ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: This 2014 Lexus ES 350 is all about comfort. As usual, Lexus comes through with great seats. They're both comfortable and supportive, with just the right amount of rearward lean. The interior design is mostly clean, though I'd ditch the woodgrain trim for something more modern. The controls are easy to understand and easy to use, and my phone hooked up quickly. I like the mouse-like navigation control; though that's something a buyer would have to test.
The ES model has gone from one of the most boring in the lineup to right on par with the rest. The application of the spindle grille is tasteful, but the shape is still pretty standard. It looks miles better than the previous-generation ES model.
The car felt squishy all the way around. There is a good amount of lean when cornering, and the transmission hunts a little when pedaling it hard. I did get the tires to break loose at one point, but it felt like it took everything the Lexus had. This car is meant to be a comfortable cruise and not a spirited driver.
EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR KEN ROSS: This Lexus ES 350 is indeed all about comfort and there's nothing wrong with that. The interior is very well done with home-comfort type seats. If you're looking for Euro firm, this is not the car for you. The wood trim is placed in the visually correct spots and the dash center counsel and IP all flow into one cohesive design. There is plenty of room in the back seat for two average-size people, and the driver's seat has enough adjustments to fit almost any body type.
The exterior design isn't ground-breaking, but is well done. The stronger grille treatment looks good, and the flare at the bottom of both doors helps ground the car.
Handling is not the strong suit of the ES 350 with the suspension tuned for comfort, and at times feels floaty. I found myself over correcting quite a bit on uneven pavement. Power is there from the V6, but it takes a firm press of the right pedal to unlock it.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: Am I wrong to think that Lexus is building these for former Panther platform buyers? The ES 350 isn't the car that's going to steal business from the Germans, but if your last car was a Panther Lincoln, it would seem like a nice step up. The view from the driver's seat brought me right back to spring break with Nana and Papa in Marco Island.
It's visually inoffensive, but not entirely bland -- I'd say it looks pretty good from certain angles. It's not fast and it doesn't handle, but it's extra-comfortable.
The interior is pretty chintzy when judged against the segment leaders, but for the former Panther owner, it would definitely seem modern, even futuristic. I can't imagine that too many of them will make use of the navigation system, so they won't mind when the weird haptic feedback control thingy seems to skip over whatever thing you try to point it at and click on the next virtual button instead.
It does crackle and groan over broken road surfaces, which is disappointing, but I understand that Florida and Arizona have some of the smoothest roads in the U.S., so ES 350 buyers shouldn't worry too much about that.
2014 Lexus ES 350
Base Price: $37,380
As-Tested Price: $43,105
Drivetrain: 3.5-liter V6; FWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 268 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 248 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,549 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 21/31/24 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 23.6 mpg
Options: Hard disk drive navigation including backup camera, eight-inch VGA screen, voice command, single CD/DVD player, Lexus Enform including destination assist and eDestination, free subscription to App Suite ($2,625); luxury package including perforated leather-trimmed interior, heated and ventilated front seats, bamboo interior trim, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, Lexus Memory system for driver's seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel, keyless entry-linked memory ($1,370); HID headlamps including LED running lamps ($565); intuitive parking assist ($500); bamboo and leather-trimmed shift knob and heated wood and leather steering wheel ($300); power rear sunshade ($210); rain-sensing wipers with de-icer ($155)
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