I live in my car. I need luxury.
Recently we traveled to Texas for a wedding, and in Texas, you spend a lot of time in your car. Sometimes just getting to the edge of someone’s property can be a 15 minute drive (as was the ranch we visited) and once you get to the city you can spend a lot of time in traffic. So there are basic things you need: navigation, music, comfort, great safety technology, and of course, reliability. No one wants to constantly tend to a car when you have driving to do. The 2018 Lexus ES 350 took care of all these needs and more, including being roomy and comfortable enough for my family.
Who This Car is for
- Singles, couples for families
- Drivers who regularly have back seat passengers
- Drivers who appreciate top active safety technology
- Buyers who want the utmost in luxury but not the utmost in price
- Drivers who spend a lot of time in the car and need it to be time well spent
- Buyers who value reliability
- Buyers who appreciate a beautiful interior
What This Car Costs
- Base price of the ES 350 3.5 liter V6, which includes drive mode selector (eco, normal and sport), Lexus Enform safety and service connect complimentary for 10 years, 10 way electric front seats, moon roof and active safety/technology including adaptive cruise control, pre-crash braking and brake assist, lane departure alert with steer assist, auto-dimming high beam headlights, keyless entry with smart key and push button start: $38,900
- Blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert: $500
- Heated steering wheel: $450
- Premium Mark Levinson sound system, navigation, Lexus Enform app suite and destination assist package: $2,615
- Ultra luxury package including panoramic sun roof, wood trim, semi-aniline seats, headed and cooled front seats, power tilt and telescope steering wheel, rear and passenger window sunshades: $3,500
- Upgrade to the hybrid model (40MPG!): $2,870
- Current lease offers price the ES 350 at $339 a month and the hybrid at $449 a month with $4000 down
- Price of the V6 model we test drove, including $995 delivery charge: $49,225
Yes, Everything is Bigger in Texas, Including the Cars. But the ES 350 Was Just Right
After spending a recent week driving the Lexus IS 200t, I thought a week in the ES 350 would feel like a week in a land yacht. But, we were headed to Texas where big cars are de rigueur. And, I had my family with me (my week in the IS 200t was mostly just me and a friend). But with my family in tow, I needed more space.
And while we needed space for the four of us, we didn’t need a Texas-sized car; we needed just enough room fore everyone to be comfortable and for all our stuff. What I don’t love is driving a huge car in an unfamiliar place and constantly being worried about parking. The ES is perfectly sized; a mid-size sedan, it was easy to drive and easy to park. From tooling around the mall to making runs into town for coffee to several hours on the highway, the ES was both comfortable for the longer haul and easy to manage in the city.
This is a Nicely Sized Road Trip Car, Too
I drive a sedan and every time I suggest to my family that we road trip in it, I get pushback. The back seats are great for short runs to school, but not for stretching out over several hours on the highway. The ES 350, though, was great for our trip. Our luggage all fit in the trunk (even though my husband insisted we couldn’t get the backpacks and tote bags in it too, we did) and we were able to relax in the car without being cramped.
Which was nice, because the model we test drove was upgraded with the luxury package; it has a beautiful interior that you don’t want cluttered with extra stuff. It was a true pleasure to look in the rear view mirror and see white leather seating and smiling faces lit up by a bit more sunshine from the panoramic sun roof.
Would You Put Child Car Seats in This Back Seat? You Could
The rear seat is generously sized with enough room to sit back, cross your legs and enjoy the ride. Smaller passengers would feel quite pampered by the space, and even though I don’t love putting child passenger safety seats in sedans (all that bending and lifting is tough on your back) you’d have plenty of room for them if you did. And, the lower ride height means that toddlers could easily climb in and out of the seats themselves (rather than needing to be hoisted into the seat by an adult).
Holy Cow, There’s a Lot of Great Technology Standard!
And one of my favorite features is the infotainment screen. It is NOT a touch screen—so, no fingerprints. Instead it’s controlled by a mouse, which can take some getting used to. However, you can control the sensitivity of the mouse. Here’s how:
In addition there are a ton of features that are standard on this car. Go back and look at “What This Cars Costs” at the start of this story and read that first item again. Lexus loaded the ES 350 with great tech and safety for the base price. This makes the ES 350 a really good deal, even without all the added luxury. Active safety features like lane departure warning with steer assist, adaptive cruise control and adaptive high beam headlights are just the start. The basic sound system is a premium system, too.
Ultimate Luxury Isn’t a Stretch, Though
The luxury upgrade package is just $3,500 and give you premium seating, the double panoramic sunroof and a few more design touches in the cabin and other amenities. Just the beautiful upholstery and the sun roof over the back seat is worth the investment. You can also upgrade the sound system to the Lexus exclusive Mark Levinson sound system. If you ever listen to music — and if you spend more than an hour a week in your car, you probably do— this is another great investment. It’s like a concert hall in your car.
Technology That’s More Modern Than it Looks
Here’s the thing about Lexus: The company is completely state of the art in its in-car technology, and in fact, offers many more features standard than some of its competitors. But its systems in some of its models are due for an update; the driver feedback and infotainment screens in the ES 350 look more analog than digital. Still, every function you’d want is there, from adaptive cruise to lane departure warning and assistance (the system gives you subtle nudges to keep you in your lane if you meander) to blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. There are a few things missing, but at this price, it’s no surprise. I expect that head up display, Apple Car Play and wireless charging will be part of the next redesign of this car.
Which might actually make this model one of the best luxury bargains out there; the standard technology and premium seating and sunroof will give you plenty of luxury for the road, and the years, ahead.
What We Loved
- Beautiful white leather interior
- Double paned panoramic sun roof
- Easy to drive and maneuver
- V6 engine had plenty of power, and was more fun to drive in sport mode
- Super roomy and comfortable, even in a mid-sized sedan
- Roomy trunk that fit luggage and tote bags for 4 people
- State of the art technology including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and emergency pre-braking
- Keyless smart entry
What you Need to Know
- Front wheel drive only
- 2 USB ports are located in the center arm rest
- The sun roof over the rear seat does not open (though it has a screen that opens and closes)
- Seating for 5 but more comfortable for 4
- Premium fuel recommended for peak performance (regular gas is fine but may reduce performance slightly)
- 21MPG city/30 MPG highway
- 3.4 liter V6 engine produces 268 horsepower
What We Listened to in the Lexus ES 350
A road trip demands a great playlist, and we took a bit of a chill approach; this is what sounded great on the Mark Levinson sound system during our drive.
Disclosure: The Lexus ES 350 was provided for this review; all opinions are my own.