December 13, 2006

Photo Gallery: 2007 Lexus ES 350

Specifications: 2007 Lexus ES 350

The Guide: 2007 Lexus ES 350

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The 2007 ES 350 may not be the flashiest or most technologically advanced vehicle in the Lexus line-up, but the original ES (along with its larger LS cousin) was the car that introduced masses of North Americans to Japanese luxury, and the fifth generation is even more refined. Based on Toyota’s popular Camry platform, the ES takes performance and luxury to a whole new level.

Inside, the ES is exactly what you’d expect. The smooth, clean design of the dash, with premium materials is accented with real wood and brushed steel. The instrument panel is a perfect example of minimalist design, but is packed with enough goodies to ensure an optimal comfort level and keep the tech-savvy driver pleasantly preoccupied. The exterior, thanks to the Lexus L-finesse design language, has been transformed from the rotund image of its past into quite a sleek and handsome looking automobile.

The ES 350 comes in three trim levels. With the standard package ($42,900) you get a full suite of luxury features: everything from keyless entry with push-button start (a first for the ES) and an air circulation system that detects harmful particulates, to 10-way power adjustable, heated and ventilated leather seats and a power sliding/tilt moon roof. Not to mention a more-than-average sounding AM/FM/six-CD sound system with MP3/WMA capability with auxiliary input jack and steering wheel audio controls. It’s nice to see a vehicle that includes an MP3 player input jack with its base package, if at all.

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If you do upgrade to the Premium Package (an additional $3,600) you’ll find yourself benefiting from a power rear window sunshade (which automatically retracts when the reverse gear is selected) and rain-sensing wipers. From an aesthetic point-of-view, the wood-grain trim adds a nice touch to the steering wheel and shift knob, enriching the overall cabin environment. Not to mention, the safety factor is also boosted with the Premium Package, as rear seat side airbags are included in the mix.

I’m a firm believer, that if you’re going to drive a Lexus, you should go for the best-of-the-best, in this case the Ultra Premium Package ($54,300). Contained therein are all the features listed above, plus a DVD-based navigation system with back-up camera, Mark Levinson audio system (which absolutely trumped the base system which impressed me enough to begin with) and a beautiful panorama glass roof – a first for Lexus. The Ultra Premium Package also offers 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels that will definitely make you reconsider the base options.

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Other major improvements from the previous generation include an extended wheelbase and a fully retuned suspension that provides smooth and unmatched ride comfort from the previous ES.

The 2007 ES isn’t prudish in the fast lane either. Its 3.5-litre, 272-horsepower V6 mated to an all-new six-speed automatic transmission will have you hitting 100 kilometres in just under seven seconds. That’s 54 more horses than the 2003 ES. Not to mention, it also provides 254 lb-ft. of torque. That’s better performance than you’ll find in competitors such as the Acura TL or Cadillac CTS 3.6.

And while you are blasting past the speed traps on the highway, double-paned, acoustic controlled glass and a Thinsulate floor damping coating keep the cabin quiet with virtually no wind noise (and also keeps the sound of the sirens low too).

The ES 350 is also packed with safety features, and not just the standard fair either. Of course there’s the traditional driver and passenger dual-stage front and a front and rear side curtain airbags, but the ES is equipped with driver and front passenger knee airbags as well. Rear seat-mounted side airbags are also available. There’s also a tire pressure monitoring system that keeps tabs on the pressure in all the tires including the standard full-size spare in the trunk. The system can register a normal set of tires, or a second set of winter tires by pressing the tire select switch.

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The ES is also the first Lexus to feature dual adaptive front lighting system (AFS), which, along with the high-intensity discharge headlamps, is included with both options packages. This feature calculates the target lighting angle based on the steering angle: essentially, the headlights follow the road into the turn, shedding an optimal amount of light for the driver.

One of the coolest features is the centre storage bin that lifts up and back in one sweeping motion. When it closes, the lid swoops down like an eagle grabbing for a fish. It’s this attention to the smallest details that really makes an impression.

But how does it really stack up against other vehicles in its class, such as the TL, CTS 3.6, Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport or Volvo S60 T5?

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Where the ES 350 definitely shines is fuel economy: the ES outperforms its competitors averaging 10.9/7.2 L/100km (city/highway). Match that up with its impressive horsepower and torque output and you have a winning combination. Its overall design is also more refined and less obtrusive than its competitors and there is more passenger space in the rear cabin than previous generations.

However, I found the ES does lack in front cabin room, especially headroom, and that’s where the competition has it beat. Most performance junkies won’t care for its front-wheel drive and soft suspension either. But truthfully, most will be too busy enjoying the upgraded interior features to even notice.

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The new ES offers one of the smoothest and most comfortable rides in its class. It’s stylish and aerodynamic, warm and functional, quiet and lightweight. Consider as well the powerful engine and premium entertainment system and you have yourself a significant improvement to one of the Lexus brand’s core vehicles. In the end, you feel like you are driving a vehicle worth much more than its price-tag; something most entry-level luxury vehicles fail to accomplish.


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