2011 Lexus ES 350 Touring Edition
2011 Lexus ES 350 Touring Edition. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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2011 Lexus ES 350

It takes about seven hours to drive from Ottawa, Ontario to the Holland Tunnel, the entrance way to lower Manhattan from New Jersey. And even though the portable navigation system tells us that our hotel is just seven minutes away, the truth is it will take more than an hour to inch ever so slowly toward the nine toll booths where several highways and city streets converge into two lanes of bumper to bumper traffic.

It is nice to have a comfortable car to drive the 725 kilometres from Ottawa to lower Manhattan, but the benefits of this comfort are driven home when after seven hours of smooth cruising you come to an abrupt halt several miles from the entrance to the tunnel.

But while the heat and the congestion are getting to some of the drivers trapped in the line-up to the tunnel – the muffled sound of horns nearby is one clue – inside the 2011 Lexus ES 350, all is peaceful and quiet. Soft tunes from the XM satellite radio calm the nerves while soft leather soothes a tired posterior. It takes patience, this inching forward, and the Lexus encourages patience.

2011 Lexus ES 350 Touring Edition
2011 Lexus ES 350 Touring Edition. Click image to enlarge

Re-designed for 2007 and updated in 2010 with interior improvements and an exterior facelift – new headlamps and tail lights, fog lights, grille, front bumper, wheels, chrome body side mouldings, and mirrors with integrated turn signals – the current generation of the ES 350 (its 5th) is nearing the end of its run. It is likely that a new ES 350 will follow the introduction of the redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry, on which it is based, in either 2012 or 2013.

It would be wrong to characterize the ES 350 as a duded-up Camry. It is much more substantial than that, with the unmistakable look of Lexus, a more well-appointed interior and a solid, smooth ride. Pulling up to the front door of our New York hotel in the Obsidian ES 350, it seems the porters run faster than they would if this was merely a black Camry.

While sharing components increases production efficiency, the two cars are not even built in the same plant – the Camry is built in Georgetown, Kentucky, while the ES 350 is built at Lexus’ Kyushu, Japan facility.

Standard equipment is more in line with what one would expect in a luxury vehicle, at least one that is more or less the entry into the world of Lexus luxury. Standard equipment includes Lexus premium audio system with AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA, satellite radio, six-disc changer and eight speakers, dual zone climate control, leather upholstery with heated 10-way power adjustable driver’s and passenger seats, smart key with push-button start, and power locks and all windows with one-touch up and down. Amenities such as Bluetooth connectivity, dual illuminated sun visors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with compass and auto-dimming side mirrors, two-position memory that links both seats and mirrors, power tilt and telescoping, leather wrapped steering wheel, power moonroof and wood grain trim are all standard. Outside, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, fog lights and rain sensing windshield wipers are all standard.

2011 Lexus ES 350 Touring Edition
2011 Lexus ES 350 Touring Edition. Click image to enlarge

Our test car was a new for 2011 Touring Edition which, for $500 over the base price of $42,150, added premium alloy wheels, rear spoiler and high intensity discharge (HID) headlights with adaptive front lighting system that automatically swivels the lights in the direction of the front wheels, which enhances visibility during night driving.

Of course, you can get more stuff if you want it: a Navigation Package adds voice-activated navigation, a console screen, back-up camera and ventilated seats; a Premium Package further adds a back-up sensor, power rear window sunshade, wood steering wheel and shift knob and passenger seat memory, and; an Ultra-Premium Package, which takes the price up to $52,200, completes the luxury equipment with the Mark Levinson 14-speaker audio system, panoramic glass roof, premium leather seats and power variable cushion length on the driver’s seat.

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