The 2007 Lexus ES 350 is based on Toyota's popular Camry platform, as were the five generations before it, but this time, the near-luxury sedan stands apart from its down-market sibling. Fresh styling that integrates nicely with other Lexus models in what the company calls L-Finesse helps set the tone, and the unique interior clinches the transaction. Lexus has positioned the ES 350 as comfort-luxury to separate the model from the sport-luxury offerings that have begun to dominate the segment. That's good news for techies who want a host of equipment in a reasonably affordable car. Notable standard features include stability and traction control, as well as eight air bags with dual-chamber front and separate knee protection. Dynamic cruise control with precollision and rear air bags are optional for those who want enhanced safety. Keyless entry with pushbutton starting is also standard, along with 10-way power front seats, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and a power moonroof. Options such as voice-activated Bluetooth cell phone connectivity are available separately or can be bundled with packages. Plus, all audio systems have an auxiliary input for iPods or MP3 players. The 3.5-liter, 272-horsepower V-6 is silky smooth and moves the Lexus to 60mph in 6.8 seconds. Handling is competent and controlled, balancing ride a bit above performance. Fit and finish are up to high Lexus standards, and ergonomics are well engineered, with tactile switches and a reasonably clean user interface that keeps you from resorting to knob twirls and clicks.
Upside: The 2007 Lexus ES 350 feels like a much more expensive luxury car. In fully equipped models, options such as the Mark Levinson 5.1 sound system and the Panorama glass roof add to that high-luxury sensation. The car is smooth and quiet over a variety of road surfaces, paying off the comfort-luxury promise with conviction. If a buyer is prudent with option choices, the Lexus ES 350 is a solid value, especially when the dealer experience and resale are considered.
Downside: Although the 2007 Lexus ES 350 has ample power, performance enthusiasts won't care for the front-wheel drive and the smooth suspension. The ES 350 is well equipped for its $33,170 base price, but it's quite easy to move closer to 40 grand by checking a few boxes. The Ultra Luxury Package is a breathtaking $5,380, while the Levinson sound and voice-activated navigation adds another $4,050.
Outlook: Luxury automakers, with the exception of Lincoln, have all moved their offerings to performance and European-style handling. For many buyers, that translates to a harsher ride and overactive steering along with power they'll never use. Lexus has a solid track record of producing vehicles that surround their occupants in a quiet, serene atmosphere. And dealer visits are more often made for routine maintenance than troublesome repairs. The 2007 Lexus ES 350 should do quite well with current owners and conquest sales.