2009 Lexus ES 350
2009 Lexus ES 350. Click image to enlarge

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By Dustin Woods; photos courtesy Toyota Canada

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2009 Lexus ES 350

While you are unlikely to get much sympathy from your friends, venturing into the premium automobile market can be a daunting task. With so many viable options from so many premium manufacturers, how does one narrow it down to find the ideal match? Making things even more difficult is the fact that a company like Lexus offers more than one possible route in this segment. This decision can be as complex as having to choose between which sophisticated, attractive and wealthy sister to date. Like I said, expect no sympathy. While some may prefer more sporty and playful attributes and so choose the IS, others may fancy the conventional, sophisticated and level-headed route, opting for the ES 350.

For those who hold luxury and comfort as their highest priorities, they will surely find their automotive soul mate in the midsized, front-wheel drive ES. Driven gently to moderately, the ES offers a well-balanced, stable yet comfortable ride. While the ES 350 offers a refined package that befits the entry-level luxury market well, it immediately shows its true colors when push comes to shove.

2009 Lexus ES 350
2009 Lexus ES 350. Click image to enlarge

Acceleration and handling characteristics are easily outshone by other models in this market, but chances are that anyone who buys an ES 350 has more interest in the optional Mark Levinson surround-sound stereo system or supple leather seating than experiencing the outward performance capabilities of the machine.

While few models in this market can compare when it comes to interior luxury and exterior styling, there are others that easily surpass it where responsiveness and driving enjoyment are concerned. What the ES lacks in performance, it makes up in elegant styling and comfort. In addition to being smooth, the ES 350 offers an incredibly quiet ride thanks to eighty-eight individual noise-absorbing and cancelling initiatives employed in its construction, such as liquid-filled engine mounts. One small gripe of mine was that the secondary controls on the premium wood steering wheel were wrapped in rubber, which appeared cheap in an otherwise lavish environment.

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