CARS.COM — The Lexus ES 350 appeals to shoppers looking for the finer things in life without breaking the bank. The redesigned 2017 Buick LaCrosse is trying to catch shoppers' attention with a fresh design that puts the ES 350 squarely in its sights.
The LaCrosse now has a sleeker appearance, and it is longer, lower and wider. Like the previous LaCrosse, the new one is available with front- or all-wheel drive. For 2017, the ES 350's styling remains the same, but it gains as standard equipment precollision braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high beams.
The LaCrosse starts at $32,990. To get into an ES 350, you'll need more money: The starting price is $39,875 (prices include destination). The vehicles tested included a front-wheel-drive LaCrosse and a front-drive ES 350 with a V-6 engine. Here is how they compare.
On the Road
The LaCrosse: All models use a new 310-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission that provide smooth, responsive acceleration, but the LaCrosse is more impressive when equipped with the 20-inch wheels and adaptive suspension available on Essence and Premium versions. Models with the standard 18-inch wheels have a supple, absorbent ride and are whisper quiet at highway speeds, almost like an electric car.
The ES 350: The 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 delivers strong, smooth acceleration, and the six-speed automatic transmission shifts crisply and promptly. Ride quality is impressive, with an absorbent suspension that provides steady, relaxed highway cruising. Handling, though, is less impressive, and the ES 350 shows no pretense of being a sports sedan. Noise levels are surprisingly high, and road noise is intrusive for the luxury class.
The winner? The LaCrosse edges out its competitor.
The LaCrosse: The interior is roomy enough to accommodate 6-footers in the backseat, but it lacks the quality materials expected of a near-luxury car, with fake wood and low-grade door panels that are more appropriate for a family sedan; the optional leather upholstery, though, is plush. The trunk has 15 cubic feet of space, and Buick says it can hold four bags of golf clubs. The standard split rear seat folds for extra cargo room.
The ES 350: Materials are first-rate throughout the interior, and it offers the space of a full-size car, with enough room in the rear seat for many adults to stretch their legs. On the inside, the ES 350 looks and feels like a luxury sedan. At 15.2 cubic feet, the trunk is large and usable, but there isn't a folding backseat in the ES. It has only a small pass-through opening for long items.
The winner? The ES 350 comes in with its first category win.
Technology and Entertainment
The LaCrosse: The multimedia system has a large touchscreen complemented by tuning buttons and a volume knob instead of gimmicky touch-sensitive buttons. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, along with in-car Wi-Fi and an OnStar 4G LTE data plan (subscription required). One electronic feature that disappoints is the gear selector. It resembles a conventional shift lever but requires nonintuitive steps — such as moving the lever left and then forward — to engage gears.
The ES 350: The multimedia system lacks a touchscreen, and a mouse-type controller operates a cursor-driven menu system that is awkward to use and distracting while driving. Moreover, parent company Toyota has nixed Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so only a limited number of phone apps can operate through the audio system. The optional Mark Levinson stereo costs a hefty $2,590 but provides great clarity and ear-pleasing quality.
The winner? The LaCrosse hits the right notes here.
The LaCrosse: If you can overlook the interior's so-so materials, the redesigned LaCrosse has a lot to offer: A smooth, refined powertrain and a luxury-car driving experience; a choice of front- or all-wheel drive; a well-designed multimedia system; and an available adaptive suspension. On the downside, the latter is available only on the more-expensive models, as is forward collision warning with automatic braking.
The ES 350: The spacious ES is low on excitement but comes with luxury furnishings and an impressive list of standard safety features, including forward collision warning. It comes up short in noise levels and with a clumsy, almost antiquated multimedia system that lacks features many buyers desire, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Perhaps the ES 350's strongest trait is that it is a safe choice. For years, it has offered reliable, dependable service for buyers looking for an upscale sedan.
The winner? The LaCrosse racks up another category win.
If luxury trimmings are your priority, look at the Lexus. But as an overall package the LaCrosse, hits more points.
Editor's note: The Review Faceoff compares two competitors from the same car class that were tested at different times.