Lexus ES 350, 2012: Fast, plush sedan remains luxury class leader

James Raia

The Lexus ES 350 is in the wondrous midsize luxury class. It includes tough competition among well-heeled vehicles ranging from the Buick LaCross to the Volvo S60 and the Acura TL to the Hyundai Genesis.

For 2012, the Lexus ES 350 remains largely unchanged from the 2011 model, with only one available trim. It's a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 268 horsepower, 248 pound-feet of torque and has a standard six-speed automatic transmission.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

Without changes, Lexus must be confident in the Lexus ES 350, the high-brow sibling of a Toyota Camry. There was plenty of evidence for that theory during my weekly drive.

Quick acceleration to substantial comfort to smooth driving, the ES 350 continues to hold its perennial position at the top of the perch in the entry level segment. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated exterior mirrors, a sunroof, automatic wipers, cruise control, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats, driver memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, leather upholstery, wood interior trim, an auto-dimming mirror, Bluetooth phone and music streaming capability, and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.

The options list is additionally impressive: xenon adaptive headlights, parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision system, heated and ventilated front seats, front passenger memory functions, upgraded leather upholstery, a power rear sunshade and a wood-trimmed steering wheel.

Lexus ES 350, 2012: Fast, plush sedan remains luxury class leader 1

There's also an optional hard-drive-based navigation system includes a back-up camera, voice commands, real-time traffic updates and the Lexus Enform telematics system. A 14-speaker Mark Levinson premium stereo can be added to the navigation system.

Add is all up and there's little not to like about the Lexus ES 350. It's impressively quick, impressively comfortable and impressively well built.


The interior wood trim is ideally designed and perfectly positioned.

Great acceleration. Lots of cars with more than 268 horsepower don't seem nearly as quick.

Wonderfully toned sound system.


Slightly soft brakes.

City gas mileage could be better.

Facts & Figures, 2012 Lexus ES 350

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 6.4 seconds
Airbags, 7.
Antilock brakes: Yes.
First aid kit: No.
Fuel economy: 19 mpg (city), 28 mpg (highway) .
Government Safety Ratings: Not yet rated.
Horsepower: 268
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $36,735.00
Manufacturer's Web site:
Price As tested: $41,455.00
Warranty: Bumper-to-bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/70,000 miles; Corrosion, 6 years/unlimited miles.
What Others Say:

"Plenty of premium-badge buyers aren't driving enthusiasts and are just looking for a well-built car that'll provide them with the latest convenience features, a comfortable ride and isolation from the noisy and harsh outside world. For this majority, the 2012 Lexus ES 350 is a worthy choice." — Edmunds.

"The ES 350 proves to be worth the dollar amount in the long run as it not only boasts reliability, but also tends to retain higher-than-average resale value." — Kelley Blue Book.

"Outward visibility is very good, enhanced by the convenience of the available rearview camera." — Consumer Guide

What The Wife Says:

"It's very comfortable, with easy access seating and quick acceleration at any time."

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

"From the long history of Lexus reliability to its interior to its all-round comfort, the Lexus ES 350 is a choce for car buyers making the move into the $40,000 luxury range."


Article Last Updated: March 26, 2012.

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