When Lexus introduced the ES 250 back in 1989, they more or less defined today’s “near luxury” sedan segment. Mid-size four-doors with all the amenities of full-up luxury cars, at prices that fit aspirational budgets. But after 17 years virtually every luxury brand has a similar entry level offering, so the competition is fierce. Well, now Lexus has introduced the 2007 ES 350. It may be all-new, but is it still the benchmark?

The term near-luxury sedan has been almost synonymous with the Lexus ES through four generations of cars. But now Lexus wants to push the ES well beyond previous expectations with the all-new 2007 ES 350. But how do you make the fifth generation ES stand out in the super-competitive near-luxury segment? Why technology, of course!

Wrapped up inside its clean, sculpted, elegant lines is even more technology than the current flagship LS 430. It starts up front with the optional Intelligent Adaptive headlights where the left and right beams turn together as you enter a corner, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with pre-collision warning, which maintains a safe distance from the car ahead. The front side windows have a special water repellant surface to improve visibility, while up top is an optional Panorama glass sunroof, which extends over the entire cabin and slides open above the front seats.

The cabin itself is larger and much more luxurious, with standard and optional features that you would expect to find only on top models, starting with rich, real wood accents on the restyled dash, doors, and power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and a new push-to-start SmartAccess keyless ignition system. The incredibly comfortable 10-way power seats are available with cloth or leather upholstery and both heat and ventilation if you so wish.

There is the newest rendition of the clear, precise Optitron gauges for basic information,
while basic up front comfort comes from dual-zone automatic climate controls.

And for everyone, high-end audio systems that start with an MP3 capable 6-disc CD system, and top out at an optional 300-watt 14-speaker Mark Levinson system with a navigation system that will also play DVDs, but only when you’re parked.

The back seat is very roomy, and features a cargo pass-through and power retractable rear sunshade. For occupant protection there are eight standard airbags including front knee, side impact and side curtain airbags, plus optional rear side impact airbags.  Trunk space is generous, measuring a full-size 14.7 cubic-feet.

Luxury motivation comes from the same 3.5-liter dual-cam V6 used in the 2007 Toyota Camry, but slightly uprated to 272 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque.

The sole transmission is a 6-speed automatic, which moves the ES along in a silky smooth manner. We first hit the road in the ES at its press introduction in Hawaii, and as in the Camry, were very impressed with the quick-revving V6 for its wide power band and refined feel. 0 to 60 is fairly rapid at 6.8 seconds.

Also like Camry, with which it shares basic chassis components, the ES 350 handles a bit better than its predecessor. That is composed, predictable, and soft. All-season 55-series 17-inch tires are standard.

While all this is fine for most owners, a European-style Sport package, with lessons learned from the new IS, would suit us and perhaps younger buyers better. On the other hand, ride quality is near LS-levels, and interior noise levels are among the lowest of any sedan on the planet.

Driving aids such as traction control, electronic stability control, and tire pressure monitoring are all standard. And when the drive ends the ES can even help you park. Optional Park Assist uses sonar for guidance, while the navigation system includes a rearview camera.

But with so many features is the ES 350 still entry level priced? Well, the base sticker is $33,170, barely more than the previous car. But options can push the ES well into another price class. So if you are prudent, the vastly enhanced ES can provide the most bang, or should we say technology, for the buck of any car in its class.

The ES 350 is clearly the most sophisticated near-luxury sedan yet. While we wish there was a little more sport in the equation, that won’t matter to most prospective owners. When it comes to world-class luxury standards, the 2007 Lexus ES 350 has already gone from near, to far.


  • Engine: 3.5-Liter Dual-cam V6
  • Horsepower: 272
  • Torque: 254 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 6.8 Seconds