New Car Review

2016 Lexus ES: New Car Review

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Used 2016 Lexus ES Models
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author photo by Autotrader December 2015

The 2016 Lexus ES has an important place in the car world. It doesn't purport to be an on-the-limit driver's machine or an over-the-top status symbol. It's for people with an understated sense of classiness who want to travel in comfort, safety and serenity without attracting any unwanted attention.

This is a slightly larger than midsize, entry-level luxury sedan. It provides generous space for back-seat passengers and supplies plenty of room for occupants up front. Front-wheel drive gives the chassis a secure, stable and predictable feel at all times. ES owners prefer to enjoy the cabin's appointments rather than the next corner, and that's perfectly fine.

What's New for 2016?

As if the ES wasn't quiet enough already, changes for this model year include additional sound deadening. The front and rear have some minor styling tweaks (with the spindle grille growing more assertive), as does the cabin. The panoramic sunroof has been separated from a previous options bundle to become available as an individual choice. Active safety features have been updated to include things such as lane-departure warning and radar-based intelligent cruise control. Bi-LED headlights also join the options list.

What We Like

Spacious, quiet and comfortable; excellent hybrid fuel economy; up-to-date technology; perfect crash-test scores; Lexus build quality

What We Don't

As exciting as a nap on the couch

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The ES 350 employs a 3.5-liter V6 that develops 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the sole transmission; no problem there, it's smooth and dependable. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), consumption is 21 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined.

The ES 300h features a hybrid gas/electric power system consisting of a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, electric motor, battery pack and a continuously variable automatic transmission. Total output is 200 hp (Lexus does not quote total torque), and the EPA rates the ES 300h at 40 mpg city/39 mpg hwy and 40 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Lexus ES is offered in two forms: the ES 350 with the conventional V6 and the hybrid-powered ES 300h.

The ES 350 ($38,000) comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/start, three selectable driving modes (Normal, Eco and Sport), a sunroof, heated side mirrors with puddle lamps, a rearview camera and LED low beams, running lights, fog lights and taillights. The cabin sports synthetic perforated leather upholstery (NuLuxe), piano-black trim, 10-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Tech toys include Lexus Enform Remote smartphone app compatibility, a 3.5-in color driver information display, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free iPhone voice control, a 7-in touchscreen, an 8-speaker sound system with iPod/USB connectivity, a 6-CD changer and satellite radio. Also included is a universal garage-door opener.

The ES 300h ($40,920) has 17-in alloys of a different design, a concealed exhaust outlet and hybrid-specific gauges, information displays and badging.

Stand-alone options include a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure alert, a collision-mitigation system with adaptive cruise control, heated seats (NuLuxe upholstery only), a heated wood/leather steering wheel, bamboo trim, a power trunk lid, parking sensors, a power rear sunshade and 18-in wheels.

The Navigation package includes voice recognition, a hard-drive-based navigation system, an 8-in central display and the mouselike Remote Touch controller. This package can be bundled with the Mark Levinson audio system, an 835-watt surround-sound setup with 15 speakers and DVD audio/video, but the Levinson system is also available by itself.

The Premium package brings driver's-seat memory settings, a power adjustable steering wheel and wood trim. The Luxury collection adds heated/ventilated seats, a powered rear sunshade and leather upholstery. The Ultra Luxury package throws in a heated steering wheel, automatic wipers, ambient lighting, a power trunk lid, a driver's-seat cushion extender, front passenger seat memory and a panoramic sunroof.

Trunk space in the ES 350 is 15.2 cu ft., dropping to 12.1 cu ft. in the ES 300h due to its rear-mounted battery pack.


The 2016 ES comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and 10 airbags. The Safety Connect telematics service includes emergency roadside assistance, a stolen-vehicle locator and more.

The ES scored a perfect five stars across the board in government crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the ES its highest Good rating in all categories.

A pre-collision system, dynamic cruise control, intelligent high beams and lane-departure alert are all part of the optional Safety System+ package.

Behind the Wheel

The dashboard features high-tech instrumentation set among modern lines that still manage to be classy. Materials quality is excellent, and some surfaces even have exposed stitching. The available Remote Touch interface takes some getting used to, but software refinements and the inclusion of enter buttons have made it easier than before.

The front seats provide adequate support, and rear passenger space is exemplary, particularly in regard to legroom. The standard NuLuxe imitation-leather upholstery looks pleasant and durable enough to consider skipping the optional real stuff.

The ES 350's tried-and-true V6 is a Toyota/Lexus mainstay, but it's still a fantastic engine, ready to emit a subdued growl when revved hard. Not typical ES driver behavior, of course, but it's good to know the performance is there. The ES 300h's hybrid system is shared by the Toyota Camry, but 40 mpg is still remarkable for this slightly larger than midsize, premium-sedan segment, and there's adequate thrust for situations such as merging onto a freeway.

This is hardly a compliment, but the ES feels more responsive than ever. Things haven't changed radically, though. The 2016 ES remains a traditional luxury car with a creamy, tranquil ride, which is just how ES buyers like it -- and for good reason. With virtually every other manufacturer overusing the phrase "fun to drive," it's refreshing to drive a car that's all about making you feel as comfortable as possible.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Nissan Maxima -- The Maxima is generous with space but leans toward the sportier end of the driving-experience spectrum.

2016 Toyota Avalon -- Priced lower than the ES, the roomy, stylish Avalon offers the same powertrains and many of the same features.

2016 Hyundai Azera -- With all the bells and whistles, the Azera stacks up well against the ES 350 and costs less.

Used Lexus LS -- An LS with low miles could be bought for the price of a new ES. It will probably be a few years old, but the rear- or all-wheel-drive, V8-powered LS is swifter and smoother than its smaller sibling.

Autotrader's Advice

The 2016 ES 350 is a pretty good deal right off the showroom floor. Try to keep the price around $40,000, not much more than some upper mainstream family sedans, and you'll have Lexus cachet and strong resale value added into the bargain.

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Used 2016 Lexus ES Models
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2016 Lexus ES: New Car Review - Autotrader