Full 2008 Lexus ES 350 Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Lexus ES 350 sees just a couple of changes, including sleeker but smaller sideview mirrors and upgraded interior lighting.
In spite of all the ads you see showing premium-badged sedans blazing down a deserted twisty road, not everyone in the upper-income brackets is a race driver wannabe looking to double his heart rate every time he gets behind the wheel. To the contrary, there are plenty of people who prefer something different when they're in the car -- a more soothing experience when dealing with traffic-clogged commutes, nerve-frazzling construction zones and fussy kids on the way to school. For this silent majority, there's the 2008 Lexus ES 350.
Serenity, not scintillation, best describes the car's personality. As Lexus has been doing with its ES series sedan since the early 1990s, the ES 350 provides exactly what most entry-level luxury customers want -- classy styling, superb build quality, plenty of luxury features and a reputation for safety and reliability -- and delivers it all in a refined, attractive package.
Although the ES 350's V6 is certainly strong and the handling precise, the ES 350 is still not well-suited for driving enthusiasts. If you're looking for an involved, not isolated drive, then luxury sport sedans such as Lexus' own IS series or competitors such as the Acura TL and Infiniti G35 would be more to your liking.
There's also the Chrysler 300C, which has more passenger room and the performance of an available 340-horsepower V8, though its drab, overly plastic interior is absolutely shamed by the beautifully finished ES 350's. We'd also suggest looking at the Hyundai Azera, as it offers a similar design to the ES 350's with a less expensive price as a trade-off for reduced prestige and premium-grade materials.
All of these cars are just alternatives, however. Overall, the 2008 Lexus ES 350 stands tall as just about the ideal entry-luxury sedan. If you're seeking a luxury car that gets just about everything right and provides a calm, quiet respite during commutes, errands and road trips, it doesn't get much better than the ES 350.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Lexus ES 350 is an entry-level luxury sedan that comes in a single, well-equipped trim level. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, 10-way power front seats, real wood accents, keyless entry and starting, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, dual-zone automatic climate control, HomeLink, one-touch up/down windows all around and an eight-speaker audio system with a six-disc, in-dash CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack.
Via a number of available (and usually pricey) packages, Lexus offers most any luxury feature one may desire. Highlights include leather seating, park assist, heated/ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a front seat memory system, adaptive xenon HID headlights, a navigation system (with voice activation), a premium Mark Levinson surround-sound audio and video system, satellite radio, a power rear sunshade and chrome wheels. Summer tires are available to buyers seeking added dry-weather grip over the standard all-season set.
Powertrains and Performance
The ES 350 has a 3.5-liter V6 that develops 272 hp and 254 pound-feet of torque. This power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. In testing, we've found that this smooth and silent powertrain whisks the car to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates, at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, are above average for a 2008 midsize luxury sedan.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control and a full array of airbags (including dual front knee, front-seat side and full-length side curtain) are all standard on the 2008 Lexus ES 350. Rear-seat side airbags and a pre-collision system are optional. The latter option comes into play when an impending collision is sensed (via the components used for the optional adaptive cruise control system) and automatically tightens up the seatbelts and applies full power braking when the driver presses the pedal.
In government crash tests, the ES 350 scored five stars (the highest possible) in the frontal-impact category for both driver and passenger. In side-impact tests, the Lexus scored five stars for front-occupant protection and four for the rear. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests, the ES 350 rated "Good" (the highest possible).
Interior Design and Special Features
With meticulous fit and finish and a warm, classy ambience, the cabin of the ES 350 is a strong example of why Lexus is so highly regarded. All the materials, be they plastic, leather, metal or wood, are of the finest quality, while the numerous luxury features are easy to use. The optional ventilated seats are among the best we've experienced, with plenty of cool air circulating throughout. The ES 350 also offers a roomy backseat and a 14.7-cubic-foot trunk with a pass-through.
As expected, the 2008 Lexus ES 350 provides a soft, absorbent ride, yet provides better control than expected. Road, wind and engine noise are well muted -- this Lexus is one of the quietest cars we've ever tested at freeway cruising speeds. When pushed hard in the corners, there is noticeable body roll but the car remains composed. Most owners will probably never even notice that, as the ES 350 is a quiet, low-stress luxury sedan that makes no pretense of possessing sporting intentions. Those seeking back-road thrills should test-drive its more tautly sprung, though less comfortable and less roomy, IS series siblings.