The Lexus ES likely isn't the first choice for any die-hard car enthusiasts, but we wanted to find out what makes this car so popular, and also why we keep mistaking it for the larger Lexus GS when seeing them on the road. Now in it's 6th generation, the 2018 Lexus ES 350 with Touring Package we're featuring is very well equipped for it's $50,540 price tag. Your standard ES 350 comes with Lexus' SmartAccess with push button start/stop, HomeLink®, auto dimming rearview mirror, parking assist, illuminated door handles, backup camera, rain sensing wipers, leatherette seating, heated and ventilated front seats, lane departure alert, radar cruise control, and LED headlights and foglight.
The Touring Package we had the chance to drive adds full leather seating, in-dash DVD system with navigation and Remote Touch interface, rear power sunshade, auto levelling headlights, LED high-beams, blind-spot monitoring, and a heated steering wheel with wood trim and power tilt/telescope. The other package offered on the 6th gen ES is the Executive Package, which adds a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, rear door sunshades, automatic power trunk, power moonroof with panoramic rear glass, LED ambient lighting, and additional power seat controls. All in a fully-loaded ES is significantly more affordable than it's GS brother, or the competition from Mercedes and BMW.
In large-part due to the front-wheel drive layout of the ES over those competitors. The Lexus GS, BMW 5 Series, and Mercedes E-Class all have rear-wheel drive as standard, or all-wheel drive options, with most offering AWD as standard on non-performance models. However if you're not overly worried about which wheels power your driving experience, the ES will be the affordable choice. I could instantly recognize the fact that I was driving a front-drive vehicle after spending the better part of the past 2 years with rear or all-wheel-drive systems, but that isn't bad. We drove the 1999 ES 300 back-to-back with this and found that despite the 20 year age difference, both cars had a very familiar feel to them when taking corners or pulling off the stop line.
You also won't be worrying about power delivery with the ES. It's 3.5L naturally aspirated V6 engine was responsive and plenty powerful to push us around town on our test drive. While many manufacturers are switching over to turbocharged engines, we appreciate having a traditional engine option available in a vehicle in this category. We're not overly huge fans of forced induction here on TestDrive.
The interior of the 2018 Lexus ES 350 is definitely the biggest selling factor for this car. We parked next to one a few weeks before filming this episode of TestDrive Spotlight, I had a chance to peek in from the driver's window and was in awe of the interior design. Embarrassingly I thought it was the much larger Lexus LS given the attention to detail and design of the interior, but it ended up being an ES 350 just like this one. We might sound like a broken record, but the interior of this Lexus continues to impress with it's precision design throughout. We found the layout of the centre console and navigation screen to be natural and fluid, allowing us to learn the new controls within minutes. The Lexus Remote Touch is an interesting interface device for the navigation system, it reminded us of an IBM (now Lenovo) laptop with the TrackPoint found on ThinkPad laptops.
This is easily one of the best interior's we've had the chance to pilot thus far, especially in a mid-size car. Lexus really knows what they're doing when it comes to interior design and layout, and it's something they've gotten right for decades now. The touch of wood throughout with the Touring Package adds to the luxurious feel and the steering wheel completes the upscale design perfectly.
While the rear seats don't offer as many luxuries or legroom space as the slightly larger GS models, you shouldn't have any issue getting 2 adults in the back of this mid-size luxury car. I had no problem getting in and out of the back to film elements of our Spotlight, and the seats in the back were just as comfortable as the front, whereas we've found other manufacturers tend to forget about the rear passengers and throw the basics back there. If you're planning on having passengers in the back often, or buying this for your family, you might want to consider the Executive Package to get the rear door sunshades which help blockout any unwanted sunlight, especially helpful for younger children.
Overall we were very impressed with the 6ES as the enthusiast community would call it. With over 30 years of vehicles under this nameplate, the Lexus ES has certainly proven itself as a popular option for those looking for luxury and reliability. You can watch our full episode of TestDrive Spotlight on the 2018 Lexus ES 350 Touring below: