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2010 Lexus ES350 Review & Test Drive

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‘IS IT OR ISN’T IT A TRUE LEXUS’

Over the past several months I have heard from other journalists that the all-new 2010 Lexus ES350 is not a real Lexus but a Toyota Avalon wearing Lexus sheet metal.

After walking around, getting behind the steering wheel and firing up the engine for a drive, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  From the tucked-in headliner at the leading edge of the windshield, to the smooth and precise ride and handling, I can say with confidence that the all-new 2010 Lexus ES350 is 100% Lexus.  The only cross-sharing between the two is the 3.5 liter DOHC V6 and the smooth shifting, six-speed, front-wheel-drive automatic transmission.

Now in its 5th generation, Lexus’s best selling ES350 continues to blur the line between ‘entry luxury’ and ‘prestige luxury’.  Revised headlamps, a new Lexus grille, new grille surround, chrome body side molding below each door, a full perimeter chrome strip runs around the greenhouse, big, chrome door handles make opening any door easy and convenient.  The new front bumper with revised lower intake and integrated foglamps underscore the all-new 2010 ES350’s refined character and sleek styling.  Side mirrors now feature integrated turn signals and the tail lamps are redesigned.  New exterior metallic paint colors further accentuate the distinctive design.

Inside, the renowned Lexus luxury is boosted with revised steering wheel controls, as well as new wood trim choices.  A revised center console offers more storage than before, and an array of new user technologies expands navigation capability and music playing options.  The updated optional navigation system features improved Voice Command casual-language voice recognition to increase owner convenience.  The new standard Lexus memory system controls and stores settings for the driver’s seat (except lumbar), outside mirrors and steering wheel.  Also, rain-sensing wipers are now standard.

The all-aluminum alloy 3.5 liter DOHC V6 produces 272hp at 6,200rpm and 254lb.ft. of torque at 4,700rpm.  The chain-driven camshafts employ Dual Variable Valve Time with intelligence (Dual VVT-i) for optimal performance and efficiency at all engine speeds.

That’s enough power to jet the new ES350 out to 60mph from a standstill in just 6.8sec.

The super-smooth shifting automatic Electronically Controlled transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) provides a sequential manual shift for more driver involvement when you feel the urge to take the engine up to redline or when dicing through curving roads.  The automatic shifting strategy adapts to the driver’s input with rapid kick-down response.  The all-new ES350 is a fun and easy to drive sedan and the unique fully independent only adds to the fun and enjoyment.

A quiet, smooth ride is at hand thanks to a rigid unibody structure that allows the front and rear MacPherson strut suspensions to be tuned to provide response, crisp handling agility and ultra-smooth ride quality.  The low 0.28 coefficient of drag helps to minimize wind noise while also help to maximize highway fuel economy.  The ES350 rides on 17X7 inch aluminum alloy wheels with a new split five-spoke design wrapped with 215/55R17inch all-season radial tires.

The standard vehicle stability control (VSC) with traction control virtually eliminates any evidence of torque steer, and these systems also integrate with the ABS, electronic brake force distribution (EDB) and brake assist (BA).  A new VSC cut-off switch for 2010 is useful if it becomes necessary to extricate the car from deep snow or other difficult situations, such as mud or sand, if that should ever occur.

The all-new ES350 goes where you want it go thanks to the engine speed-sensing power-assisted rack & pinion steering that gives good feedback from the road and is easy to turn at slow speed and more weighty as you increase your speed.  On-center feel is right-on.

Built on a 109.3 inch wheelbase, the midsize ES350 provides a roomy and inviting interior for up to five adults.  The driver and passengers are treated to intelligent, elegant luxury, with touch points that convey quality and controls that respond fluidly.  The high level of Lexus craftsmanship is immediately evident in the ES350 with bright, clear Optitron gauges, premium rear wood trim as well as real polished aluminum and chrome plus leather accents that echo prestige luxury inside.  For 2010 Parchment leather replaces Cashmere, new Walnut trim replaces Medium Brown Walnut and Dark Brown Bird’s Eye Maple trim is added.

Lexus craftsmanship and attention to detail is further evidenced with standard leather-trimmed seating that is available in three colors.  For 2010 the Ultra Luxury Package adds double-contrast stitching for the seats (my tester), console and door trim, a feature seen only in other prestige-luxury models, and perforated semi-aniline leather, also in my tester.

A one-touch tilt/slide power glass moonroof is standard, as well as dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats with standard driver’s memory, and a power tilt/telescoping leather steering wheel.  The standard multi-information display, located in the combination meter is easy to operate.  Its main feature is a trip computer that provides outside temperature, driving range, fuel consumption and average speed readouts.  A new Eco Driving indicator is very useful to extend your mpg by lighting up when you are coasting or giving the car light throttle.  The display also includes an oil maintainance reminder and system warnings.

Standard leather-trimmed steering wheel integrates easy-to-use controls for the audio system, trip computer, and multi-information display, as well as voice control for the optional navigation system.  The standard auto-dimming mirror features an integrated digital compass.  Heated exterior mirrors help melt away morning fog or frost, and an illuminated entry system lights the interior footwells and the side mirror puddle lights.

The SmartAccess keyless entry and push-to-start ignition system allows you to enter and start the car without having to take the ignition keyfob from your pocket or purse.  The standard HomeLink transmitter can control compatible garage door openers and home-security systems.  Convenience details abound throughout the ES350, including illuminated front dual cupholders and an interior lighting system.  Using the new Lexus Memory System feature, you can now tailor numerous vehicle preferences, including lighting, power windows, moonroof, steering wheel and door lock control.

The standard Lexus Premium Audio system includes AM-FM, an in-dash six-disc CD changer, automatic sound levelizer and an integrated satellite radio receiver.  New for 2010, the system adds iPod/USB connectivity, Bluetooth and music streaming through 10-speakers.

That is a lot of standard equipment for a base price of $35,800.00, but I am not through with other standard equipment not mentioned above including 10 new exterior colors (mine was smoky granite mica), PVC sealer and undercoating, use of sound dampening paint type and asphalt sheet in the floor pan, rain-sensing variable speed intermittent wiper with mist cycle, aluminum kick plates at each door, power windows with each having express up/down, heavy-duty rear window defogger with timer, grab handles above all four doors, carpeted floor mats, fabric sun visors and headliner, metallic and leather-trimmed shift knob, metallic and wood-trimmed glove box, 2-rear coat hooks, wood trim for the center console and doors in Walnut or Dark Brown Bird’s-Eye Maple, front seatback map pockets, rear-seat pass-through to trunk, cruise-control, auto-diming reaview mirror, first aid kit, interior spot-lamp illumination in front and rear, tool kit, dual map lights, sunglass holder, thick cut-pile carpeting, rear pull-down armrest with dual cupholders and storage plus air-vents located behind the center console and under each front seat for rear seat passenger enjoyment.

Besides all of these standard features, you can ‘layer’ luxury in the ES350 by adding the Ultra-Luxury Package, or by selecting from a number of stand alone options which include heated and ventilated front seats, HID headlamps with Adaptive Lenses, and Intuitive Park Assist (IPA).  The IPA system uses ultrasonic sensors to detect objects close to the car’s front and rear bumpers, alerting you and showing distances to objects in   the multi-information display.  The available touch-screen Lexus Navigation System rear back-up camera, revised in 2010, allows you to enter a destination using the updated Voice Command casual-language voice recognition.  The system integrates control for the Lexus Personalized Settings feature and adds Bluetooth phonebook download.  Voice command, a casual-language-based voice recognition feature is standard on navigation-equipped models.  This new technology allows you to give fewer and more flexible, conversational commands in a specific order for easier access to audio, climate, and navigation system functions to help you focus more on the road ahead.  The optional Mark Levinson Audio System is available in conjunction with the navigation system.  This leading-edge design uses 10 channels of amplification with 300 watts total output at only 0.1% total harmonic distortion.  The system plays through 14-speakers in a 7.1-channel surround sound speaker architecture.  The system can play CDs, DVDs, MP3-formatted CDs.  DVD movies can be viewed on the navigation system’s seven-inch touch screen when the car is parked and the parking brake engaged.  The Ultra-Luxury Package includes a panorama glass sunroof, perforated semi-aniline leather-trimmed seating, power rear sunshade, passenger memory, HID/AFS lighting, and a wood/leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob.  Exclusive Liquid graphite-finish 17X7in. 10-spoke alloy wheels add a very distinguished touch.  With all of these standard and optional luxury features you have to say that the all-new ES350 is ‘on-par’ with all of the other Lexus vehicles.

For standard safety, the reinforced front-and-rear-structure passenger compartment forms the foundation for passive safety in the new ES350.  In addition to advanced dual-stage front airbags and front seat-mounted side airbags, the Lexus Supplemental Restraint system includes rear seat-mounted side airbags (previously optional, now standard), side-curtain airbags that extend from A-pillar to C-pillar and a knee airbag for both front seats, for a total of 10-airbags throughout the cabin.  Five 3-point safety belts with pretensioners/load limiters up front, LATCH child anchors, steel beams in each door round out the safety features inside.  The optional Pre-Collision system (PCS) can help reduce collision damage.  The package includes Dynamic Radar Cruise Control which uses millimeter-wave radar to measure and help maintain a pre-set distance from a vehicle traveling ahead.  The multi-information display within the combination meter will show a car icon with the selected following distance.  If, based on a variety of inputs, PCS determines that a collision is unavoidable, the system preemptively retracts the front seat belts and pre-initializes BA so that increased braking will be applied the instant you depress the brake pedal.  Active Braking can automatically apply the brakes up to a deceleration rate of 0.3g if you fail to react to system warnings.

The new ES350 offers an all-new telematics system, Lexus Enform with Safety Connect, available by subscription.  Complimentary one-year trial subscriptions are included on all purchase of new Lexus vehicles equipped with these features.  Both the Lexus Enform and the Safety Connect response center operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week-every day of the year.  Safety Connect is available on both the non-navigation and navigation-equipped ES350 and offers four safety and security features: automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locations, emergency assistance button (SOS) and enhanced roadside assistance, which adds GPS data to the already included warranty-based Lexus roadside service.  Lexus Enform, available only on navigation-equipped vehicles includes all of the Safety Connect features and builds up them with the premium services of Destination Assist and eDestination.  Destination Assist agents are available via the on-board cellular equipment and can help you find a specific address, a business by name, or a type of business.

The all-new 2010 Lexus ES350 has what consumers are looking for when shopping for a fun and easy-to-drive mid-size, luxury sport sedan that is loaded with standard luxury features and a long list of extra luxury available to make the car fit you special needs and wants, at an affordable price compared to many of the other American, Asian and German models.

Test drive one and you’ll agree that this is pure Lexus at it luxury best.

COPYRIGHT:2010:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: Base $35,175 As-Tested $44,848
Type: Midsize Sedan
Where Built: Japan
EPA Class: Midsize Cars

Dimensions

Exterior
Length: 191.1 in.
Width: 71.7 in.
Height: 56.3 in.
Wheel Base: 109.3 in.
Curb Weight: 3605 lbs.

Interior
Front Head Room: 37.4 in.
Front Hip Room: 55.9 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 57.3 in.
Rear Head Room: 36.8 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 56.3 in.
Rear Hip Room: 52.8 in.
Front Leg Room: 42.2 in.
Rear Leg Room: 35.9 in.
Luggage Capacity: 14.7 cu. ft.
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 15 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 5

Performance Data

Base Number of Cylinders: 6
Base Engine Size: 3.5 liters
Base Engine Type: V6
Horsepower: 272 hp
Max Horsepower: 6200 rpm
Torque: 254 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 4700 rpm
Drive Type: FWD
Turning Circle: 36.7 ft.
0-60mph: 6.8 seconds

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 18.5 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Automatic: 19 mpg / 27 mpg / 22 mpg
Range in Miles:
Automatic: 351.5 mi. / 499.5 mi. / 407 mi.

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