Can a true luxury car be front wheel drive? German manufacturers may argue not. But since 1989, the Lexus ES has been a force to be reckoned with in the luxury marketplace. No longer encumbered by its midsize origins, this car is a true full size sedan.
The sixth generation ES launched with the 2013 model year as the Lexus ES 350. The most prominent feature is the spindle shaped grille, which has become the new face of the brand. The styling is unassuming and pleasant, and Lexus has kept the wheels conservative at 17”. This helps fuel economy and keeps the ride very smooth.
Up front are two supportive buckets with 10-way adjustability. Between them sits one of the best center consoles in the automotive world. Cavernous storage is topped by a supple leather-trimmed armrest. Moving forward, the console rises into a wrist support for the remote touch control pad. It may not be symmetrical, but this little touch goes a long way in driver comfort. While many of the more expensive cars tend to forego cup holders, the ES 350 makes ample use. The center console has two, the door panels have two, and there are two more in the rear armrest.
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Without a driveshaft hump, the rear floor is almost flat, a feature the rear wheel drive competition can’t replicate. This translates into plenty of rear legroom. The rear bench is comfortable for two adults, and the headrests are supportive without blocking rear visibility. Speaking of visibility, there are no blind spots. The mirrors are huge and feature blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Overall, the interior layout is very logical. Controls for the audio, climate control and other features are symmetrical and in the correct places. New for 2014, bamboo trim is featured on the dash, steering wheel, shifter and door panels. The light color of the wood does wonders in visually breaking up the black panels. An eight speaker audio system has well placed drivers, and is geared to high and mid-range clarity.
As usual with Lexus, the engine was silent and smooth at idle. Transmission shifts are just as smooth with the only indication being the movement of the tachometer. Front wheel drive normally lends itself to torque steer and mid-corner madness, but there was none to be found. Manually sequential shifting is possible by pulling the lever into the sport quadrant.
Beyond the numbers, there are many easily overlooked aspects that combine to make this a great car. Double paned window glass, triple door seals and a powered rear sunshade are features normally found on cars twice as expensive. Forget what you thought you knew about Front Wheel Drive, the ES 350 can’t be beat.