Beginning with the launch of the Lexus brand nearly three decades ago, the ES sedan has been the brand’s best-selling car. The 2015 Lexus ES 350 represents the sixth-generation design. Compared to earlier versions, it features more expressive styling, the brand’s now-trademarked spindle-shaped grille, more responsive handling and, most importantly, increased interior room. Now based on the Toyota Avalon platform instead of the shorter Camry one, the 2015 ES 350 4-door sedan boasts a capacious 40 inches of rear-seat legroom, generous rear-seat headroom and trunk space, and safety features such as a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.
New for 2015 is perforated faux-leather seating plus a standard 7-inch touchscreen audio system with a backup camera and HD Radio with complimentary weather and traffic. Newly available is an Enform smartphone app that can lock and unlock the car, start and stop the engine, adjust the climate control and find the car remotely.
The ES 350 is equipped with 10 airbags, including dual front, front- and rear-seat side-impact, overhead and front-seat knee airbags, putting it atop its class. Lexus’ Drive Mode Select feature enables the driver to choose between Normal, ECO and Sport driving modes. The ES 350 includes Siri Eyes Free voice-recognition technology, compatible with Apple iPhones, which can provide turn-by-turn navigation and access to iTunes playlists and contacts. Interior accent trim includes piano black, bamboo and bird’s-eye maple wood.
The ES sedan is also available as a gas-electric hybrid dubbed the ES 300h.
The Lexus ES 350 is a smart used-car choice for buyers who want a comfortable, well-equipped entry luxury sedan for thousands less than a new model — and one that offers Toyota’s legendary durability and good resale reputation. See the 2015 Lexus ES models for sale near you
What We Like
Excellent ride quality; spacious interior; expressive exterior design; 10 standard airbags; peppy V6; ES 300h hybrid fuel economy; Siri Eyes Free
What We Don’t
Leather seats cost extra; mouselike Remote Touch Interface for infotainment system
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
The ES 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter dual-overhead-camshaft 24-valve V6, which produces a more-than-adequate 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. Unlike many other luxury cars, it burns less expensive regular unleaded. The ES 350 is front-wheel-drive-only and rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with the standard 6-speed automatic.
The ES 300h mates a 156-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and two motor generators to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The total system power is 200 hp. The hybrid alternates relatively seamlessly between gas and electric modes, but the droning of the 4-cylinder engine and disconnected feel of the CVT take some getting used to. When selected by the driver, an EV mode permits all-electric operation at lower speeds and accelerator-pedal demands. The electric system is fed by a nickel-metal hydride battery. The ES 300h is EPA-rated at 40 mpg city/39 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2015 ES 350 and ES 300h come in just one well-equipped trim with a long list of standard fare. Each is equipped with dual-zone automatic climate control, a power moonroof, a backup camera, 10-way power driver and front-passenger seats with adjustable lumbar, perforated faux leather upholstery, cruise control, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, piano-black interior trim, a stylish analog clock, an 8-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with a 7-in touchscreen display, HD Radio, iPod/USB jacks, a 6-disc CD changer, steering-wheel audio controls, SiriusXM, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic headlamps, LED tail lamps, front-door puddle lamps, keyless entry, variable intermittent wipers, a HomeLink garage-door opener, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a rear-seat trunk pass-through, fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels and power windows, heated side mirrors and door locks.
The list of optional equipment is equally as long as the standard items. Popular individual items include heated seats, a heated wood-and-leather steering wheel, a wood shift knob, a power rear sunshade, a power trunk, 18-in alloy wheels (not for the hybrid model), rain-sensing wipers and safety items such as park assist, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert. Dynamic cruise control is packaged with the pre-collision system, which features automatic braking. An infotainment system with an 8-in display and navigation with 3-D mapping and bird’s-eye view is available as well. The top audio system is the 15-speaker 835-watt Mark Levinson package, now including Clari-Fi audio restoration technology. Leather seats are packaged with driver’s-seat memory, wood interior trim and a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel.
The ES 350 may not be the sexiest Lexus, but 2.5 decades of solid sales and a dedicated buyer base keep used-car values — and thus used-car prices — on the high side. The good news is that strong new-car sales mean a relatively generous supply of used ES 350s. The ES 300h is a little harder to find.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced the following recall for the 2015 ES 350 and ES 300h:
On models with the optional pre-collision system, the system may apply the brakes without warning if it mistakes a metal highway plate or steel bridge joint for an object or other vehicle on the road. This increases the risk of a crash.
Recall repairs are required by law, even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car for free.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
The 2015 Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h received a 5-star overall rating from NHTSA, with a 5-star rating for frontal impacts and side impacts and a 4-star rating for rollovers.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the ES a Good rating in all categories: moderate-overlap front impacts, side impacts, roof strength, and head-restraint and seat crash performance.
Lexus covered the 2015 ES 350 and ES 300h with a 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, a 6-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty and a 6-year/unlimited-mile corrosion-perforation warranty. Additionally, roadside assistance was covered for a 4-year/unlimited-mile period.
Lexus certified pre-owned (CPO) cars — Lexus’ CPO program is dubbed L/Certified — can’t have more than 70,000 miles on the odometer and must be 6 years old or younger. Every CPO Lexus ES undergoes a 161-point inspection and gets a Carfax report. The Lexus CPO warranty covers the whole car bumper to bumper for an additional 2 years beyond the factory 4-year warranty with unlimited miles and includes 2 years/20,000 miles of basic maintenance, roadside assistance, and loaner-car and trip-interruption coverage.
Other Cars to Consider
2015 Acura TLX — An all-new sportier TLX is even edgier than the Lexus ES, now with standard LED headlamps and tail lamps and a push-button gearshift on V6 models. A new 206-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder mates to a crisp-shifting 8-speed dual-clutch automatic while an uprated 290-hp 3.5-liter V6 hooks to a new 9-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available with the V6.
2015 Lincoln MKZ — Nearly as quiet as the Lexus ES and with a bigger trunk, the Ford Fusion-based Lincoln MKZ puts an American spin on midsize luxury. However, its interior isn’t as nicely turned out as that of the ES. Power choices include a 300-hp 3.7-liter V6, a premium-fuel 240-hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder turbo and a gas-electric hybrid that the EPA rates at 38 mpg city/37 mpg hwy. Both front- and all-wheel drive are available.
Lexus is a product of Toyota, which has built millions of hybrids and is the worldwide sales leader in these gas-saving vehicles. However, as a used-car purchase, especially if the Lexus is off-warranty, we feel the conventional V6-powered ES 350 is a better choice. Regardless, opting for a used Lexus ES is a great way to get a luxurious, roomy and reliable luxury sedan with years of worry-free service for the fraction of the cost of a new one. Make sure the Lexus ES you’re looking at has received regular service and had any applicable safety recalls performed. When available, you should look for a Lexus L/Certified car.