2022 Lexus ES350 Review

There aren’t many luxury sedans on the market anymore. There are lots of luxury-sport sedans. It’s not a small difference.

Luxury-sport sedans have the amenities and the prestige. They also tend to have firmer-riding suspensions and seats. How else to be sporty?

One of the few that doesn’t try to be sporty (and, for that reason, is more luxurious) is the Lexus ES350 sedan.

What It Is

The ES350 is a medium-large luxury sedan that focuses, laser-like, on comfort. One metric of which is roominess, which the ES has slightly more of than Lexus’ top-of-the-line luxury-sport sedan, and it costs more–$76,000 to start LS500.

You can buy a new ES350 for $40,800 to start and $45,450 with the optional all-wheel-drive system.

It’s also the last Lexus sedan that still comes standard with a V6, other than the LS.

What’s New

The 2022 ES350 features revised exterior styling and a number of functional upgrades, including standard auto-leveling LED headlights, revised rear suspension tuning that Lexus says makes the ES ride even more comfortably. Plus, it has a repositioned closer-to-the-driver LCD touchscreen and Left Turn Intersection Assist, an evolution of the Lane Keep Assist systems already found in many new cars. This one looks out electronically for other cars in your intended travel path and applies countermeasures such as braking/steering correction if needed to avoid a collision.

What’s Good

  • One of the most comfortable and luxurious new cars available.
  • Among the slowest depreciating new cars available, period.
  • The ES350’s standard V6 is itself becoming a luxury.

What’s Not So Good

  • Limited cargo capacity (13.9 cubic feet of trunk space) further limited by rear seat backs that can’t be folded down.
  • A wireless charger for your phone is available but not standard.
  • Some desirable options require stepping up to the more expensive Luxury ($46,200) and Ultra Luxury ($49,800) trims to have access to, including the foot-swipe trunk opener.

Under The Hood

The ES350 isn’t just one of the few luxury sedans you can still buy new, it is also one of the few new sedans — period — that still comes standard with a V6 rather than a turbocharged four.

It displaces 3.5 liters and produces 302 horsepower — which for reference is nearly twice the size of the much smaller — and much less powerful — 2.0 liter fours that come standard in  luxury-sport sedans like the BMW 5 Series (248 hp)  and Mercedes E350 (255 hp).

Both of which also cost about $14k more to start ($54,200 and $54,250 respectively) than the ES350.

An eight speed automatic is standard as is front-wheel-drive but you have the option to go all-wheel-drive, if you’d like more poor weather grip.

Even without it, the FWD Lexus has better poor weather grip than the RWD versions of luxury-sport sedans like the BMW 5 and Mercedes E, since it is better to pull than push (and to have the weight of the drivetrain over the drive wheels) when the road is slick.

Benz and BMW buyers who want more grip have more need of AWD, which inflames the already high cost of those cars to even higher — $56,500 and $56,750 respectively — which is about $10k more than Lexus asks for an AWD-equipped ES with a standard V6.

To get a six in the BMW or the Benz, you’re looking at spending $60k-plus, or some $20k more than it costs to get an ES350 with a six.

Now, it is true that these luxury-sport sedans are . . . sportier. They get to 60 a bit more quickly — just over 5 seconds vs. just over 6 for the Lexus — but not because they’re stronger. They are geared more aggressively, being  . . . sporty. The Lexus would probably be quicker if it had a final drive ratio more aggressive than 2.56 but then, it is not trying to be sporty.

The V6 delivers the luxury of quiet, easy pull — without the sporty power delivery of a little engine being breathed on.

It also delivers about the same — or even slightly better — advertised gas mileage than its turbo-four-powered luxury-sport sort-of-competition: 22 city and 32 highway vs. 25 city, 33 highway for the turbo four-powered BMW 530i and 22 city, 31 highway for the turbo-four-powered Benz E350.

In real-world driving, the Lexus widens the gap — because its V6 doesn’t need the supplementation of boost to deliver the advertised performance. The little fours do. Under boost, they use more gas. And you’ll find you need to boost them regularly, if you want these cars to respond sportily.

On The Road

Interestingly, bigger engines used to be synonymous with luxury.

There was a time (it wasn’t that long ago) when it was expected that spending $50k-plus would buy you at least a V6, if not a V8. It is a measure of our times that almost every $50k-plus car that’s available for 2022 comes standard with a four, the same size engine found in economy cars.

They have been given mouth-to-mouth (so to speak) with turbo boost, to get them to make more power than the four-cylinder engines used in most economy cars. But even if they made as much power as the six-cylinder engines that were once expected in a $50k-plus car (or for that matter, a $40k car) there is still something disappointing about knowing your fancy luxury-sport car has an engine no bigger and not much more potent than the engines in many economy cars.

The ES350 doesn’t make you feel disappointed. There is pride in knowing you have a six and they have fours. Even more so when you reflect upon the happy fact that you paid $14k less for yours.

There is also something to be said for sound.

It isn’t that four-cylinder engines sound bad. Some sound very good. In sports cars, for instance, where high-pitched, high-revving sound are appropriate. But such sounds are as mismatched in a large sedan as a hunting rifle chambered for BBs. This is tacitly conceded by the makers of these large sedans equipped with fours, via sound augmentation technology. More fitting sounds are electronically piped into the car’s cabin, to make it sound as though there is something more than a four under the hood.

Of course, power and acceleration aren’t everything. At least, not in a luxury sedan.

Comfort is.

This is the specialty of the ES350–the thing it does best because it is most focused on doing it while the others focus on trying to be comfortable and sporty, which is like trying to be cold and hot at the same time.

Usually, you end up warm.

The others are as the car press often styles it more “engaging” to drive. They have more grip in the curves when those curves are taken at high speed. Their steering is more sensitive and precise. But their rides are also firmer. You hear more from the shorter/stiffer sidewall tires needed to achieve more grip in the curves when those curves are taken at high speed. You feel more or rather, less in your rear end, which goes numb sooner because the seats haven’t got as much give.

The ES makes the drive more comfortable. It has an easy, unhurried power delivery of the big V6 and its cushioning of the seats doesn’t cinch your shoulder inward with “sporty” bolsters. This is a car that recalls what luxury cars were all about before almost all of them decided they had to try to be sporty, too.

At The Curb

Another metric of luxury is was spaciousness. It still is, in the ES.

Up front, 42.4 inches of leg room for the driver and front seat passenger. In back, just shy of 40 inches for the rear seat occupants, about three inches more than in luxury-sport sedans like the Mercedes E350 (36.2 inches) and BMW 5 (37.5 inches). As mentioned above, the ES has slightly more backseat legroom than Lexus’ full-size luxury-sport sedan, the LS500 has 38.9 inches vs. 39.2 in the more luxurious in this respect, at least, the Lexus flagship.

Inside, you’ll find a revised dash layout intended to make this already very pleasant-to-drive car even more so, via a closer-to-the-driver LCD touchscreen that lets the driver access functions by touch as well as the console-mounted controller. The previous system was not a touchscreen, which was one of the few things one could criticize about the ES350’s ergonomics.

An excellent 10-speaker Pioneer audio system is standard (and still comes standard with a CD player, something that’s become as hard to find in new cars as six-cylinder engines), but it’s money very well spent to spring for the available seventeen speaker, 1,800 watt Mark Levinson PurePremium surround system.

The optional quilted leather (real leather, not faux) seats are also worth the cost.

The Rest

Lexus does offer a four-cylinder-powered version of the ES called the ES250. This one comes standard with the all-wheel-drive system that is extra cost with the V6-equipped ES350.

Interestingly, the price for both (so equipped) is the same $40,800.

There is also a hybrid version of the ES–the ES300h. This one stickers for $41,900 and comes only with FWD. But it does come with an EPA mileage sticker of 43 city and 44 highway.

You can also buy F Sport versions of every ES, but it’s mostly meant to make the ES look sportier. Models so equipped get some body embellishments, larger wheels and some interior themes to spice up the appearance, such as Hadori aluminum-trimmed pedals and an instrument cluster similar to the one on the Lexus LFA supercar. They also get an auto-adjusting suspension with driver-selectable “sport” modes.

But don’t worry, it’s no less luxurious for it.

The one thing you don’t get in any ES is a big trunk–just 13.9-cubic feet small, which is the one objective detraction from this otherwise faultlessly luxurious sedan. It’s a deficit made worse by the fixed rear seat backs, which you can’t fold down to open up more space as you can in many other sedans.

The Bottom Line

In no small way, the ES350 is the last of the Mohicans.

If it had a bigger trunk, it’d be just about perfect.

Eric Peters lives in Virginia and enjoys driving cars and motorcycles. In the past, Eric worked as a car journalist for many prominent mainstream media outlets. Currently, he focuses his time writing auto history books, reviewing cars, and blogging about cars+ for his website EricPetersAutos.com.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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4 Responses to “2022 Lexus ES350 Review”

  1. En Kay says:

    Isn’t the ES350 a Camry mechanical twin?

    • Steve says:

      The ES 350 used to be based on the Camry but now is a sister ship to the longer wheelbase Toyota Avalon. The current ES is 2 inches longer in wheelbase and 4 inches longer overall than the current Camry.

  2. Steve says:

    The author received bad data when criticizing the ES 350 for having, at 13.9 cu. ft., only moderate trunk space. It actually has a class-competitive 16.7 cu. ft. The ES also has more interior space and leg room than the larger and much more expensive Lexus GS and LS sedans (as well as other, high priced, rear wheel drive European luxury sedans in the class). Although similar or even smaller in exterior dimensions than these rivals, the ES is more space efficient due to its front wheel drive architecture.

  3. Steve says:

    Couple of other corrections on data in this article.

    First, it was stated that you must buy the “Luxury” or “Ultra Luxury” trim to get the “wave your foot” automatic trunk opener. I just purchased a 2022 base trim ES 350 with Premium Package and it had the trunk opener as a stand-alone option on the Moroni sticker. Although at $550 it is way overpriced, IMO.

    Second, the author suggests that all wheel drive is standard on the ES 250 with 4 cylinder engine (correct) but then says the AWD costs extra with the V-6. Actually AWD is not, and never has been, available with the V-6. With the larger engine there is not physically enough room in the chassis to package the larger transaxle with the transfer case that is required for AWD. Too bad; that would be a great drivetrain.