2017 Lexus ES350: Large Sedan that’s Starting to Feel Stale

Since its inception, Lexus has been billed as the pinnacle of Japanese-luxury engineering. This certainly holds true for its flagship products, but vehicles like this ES350 have always felt like a dressed-up Toyota and not a truly-independent brand. Which makes sense in many ways, since this is a tarted-up version of the Toyota Avalon sedan. Despite being refreshed in 2012, this is very similar to the previous version which debuted in 2004. That means it’s really starting to feel dated, not just from a design perspective, but in the fit and finish and controls as well. Coupled with a front-wheel drive layout, there’s just not a lot to get excited about with the ES350.

Powered by a 268hp 3.5-Liter V6, the big sedan suffers from a healthy amount of torque steer and feels slightly down on power at the same time. The biggest issue is the lag inherent in the transmission – there’s a noticeable delay any time you add throttle input before that turns into forward motivation. Even when you put it in sport-mode, it still just feels lazy and disconnected. This probably won’t matter much to most buyers, as they are mainly interested in the reliability and brand familiarity.

Inside, there are some nice materials and finishes in places, but the plastics are thin and the ‘aluminum’ trim is just painted plastic. The seats are comfortable and supportive, but our test vehicle was conspicuously missing heated seats – not welcome in the frigid Chicago climate. I’m sure our test vehicle was destined for sale in a warmer climate, often leading to different option combinations, but even on a chilly CA or FL winter morning, heated seats are a welcome addition. With a price point pushing $50k, it’s an omission we’re not willing to overlook. The controls on the console and center-stack are dated as well, with buttons that look unchanged for over a decade.

 

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