New Car Review

2017 Lexus ES: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2016

Sit back and enjoy the 2017 Lexus ES for what it is -- an entry-level luxury sedan that's slightly larger than midsize. It's not an on-the-limit driver's machine or an over-the-top status symbol, but it's a car with an understated sense of classiness, comfort, safety and serenity.

Owners prefer to enjoy the cabin's appointments rather than the next corner, and that's perfectly fine. The ES provides generous space for back-seat passengers and plenty of room for occupants up front. Front-wheel drive gives the chassis a secure, stable and predictable feel, all without attracting any unwanted attention.

What's New for 2017?

The previously optional Lexus Safety System Plus -- featuring forward-collision mitigation, lane-keep assistance, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control -- is now standard. So is the Scout GPS app, which provides maps and turn-by-turn directions. Rain-sensing wipers are also now standard, and the Remote Touch infotainment interface gets a "Back" button.

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

Excitement factor roughly equivalent to a nap on the couch

How Much?

$39,875-$42,795

Fuel Economy

The ES 350 uses a 3.5-liter V6 that develops 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the sole transmission, and it's smooth and dependable. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), consumption is 21 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

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

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Lexus ES is available two forms: the ES 350 with the conventional V6 and the hybrid-powered ES 300h.

The ES 350 ($39,875) 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, rain-sensing wipers, 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 automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Metallic, pearl and mica exterior paint colors have a scratch-resistant clear coat on the lower body panels at no extra cost.

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, satellite radio and a universal garage-door opener.

The ES 300h ($42,795) has 17-in alloys of a different design, a concealed exhaust outlet and hybrid-specific gauges, information displays and badging.

Standalone options include 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. 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 and ventilated seats, a power 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 because of its rear-mounted battery pack.

Safety

The Lexus ES comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, 10 airbags, lane-departure alert and collision mitigation with adaptive cruise control. A blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert is an option. The Safety Connect telematics service includes emergency roadside assistance, stolen-vehicle location 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 rating of Good in all categories.

Behind the Wheel

The dashboard features high-tech instrumentation set among modern lines that also come across as classy. Material 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" and "Back" 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. That's 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 ES remains a traditional luxury car with a creamy, tranquil ride, which is just how buyers like it. And for good reason -- with virtually every other manufacturer pushing the phrase "fun to drive" toward meaninglessness, it's refreshing to get into a car that's all about making you feel as comfortable as possible.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Nissan Maxima -- The Maxima is generous with space, but it leans toward the sportier end of the driving-experience spectrum.

2017 Toyota Avalon -- Priced lower than the ES, the roomy, stylish Avalon offers the same powertrains and many of the same features.

2017 Hyundai Azera -- With all the bells and whistles, the Azera stacks up well against the ES 350 and costs less.

2017 Kia Cadenza -- Redesigned for 2017, the Cadenza offers lots of standard equipment and passenger space, but it's not as sophisticated as a Lexus.

Used Lexus LS -- An LS with low miles can be yours 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 even smoother than its smaller sibling.

Autotrader's Advice

The regular ES 350 already comes well-stocked even before any options are added. If you don't go crazy with the extras (although the Mark Levinson audio system is excellent), a car with strong resale values and Lexus cachet becomes an attainable luxury.

Find a Lexus ES for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Lexus ES: New Car Review - Autotrader