The 2012 Lexus ES 350 will never rank among the top enthusiast cars, but that doesn't stop it from getting an impressive Total Car Score. What the ES lacks in driving thrills it more than makes up for with tranquility and comfort. It represents luxury transport for those who don't want to flaunt it.
This front-drive, mid-size sedan is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that does its best not to unsettle any octogenarian passengers, but is happy to tick away like a Swiss watch. That feeling of classy reliability pervades throughout the rest of the car, since its quiet cabin contains leather seating and wood trim, plus the chance to enjoy options like a high-end, highly engaging Mark Levinson audio system and ventilated front seats.
The highest compliment reviewers can pay the chassis is to call it competent and predictable. But accepting that the ES fulfills an entirely different function, the only gripe is that loading up on options really gets expensive.
This generation of ES (the fifth) debuted in 2006, with a mid-cycle refresh three years ago, so an all-new model may be on the cards in the next couple of years. In the meantime, all that's new for the 2012 Lexus ES is a limited run (2,000 units) of a Touring Edition with a higher level of standard equipment and some cosmetic differentiation.
The 2012 Lexus ES 350 sedan comes as just one model in one well-equipped trim level. The inventory of standard equipment runs to dual-zone climate control, heated mirrors, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, keyless entry and engine on/off, plenty of wood and leather, puddle lamps, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and iPod integration.
On the long options list are adaptive headlights, voice-activated navigation, heated/ventilated front seats, parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, seat memory for the front passenger, a rear-view camera, a power rear sunshade, a wood-trimmed steering wheel, and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.
Safety-wise, there are traction and stability controls, side airbags front and rear, side curtain airbags, and front knee airbags as standard. There's also a pre-collision system available that uses radar to detect any imminent catastrophe, tighten the seat belts and prime the brakes. The optional Lexus Enform communications system can also notify emergency services after an accident.
Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6, developing 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. It pairs up to a six-speed automatic transmission and drives the front wheels.
EPA ratings for the 2012 Lexus ES 350 are 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
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