Used 2016 Lexus ES 350 Sedan Review

If you're looking for relaxed, serene transportation in an entry-level luxury sedan, the 2016 Lexus ES 350 is a fine choice. There are many excellent sedans in this price range, though, and you might prefer the driving experience or the technology interface in some of its rivals.




what's new

For 2016, the Lexus ES 350 gets improved sound-deadening in the cabin, a number of minor interior tweaks and freshened front and rear styling. Bi-LED headlights are a new option, while a revised safety package features an updated version of Lexus' pre-collision system with pedestrian detection capability. The panoramic sunroof is now available as an individual option.

vehicle overview

If you're shopping for an entry-level luxury sedan, you'll come up with a diverse list of eligible cars ranging in dimensions from compact to full-size. The sheer number of choices can be overwhelming, but it's fairly easy to decide whether the 2016 Lexus ES 350 belongs on your short list. The ES has no high-performance inclinations, so if you want a sporty near-luxury sedan, this isn't it. Instead, this entry-level Lexus is a spacious, well-built sedan that prioritizes comfort above all else.

The 2016 Lexus ES 350 continues to serve as a yardstick for the entry-level luxury car class.

Lexus hasn't made many changes for 2016 apart from the car's restyled front end and newly optional bi-LED headlights, but the ES 350's long-standing appeal as a feature-laden midsize luxury cruiser remains. Its standard V6 engine purrs rather than growls, and does so at all speeds without a hint of coarseness. Ride quality is well mannered and refined, and while there's nothing overtly sporty about the ES, its steering is precise and the big sedan feels steady around turns. Inside, the 2016 Lexus ES 350 swaddles its driver and passengers in quiet, polished comfort. There's ample room front and rear, and interior materials and fit and finish are top-flight. The only major annoyance here is the Remote Touch controller (included with the optional navigation system) that we've found clumsy and distracting to use while driving.

If you're shopping in this segment, one of the best overall options is the Hyundai Genesis, which delivers credible luxury on par with premium-brand German sedans. Another solid contender is the well-rounded Acura TLX, and both it and the Genesis offer optional all-wheel drive. If you're leaning toward something sportier, the 2016 Nissan Maxima is worth a look. Or, for something more traditional, consider Cadillac's XTS, which is every bit as comfortable as the ES 350 and available with all-wheel drive as well. But overall, we believe the Lexus ES 350 still serves as an entry-level luxury sedan benchmark. For those shoppers seeking comfy and luxurious transportation, it's a pretty good place to start.

trim levels & features

The 2016 Lexus ES 350 is a midsize-to-large luxury sedan that seats five people.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, three driver-adjustable drive settings, LED headlights (low-beam setting only), running lights and foglights, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, heated mirrors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats (with two-way adjustable lumbar), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, perforated premium vinyl upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera and Safety Connect emergency communications. Also standard is the Display Audio interface (includes a 7-inch touchscreen and multipurpose control knob), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free (iPhone voice control integration) and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

A luxuriously appointed, well-equipped cabin is a Lexus hallmark, and the 2016 ES 350 doesn't disappoint.

There are many options and packages available, but availability can vary depending on where you live.

The Navigation package includes a larger 8-inch display screen, the mouselike Remote Touch electronics interface, a navigation system, voice controls, enhanced Bluetooth connectivity, text-to-speech functionality and the Enform suite of smartphone-connected apps and concierge services (including Lexus Enform Remote, which allows you to control certain functions with your smartphone). A 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system can be added to the Navigation package. The Safety System+ package includes adaptive cruise control, a frontal collision warning system (the Lexus pre-collision system), a lane departure warning system with steering assist and automatic high-beam headlight control.

The Premium package adds driver memory settings, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and wood trim. The Luxury package adds that equipment plus parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery and a power rear window sunshade. The Ultra Luxury package adds the Premium and Luxury packages' equipment plus automatic wipers, a power-operated trunk lid, a panoramic sunroof, manual rear door sunshades, ambient interior lighting, a heated steering wheel, a power driver seat cushion extender and passenger seat memory functions.

Depending on which packages you select, you'll often be required to purchase specific stand-alone options as well. The list includes 18-inch wheels, upgraded bi-LED headlights, a blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning system, front and rear parking sensors and many of the Ultra Luxury package's extra items.

performance & mpg

The 2016 Lexus ES 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard. The EPA's estimated fuel economy is 24 mpg combined (21 city/31 highway).

During Edmunds testing, a Lexus ES 350 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, which is an average time for the class.

safety

Every 2016 Lexus ES 350 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side and side curtain airbags, and front knee airbags. Also included are a rearview camera and Lexus Safety Connect (automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location and an emergency assist button).

The Lexus Safety System+ package bundles the pre-collision system, lane departure warnings (with steering assist to help keep the car centered in its lane), adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlight control. The pre-collision system is a fairly basic frontal collision warning system, though it does have the ability to apply the brakes automatically in a potential collision situation and, for 2016, it's able to detect pedestrians in addition to other vehicles.

Other optional equipment includes front and rear parking sensors and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts.

In Edmunds brake testing, the ES came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet, which is around average.

In government crash testing, the ES 350 earned a perfect five-star rating for its overall performance, with five stars for total frontal-crash protection and side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the ES the highest possible rating of "Good" in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design also was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

driving

The 2016 Lexus ES 350 delivers a refined driving experience bolstered by a V6 engine that's smooth and responsive. At highway speeds, the cabin remains remarkably silent, mostly devoid of wind, road or engine noise. Bumps and ruts in the road are also nicely absorbed. However, don't expect complete isolation from road imperfections, as the ES 350 is tuned to deliver more of a balance between out-and-out comfort and handling precision.

Through turns, the steering is commendably accurate for a big sedan. Still, the steering feels a little light in "Normal" mode and many drivers might prefer the ES 350's Sport mode, as it provides a welcome increase in steering effort.

Reshaped exhaust tips are meant to give the rear of the 2016 ES 350 a more refined appearance.

interior

The 2016 Lexus ES 350's cabin is modern and stylish. The analog clock in the center of the dash is a classy touch that breaks up the otherwise high-tech environment. There are new interior colors and trim materials for 2016, including a matte-finish bamboo trim and "flaxen" upholstery combo that makes things look positively Swedish. Of course, the richness of the materials varies depending on whether you opt for leather or stick with the standard perforated vinyl, but either way, build quality is excellent.

The climate controls are simple to use, but the audio system is a little more complicated due to the sheer number of available media types. This is true whether you get the standard Display Audio touchscreen/multipurpose knob controller, or upgrade to the Lexus Remote Touch system included with the Navigation package. The latter is essentially a mouselike device that controls a cursor on a large centrally located screen. Although interacting with this interface is very similar to using a computer mouse, the ultra-sensitive nature of the controller can make it clumsy and distracting to use while driving. For 2016, Lexus has added separate "Enter" buttons on each side of the mouse in hopes of improving ease of use, but we haven't yet tested the revised setup. If tech features are important to you, we recommend playing around with Remote Touch before taking an ES 350 home.

The troublesome, mouselike knob remains in the 2016 ES 350, though Lexus has added "Enter" buttons on the sides.

Space is ample all around, and 6-footers will be quite content in the comfy front seats. Rear seat legroom, in particular, is very impressive, though taller occupants will find their heads touching the roof in ES 350s equipped with the optional panoramic sunroof. The trunk offers 15.2 cubic feet of space, which is average for this class. The rear seats do not fold down, however, and only a pass-through is offered.

Rear seat legroom is generous, but headroom is a little snug and the seats do not fold.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.