When I told the team at Lexus that my daughter and I were heading down to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs for a short holiday, it was a nice surprise when they came through with a suitably luxurious car for our drive down to the Springs, a car that would fit in perfectly with all the cars driven by people staying at one of the very few five-star luxury hotels in Colorado. The car they dropped off was the 2016 Lexus 9000A ES350 4-Door Sedan, and it’s absolutely gorgeous and a real pleasure to drive.
First stop was the Air Force Academy, an impressive facility on a huge, secure facility:
Now that you can see its lovely lines, here are some specs: The 2016 9000A ES350 has a 3.5 liter 268HP V6 engine with 18″ wheels and the “usual” array of safety gear, including antilock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist smart stop tech, push button start and three drive modes (Eco, Normal and Sport). The premium audio system features mp3 support, 8 speakers, bluetooth, USB, SiriusXM and darn nice sound. You can get plenty more specs if you’re into that on the Lexus site, of course. I’m not one to worry about the tech details of a car, I am much more interested in the aesthetic, the experience of driving and spending time in a vehicle, and after a run of SUVs to evaluate, it was a pleasure to be in a luxury sedan.
However, I have to admit that I think SUVs have ruined one aspect of a sedan: I don’t really like getting in and out of the car. It feels low, close to the ground, and getting out in particular is a bit of an effort versus my Highlander. The last vehicle of this nature I drove was the Chevy Cruz and I ended up twisting my hip. It’s not at all because I’m no longer 25yo, of course. 🙂
Instead, as someone who writes about consumer electronics almost non-stop at AskDaveTaylor.com, I like to explore the electronics on board, starting with the entertainment console (aka “the nav system”). Here’s what that looks like on the ES350:
In this particular view, it’s split into three sections, top left is the audio program, lower left is the trip information display, and the right side is the navigational map showing current location. Note on the very top you can also see some information from my Apple iPhone, connected to the system via Bluetooth.
There’s more to the trip information display that every quant is going to love:
If you’re like me and want to learn how to maximize your fuel efficiency while driving a vehicle, this sort of display can be quite beneficial as you experiment with different acceleration and braking techniques to get that MPG as high as possible.
The reverse camera is a pretty typical display but it struck me in the Lexus that it’s a bit hard to figure out what the different color grids are supposed to convey. Is my car backing up into the yellow or blue box?
Fortunately I didn’t crash into anything testing out the reverse camera. That would have been awkward!
With all these features, Lexus uses a sort of flat joystick as the primary mechanism for interacting with the entertainment and information system, as you can see in the below photo:
There’s a “Menu” and “Home” button, but it’s the flat square control that you use the most and I have to admit that even after a week, I found it annoying, particularly when there were a lot of options on screen, as happens when entering an address for the navigational system, for example. Perhaps with a few more weeks use I’d get more accustomed to the system, but as is, I just found it more difficult than a touchscreen would have been.
On the positive side, the Lexus ES-350 includes not only heated and air-conditioned seats, but a few other nifty controls:
The left button is the heated steering wheel – very swanky! – but I couldn’t figure out what the right button did until I accidentally pushed it and suddenly noticed that a black mesh sunscreen had shown up to cut down the glare from the back windshield. That’s what the button does, and I’ve never driven a car with this feature before. Pretty cool, actually!
One more really slick bit of engineering: The sunroof opens unlike any I’ve ever seen:
Looks like one of the engineers might have been watching too many late night sci-fi movies, but it’s actually quite cool and very quiet when opened.
All in all, my daughter and I really loved the Lexus ES-350 4-door sedan and are sorry to return it to Lexus. It’s not functional in the way an SUV lets you drag things to and fro, but it’s so much more luxurious, so much quieter on a drive, and easily one of the most beautiful vehicles in any parking lot.
The 2016 Lexus 9000A ES-350 4-Door Sedan, $49,160.00 as configured, including delivery and handling fee. Lexus.com
Disclosure: Lexus loaned us the car for a week to drive and experience it. And boy did I like it!