The 2012 Lexus ES comes as one model, the ES 350 with a 3.5-liter V6 and front-wheel drive. A near-luxury sedan, the Lexus ES favors ride quality and ease of use over performance.
The Lexus ES 350 is smooth, quiet, sophisticated, competent, and comfortable. It doesn't have the firm ride or quick responses of a German sports sedan, so you can safely sip a cappuccino on the way to work. The ride is smooth and even, the engine is velvety and powerful, the 6-speed automatic transmission is flawless, the comfort is supreme, the trip is quiet, everything works the way it's supposed to, the total experience is superb.
Based on the same platform as the Toyota Camry, the Lexus ES 350 uses front-wheel drive and doesn't offer the sporting qualities of a rear-wheel-drive sports sedan, such as the Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G, and BMW 3 Series.
The ES 350 is quick and responsive, however, benefiting from a silky V6 engine that makes 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Lexus says the ES 350 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, a solid performance.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 19/28 mpg City/Highway or 22 mg Combined, on regular gas. In one week of driving, we got 23.4 mpg running it over 70 on the freeway, and 26.0 mpg running it no more than 70. The ES 350 is certified Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle II.
There are no changes for 2012. The Lexus ES was last redesigned for the 2007 model year, and freshened for 2010. The current model is getting long in the tooth and is about due for a redesign.
The 2012 Lexus ES 350 ($36,725) comes with leather seating surfaces and trim, 10-way power front seats; power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; dual-zone automatic climate control; power glass sunroof; eight-speaker AM/FM/6CD, XM Satellite Radio, and MP3/iPod input jack; programmable SmartAccess keyless entry; and all the other amenities one would expect. Tires are P215/55R17 all-season radials on 17-inch split five-spoke alloy wheels.
Option packages: The Lexus Premium Audio with Navigation ($2,465) includes Bluetooth, HDD Navigation with touch-screen, rear-view camera, Lexus Enform with Destination Assist, eDestination and Safety Connect, Lexus Insider, voice command casual language recognition, XM NavTraffic and NavWeather, and XM Sports/Stocks. The Navigation System/Mark Levinson Audio Package includes all the features of the Premium Audio with Navigation, and adds Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio with DVD Audio/Video, 14 speakers, and 5.1-channel playback.
The Ultra-Luxury Package includes 10-spoke alloy wheels, black and saddle interior with double-contrast stitching for seats and trim, High Intensity Discharge headlamps with Adaptive Front Lighting, a panorama glass roof, power rear sunshade, semi-aniline interior, and wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob.
Other options include wood and leather shift knob ($330), heated and ventilated front seats ($640), Intuitive Park Assist, High Intensity Discharge headlamps, and the Lexus Pre-Collision System. Additional options and accessories are available.
Safety features that come standard on the ES 350 include dual front airbags, dual front knee airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags (for torso protection), curtain airbags (for head protection), electronic stability control, traction control, antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), brake assist, and a tire-pressure monitor. A two-chamber passenger airbag is designed to stop the passenger's upper body and torso with minimal facial contact and neck stress on deployment. The optional Pre-Collision System includes a radar-based cruise control that automatically maintains a preset distance between the ES 350 and the car ahead. If the system senses an imminent collision, it retracts all the outboard seatbelts and initializes the brake system for full panic-braking power.