PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Come along as we take a spin through frond-fringed passages of Palm Springs in what surely scores as one the most sophisticated mid-size luxury sedans on our planet: It's the elite ES 350 from Lexus, up-shoot luxury brand from Toyota of Japan.
This stunning machine, refreshed on the sleek and sensuous exterior package with a bold rendition of the Lexus spindle grille plus standard LED headlamps and other premium design features added to the models of 2016, also gains upgraded interior finishes for the passenger compartment along with the available Lexus Safety System+ Package which includes a Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
As the only Lexus sedan rigged with front-wheel-drive traction, the ES has always been the middle-size staple sedan in the Lexus line. Origins trace to the debut of Lexus for the North American market with the 1990 ES 250 employing the platform and powertrain of Toyota's mid-size Camry sedan, followed two years later with the upgraded ES 300 replacement. New generational versions emerged in 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2013, resulting in a larger and more powerful product bearing the badge of ES 350 to reflect a powerful 3.5-liter V6 aboard.
The 3.5-liter V6 -- Toyota's impressive 2GR-FE aluminum-block plant -- has dual camshafts with dual VVT-i (variable valve timing with intelligence) to optimize cam timing and maximize power production at all engine speeds. As a result, it romps with 268 hp at 6200 rpm and the torque rising to 228 lb-ft at 4700 rpm.
Lexus track tests indicate the ES 350 is capable of quick times -- zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and across the quarter-mile mark in 15.1 seconds, with its maximum speed electronically limited to 130 mph.
Sole transmission is a Lexus 6-speed automatic electronically controlled with intelligent shift control (ECT-i) and sequential shifting -- pull the console-mounted shift lever to the left, then tip it forward to move up the gear ladder one step at a time, or click it backward to shift down that ladder.
With the 6-speed ECT-i automatic in play, the 2016 ES 350 earns EPA fuel economy estimated scores of 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
The 2016 ES 350 represents the largest ES to date. Its platform has a 111-inch wheelbase length with the overall body length stretching to 193.3 inches and a body width of 71.1 inches. The volume of the passenger compartment tallies to 100.1 cubic feet as the trunk encompasses 15.2 cubic feet.
Elaborate safety systems, either passive or active, appear in the 2016 ES 350. On tap to help stop the vehicle are four disc brakes tied to the anti-lock brake system with electronic brake-force distribution. Additional electronic vehicle controls include vehicle stability control, which corrects lateral skidding, plus traction control to check wheel spin and a brake assist system to add maximum braking pressure during an emergency stop.
That oval L-letter badge on the front grille of this car signifies it comes from the automaker that redefines the meaning for control of NVH (noise/vibration/harshness) and passenger comfort. As a result, the 5-seat cabin of the ES 350 is draped in NuLuxe perforated upholstery or optional fine leather plus glossy hardwood and aluminum trimwork. New wood trim color choices include Linear Dark Mocha, Illustrious Piano Black and Bamboo.
Standard equipment includes automatic climate controls, a power tilt-and-slide moonroof, power-adjustable exterior mirrors with turn signals and defoggers, remote-linked power window and moonroof opening and Lexus Personalized Settings to customize many electronic functions.
Two bucket seats up front flank a center console where the automatic shifter gate mounts. The driver's seat moves ten ways under power control, as does the front passenger's seat. In the rear, a 3-person bench has sculptured sections for two and a center fold-down armrest with cupholders.
Add-on equipment packages -- Premium, Luxury and Ultra Luxury -- bring more amenities, as does the Navigation Package which adds the navigation system with a voice recognition system, backup monitor, Bluetooth streaming audio and HD Radio with iTunes tagging.
And the Mark Levinson Audio Package nets the Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio with DVD-audio/video, 15 speakers and 5.1-channel surround.
Lexus sets the entry-level MSRP for a 2016 ES 350 at $38,000.