I never truly understood the meaning of the term “easy street” until I got behind the wheel of a Lexus ES 350. Everything in this sedan is easy, from the way it drives and handles to the stereo and climate controls. It’s easy to fall in love with, too. A car like this makes me feel mature and glamorous and all kinds of things I’m not but wish I were.
The ES is a pleasure to drive, with more power than I’d ever need and a ride that literally glides over the road. Even potholes are barely noticeable. What’s even more amazing is that, as smooth as the ride is over bumps, it tightens up in turns to keep the tires glued to the pavement. In traffic or at high speeds, the car requires almost no thought to drive. The ES 350 makes every street easy street.
I was living on easy street the whole time I had the ES 350 at my disposal. As much as I enjoyed the way it drives, I also enjoyed the utility of this sedan. The huge trunk made my grocery load look minimal and would fit a couple of small bikes with no problem. The proximity key makes opening the doors and starting the car almost magical; buttons on the outside of the doors allow me to lock them as I go so I never need to find the key fob hiding in the depths of my purse. Which is good, because I really don’t want to know what else is hiding down there.
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
SENSE AND STYLE Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove On
The incredibly quiet interior of the ES 350 is a serene haven from the chaos of life with kids. The perforated leather seats are heated and air conditioned and adjust in 10 ways, including a power lumbar support. Both front seats have three memory positions, so once you set your preference, you don’t have to worry if the guys at the carwash mess with it.
The leather on the steering wheel and gearshift is buttery soft and lovely to hold on to. One feature that never grows old for me is a power-retracting steering wheel. The wheel retracts up and away from the driver when the engine is turned off, making getting in and out a breeze. When you turn the engine back on, the wheel returns to its previous position. How helpful is that? All the controls are easily within reach, and the color touch-screen makes everything simple. Dual climate control means no fighting over the perfect temperature, and the available Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package means the soundtrack of your life happens in your own personal concert hall, even if it is just the Wiggles playing.
The backseat is roomy, with plenty of legroom for grown-up people, and it’s wide enough for three kids to buckle up without anyone getting squished. Carpool day was no hardship; even with three backpacks on the floor, everyone was happy. Perhaps the kids were just mesmerized by the giant panoramic moonroof. My test car came with two, count ’em, two sunroofs. One, over the front seat, tilts and slides open, while the other is just for the view. Both have retractable covers so you can create shade whenever you need to. For even more weather control, a power sunshade slides up the rear window at the push of a button. Of course, when the car is put into Reverse the sunshade automatically slides out of the way for an unimpeded view. Who thinks of these things? Amazing.
The ES 350 isn’t just easy to drive, it’s easy on the eyes, too. It looks rich, elegant and classy, which is more than I can say for myself. The chrome used on the grille, door handles and window trim provides just the right amount of sparkle without going over the top. With the panoramic glass roof, there’s almost a two-tone effect as the glass has a dark tint to keep things cool inside. From outside, it doesn’t look like two separate sunroofs, even though it is. It looks like the entire top of the car is made of glass. The windows are also tinted, giving the ES that Hollywood look of mystery. I mean, there must be someone important riding behind that dark glass, right? Oh, that’s right – it’s me, living on easy street! And that tint isn’t just for looks: It’s UV-reducing, so it keeps me looking as fabulous as my ride.
The doors open wide enough for little legs to climb in without an assist, and they’re easy for little hands to manage because they’re not too heavy. I found the trunklid to be surprisingly light. The mirrors are power-adjustable and have defoggers and puddle lamps that illuminate the outside of the car so you won’t step in that puddle wearing your fancy new shoes. Or in my case, flip-flops, but the benefit remains.
There are so many cool safety features in the ES 350 I could fill pages telling you about them. In fact, that’s just what Lexus does in its owner’s manual, so I’ll just hit the highlights here. Twelve airbags hide subtly inside this sedan ready, to poof out at need, but that’s not the cool part. What’s great is that the car has a sophisticated sensor system that tells it which airbags are necessary and whether or not the front passenger is tall enough to benefit from deployment. Traction and stability control systems help keep you on the road in less-than-ideal situations, and computerized braking helps during emergency braking to enhance control. There are two Latch positions that are hidden but accessible, allowing two car seats to be installed in the outboard backseat positions. Booster seats are a bit more difficult, as they tend to slide over the seat belt receptacle, making it hard for little ones to buckle themselves in.
A backup camera is a big help in parking lots, as is a park-assist system that sounds a warning when the car gets too close to an obstacle, like a short wall that may not be visible from the driver’s seat. The automatic headlights sport high-intensity lamps and rotate to illuminate the road around curves. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found it helpful to see where I’m going. Like I said, the ES 350 makes things easy.