-olds appalled at the harshness of a 40 hour week.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I am on the side of spending the number of hours at work in a week necessary to do a good job. If that’s 25 for some people, and the other 15 hours they’re not doing anything except browsing TTAC – what good is it having them sit at their desk – aside from appearances?

        Modern technology means I can do more work in 25 hours than someone in 1980 could do in 60. The standard work week needs to evolve with the times, like everything else!

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        …and looking for their safe spaces.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    I see plenty of middle aged women driving these, as well as middle aged men. I must admit that even though i’m not in target demographic, the idea of at least having some serene, quiet setting with good music on my commute appeals to me.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    I’m a diehard manual enthusiast; I need to be connected to the road with responsive suspension and steering when I’m out for a drive. However, once you start commuting to your first big boy job, you realize all the highways are straight and sometimes you have to slog through traffic, taking out every opportunity for fun and leaving you with a harsh ride. For a daily commuter or massive road trips, I’d love something quiet and comfortable like this. That way I can go even crazier with the fun car later.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      That’s pretty much it. I’m sure that somewhere there’s someone who routinely drives on lightly traveled twisty roads, but I know it’s not me, most of us are slogging through traffic or pounding down the expressway. For that you want something quiet and smooth. I like a hybrid for this use, it’s nice to have the engine not running when you’re stopped, but to still have the climate control working.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the reason I have a used Lexus and a used Miata. One for a comfortable commute in traffic and one for bumpy rides through the park or wherever. Both have proven reliable, and insurance is cheap.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buying an ES without the Mark Levinson and wood interior is like buying a diesel and automatic-equipped Lotus.

  • avatar
    John

    Sixty may be the new 40 for a short time, but the sheer mass of mart-cart millenials means 40 will soon be the new 60. When you get type II diabetes at 32, you’re not going to be driving to the Golden Corral in your ES350 at 72 – you’re going to be in the ground. And no, the “body positive” folks can’t change that. The Social Security funding problem may just solve itself.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Good. The sooner the chronically unhealthy stop sapping the health and insurance system, the cheaper it’ll be for the people who bother to take care of themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Honestly, I’m in good enough shape and I feel like 40 is the new 60.

      I wonder if it’s a generational thing: Gen-X’s de rigueur cynicism ages you prematurely.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      No kidding! I have been saying this for years. ss is just fine, all these 100 lb over weight folks think the are going to make it 75? Stop it, we will soon see a mass exodus of folks in their early 60’s.

      I blame the anti smoking campaign. At least the tobacco taxes help off set the health care cost. The soda, sugar,corn, and processed food industry get subsidized to kill people.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Actuaries here feel that we’re at the peak of longevity / low mortality now, and we will start going back downhill very soon.

        In the future if you want to save money on insurance costs, you’ll have to wear a Fitbit or similar tracking device – once it becomes legal everywhere to use your health data for underwriting and monitoring purposes.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          And every insurance company will require a OBD-II plug-in before they’ll let you drive.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That’s likely coming as well. Progressive offers that plug in now which can “only help and not hurt” your rate. I don’t think anyone should allow 24/7 spying on their car by the insurance company to save $4/mo.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            Oh, I believe it too. The freedoms people will go to to save a few bucks. Not much choice though once all insurers are doing it, and I think when that day comes, they’re all going to jump on board at once.

            Which will be a great day to buy stock in those companies, because revenues are going to shoot up once they can ding every person who ever drove 10 over the limit.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Mu diabetes doctor gave me big kudos for dropping so much weight and A1c points. I told her I don’t want to be one more 350 lb. geezer in TEDs and a wheel chair.

        She said many of her Boomer patients frustrate her with their “Well, you gotta die of *something*” attitude. But she makes sure they know that it won’t be fast and it won’t be cheap, and the brunt of the expense will fall on others.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    IMHO, Toyota/Lexus has engineering quality that the Germans only dream of. (I have owned new BMW & Mercedes). Not enough room to list the problems with these “things” over the three years that I was stupid enough to keep them.)

    But…….

    My gawd, Toyota/Lexus cars are fugly. (Yup, personal opinion, yours may vary.)

    Please, please, get some stylists over there.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Hang on – are you trying to imply that this car is for old people?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Full-size (now), soft, FWD, full of leathers, over 250HP.

      It is the Cadillac Deville.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Not soft enough! They made a mistake with the suspension tuning IMO on both this and the Avalon. I hear the Avalon has been returned to cushy normalcy in a recent update.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I wasn’t in it for very long, and I was in the back. I need to drive one and see what I think. Have they done something about the Camry’s ride yet? The 2014 I was in was sooooo numb. Put me in mind of a Vulcan Taurus.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Camry ride is very well sorted IMO. The “sports” tuning of the SE on my fiance’s ’12 strikes a good balance of having impressive body control without ever feeling harsh over fairly beat up concrete slab pavement in our new ‘hood. I haven’t driven their XLE in a while to remember how different that was or wasn’t. I actually preferred it to a bunch of supposedly cushy fullsize sedans. Only the Charger felt better to me overall. W-body Impala swallowed up the bumps well, but in a sloppy, quivering way. New Epsilon Impala was a bit too harsh surprisingly enough (crappy tire issue IMO). ’15 Taurus SEL was also surprisingly poor at smothering smaller sharp imperfections (think expansion joints).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I thought everybody was always saying how good the Taurus is at bumps and such (since it’s crap at most other things). Did it have low profile tires on it?

            The new Murano rides really very nicely now. Such a huge improvement over the prior generation which I found jiggly and harsh.

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            The 2014 Camry rental we had last year had the worst numbest steering imaginable. It didn’t handle all that great either. Two typical hallmarks of this car that have carried through the years. Old folks love that

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Ponchoman does any GM EPS system have any more “feel” than the Camry? I don’t think so. It’s an irrevelant point to make these days IMO.

            How did it not handle very well? Again, compared to what, a porky Malibu? W-body Impala? We need some points of references.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Here’s a point of reference: “Ponchoman” is a Chevy salesman.

            I wouldn’t trust him as far as I can throw a Silverado.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Lol, is he really?

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Bah! I like the stiffer Avalon. We need an ES350 F-Sport.

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    Yes, Lexota makes very reliable cars. Just wish they made something I could enjoy DRIVING. Would love to have a super-reliable hot hatch/sedan I can take to the track once in a while and still seat 4 that doesn’t cost over $80k.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The Japanese hot hatch is no more. You can go to Germany for something, or you can find a 2013 Mazdaspeed 3.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Toyota, more than most marques, makes cars that make them money.

      They did make fun, reliable cars years back and still kick out one or two periodically, but no one buys them in enough volume to make it worthwhile.

      Cases in point:
      * the last-gen Celica GTS: in many ways, a better Integra GSR than the Integra GSR. Didn’t sell, got killed.
      * the Altezza-based Lexus IS. Hatchback, inline-six out of the Supra, well-priced. Didn’t sell, got replaced with a relative creampuff.
      * the 2ZZ-GE-equipped Matrix. C&D called it a “sports bus”, but people wanted a normal power curve. Got a heart transplant from the Camry.

      I’ll wager the FT-86 is next on this list.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        What am I saying, the WRX is still around. Have one of those!

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        I’m kind of amazed, personally, that the tC didn’t live a better life. Maybe due to the name or brand? As a Celica would it have succeeded? I guess the 86 answers that question.
        They’re amazing values, and as my 14 yr old approaches the inevitable age, I’ll be pushing for one.
        Of course, I lost this same battle (tC or Mazda 3 hatch) with the first kid to a loose formation of parts named Mustang…

    • 0 avatar
      Grahambo

      They do. IS350 F Sporf. Highly recommended.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I think the octogenarian angle is played up just a bit too much here. My fiance’s engineering upper management father nearing 60 years old is in my mind the prime demographic, the confirmation bias being that he bought a lightly used ’13 ES300h last spring. A history of buying Toyotas since abandoning GM after a horrible experience with a Pontiac Montana, he previously owned a 2nd gen Prius for 90k trouble free miles followed by a ’13 Camry XLE Hybrid that he gifted to his youngest daughter for college use. ES300h was a perfect fit for his mix of techie/pragmatist and a way to reward himself for a career of hard work is he prepares to retire. Not a Golden Corral guy by any means, that’s more the Grand Marquis scene IMO. He’s more Eddie Merlot haha.

    I find the car a bit stiff riding for what it’s supposed to be. The palm-control thing for the infotainment and nav is a freaking nightmare to use. Finally there are a lot of cheap feeling details not far from hand. Rear door card materials in particular are a little too close to a plebian Camry.

    Heated wood steering wheel is great, the look of the dash in general is appealing to the eye, and the car is quiet and unobtrusive in general as long as the roads aren’t too decrepit and you don’t cane the 2.5L hybrid drivetrain too hard. I personally would get the 3.5L V6 all day long. Fits the car’s character much better IMO.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I played with the build tool, just to see if this could be tweaked to my taste. I don’t know what it is with the Japanese brands (Infiniti being the other major terror in this trend), but selecting the one option package you want requires the selection of numerous additional packages. A dramatic reenactment follows (the prices and options are real, however):

    Me: Nice car, but can I just add a sunroof?

    Lexus: That requires the Ultra Luxury Package. $3,500, please.

    Me: Sigh. Fine, here ya go.

    Lexus: The Ultra Luxury Package requires the purchase of blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert. $500, please.

    Me: Fine, can I get out of here now?

    Lexus: Blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert requires the purchase of Bi-LED headlamps. $515, please.

    Me: Uh…

    Lexus: Bi-LED headlamps require the purchase of the Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package. $2,590, please.

    Me: Hold on a minute!

    Lexus: The Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package requires the purchase of a power trunk open/close ($400), intuitive park assist ($500), and the heated wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel ($450). $1,350, please.

    Me:…

    Lexus: Those last three options require the purchase of optional wheels. 17’s ($40) or 18’s ($880)?

    Me: I don’t think I want this anymore.

    Lexus: Hold on, you’ve reached the best part! Now you can select Bird’s-Eye Maple trim! For free!

    Me: So my $38,900 car now costs $47,395?

    Lexus: No, it’s $48,370. You forgot the $975 destination charge.

  • avatar
    scuzimi

    Other than the pop group Ace of Base I have no idea why that term means?????

  • avatar
    carguy

    I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree:

    The ace of base ES350 is a modestly optioned Toyota Avalon.

    In no trim level does the ES350 come anywhere near to the embodiment of the Lexus brand values or good value for money. Every time I am driving one I am amazed that a suspension can be both harsh and floaty at the same time and that there is a luxury brand that makes a cheaper feeling interior than the BMW 3 series.

    At least the Avalon’s price is in keeping with the experience it delivers and if you really want a Lexus then look at a used LS or GS.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      In no trim level does the ES350 come anywhere near to the embodiment of the Lexus brand values or good value for money.

      Yeah but this is for the crowd that misses that there is no more Matlock on TV. The local Toyota Dealer is owned by the same dealer group as the local Chevrolet Dealer. At one point the Chevy dealer was a Chevy/Cadillac dealer but they lost their Cadillac franchise during the bankruptcy.

      So what are the blue-hairs trading their DTS and V6 STS for? Toyota Avalons of course!

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Prior to 2013, the ES was very heavily based on–some might say a minor tweak to–the Camry. They were more than kissin’ cousins. The ES was really a Camry in a suit.

    In 2013, Toyota changed that and made a new platform for the ES and Avalon to share. No more Camry for the ES.

    So all this talk about “might as well get a Camry” is meaningless. Might as well get an Avalon, sure.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    You won’t get any hate from me. This car is a fantastic ace of base. It really is the ideal choice for the majority of luxury cars buyers who, in reality, don’t care about performance, handling, or drive wheels. This will tick all the boxes. Standard Leather, standard premium luxo interior, standard nice paint, standard creamy smooth delicious six cylinder engine – all features lacking in equivalent German offerings while offering a softer quieter cushier ride then them or pretty much any competitor. The sunroof, btw, is also standard. It’s the panoramic that’s an option. So all that plus a fantastic dealer experience – do you need anything else? Oh, maybe space and a commanding seating position, which is probably why this car’s CUV platform mate, the RX, is the ubiquitous go to vehicle in any upscale suburban area.

  • avatar
    Ghosting

    This is why Asia is a better place to be old. There is very little reverence for the elderly. It’s more like contempt. I get that you were trying to be funny, it just wasn’t.


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