LEXUS ES 350 (ULTRA LUX) - Tires: P215/55R17; wheelbase: 113 inches; length: 195.9 inches; width: 73.4 inches; height: 56.9 inches; fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons; city: 22 mpg; highway: 32 mpg; base price: $43,750; price as tested: $54,050; website:

Launched more than 30 years ago, the Lexus ES 350 has been the standard bearer for midsize luxury sedans. Delivering an entertaining and energetic ride since its launch, Lexus totally overhauled the front-wheel drive car last year. The seventh-gen ES now is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, and Lexus also added the more lively F Sport trim to the ES badge for the first time.

The 3.5-liter V-6 engine cranks out 302 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 267 pounds-feet of torque at 4,700 rpm. The eight-speed auto gearbox is more capable, smooth and fuel-efficient than the previous six-speed.

Suspension handled via its independent front MacPherson strut-type and rear trailing arm multilink does a worthy job of soaking up potholes and other road bumps. Returning a weighted response to the driver’s input is the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. And 0 to 60 mph is achieved in 6.6 seconds, which is fittingly quick for a 3,649-pound vehicle. Eco, sport and normal modes are offered.

Ensconced on a unitized steel body is the signature spindle grille with a centered Lexus insignia, flanked by slim, L-shaped, bi-LED headlights and daytime running lights. A low, sleek roofline leads to wraparound LED tail lamps. The cabin is typical Lexus with welcoming wood and piano black trim and leather as occupants are pampered in spacious seats. The rounded large tachometer housing a digital speedometer and multi-information display is easy to read. Passenger and trunk volume is commendable at 99.9 and 16.7 cubic feet space respectively.

Other amenities include dual auto a/c; power moonroof; 12.3-inch touch screen for navigation, audio and phone controls; three-spoke power tilt/telescopic steering column with paddle shifters; keyless entry/engine start; 14-way power front seats; analog clock; power rear and manual rear door sun shades; three USB ports; 10-speaker Pioneer audio system with a CD player and satellite radio; and rain-sensing wipers.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability assist with traction control system, front/rear crumple zones, smart stop technology, three-point safety belts for all, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

Also, the Lexus Safety Sense System+ 2.0 fetches you a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians, lane departure alert and lane tracing assist, dynamic cruise control and intelligent high beams at no cost.

Placed between the entry-level IS and the larger GS, the ES 350 is the near-perfect ride. Tweaks to the mouselike Remote Touch for toggling navigation, climate, audio and phone controls are welcome. This delightful Lexus is a well-balanced blend of luxury and performance.

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