By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 8.7
The ES was Lexus’ second offering in the U.S., but in terms of sales it plays second fiddle only to the hot-selling RX crossover SUV. While it’s true a BMW 5 Series or Cadillac CTS offer a more engaging ride, not every luxury car buyer is also a driving enthusiast. In the Lexus ES sedan for 2016, owners will find a premium automobile that places an emphasis on comfort without completely sacrificing the performance aspects expected of this class. From its L finesse design language to its excellent repair and reliability record to the hybrid’s 40-plus mpg, the ES is the closest thing to a sure bet in the luxury sedan world.
Lexus’ ES 350 and ES 300h luxury sedans for 2016 appeal to buyers who demand their luxury cars not only pamper and please, but also hold excellent value over time. The only sacrifice asked of the ES owner may be the small amount of trunk space surrendered to the hybrid’s battery pack.
If your idea of a luxury sedan includes world-class driving dynamics, the 2016 ES from Lexus probably won’t float your boat. Rear-drive animals like the BMW 5 Series, Cadillac CTS and even the Chrysler 300 can only satisfy such cravings.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2016 Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h hybrid receive a revised front end with a more dramatic spindle grille, standard LED headlights and more standard features. Also standard is the Safety System Plus suite that includes collision warning, lane-departure warning, radar-guided cruise control and intelligent high beam.
If a serene ride and a quiet cabin are your idea of luxury, the 2016 Lexus ES 350 luxury sedan and 300h hybrid luxury sedan are a perfect fit. Beyond...
... their sophisticated road manners, both ES models provide excellent acceleration, with the gasoline-powered ES 350 reaching 60 mph in just over seven seconds. For those who occasionally like to push the limits, the ES’ Sport mode makes transmission shifts more aggressive, providing better performance for passing and merging. This same option on the hybrid is even more appealing, perhaps due to the added boost in torque from the electric-assist motor. If you go with the hybrid, you’ll find the electric-to-gasoline transitions nearly imperceptible. However, when we switched to Eco mode, the throttle response was dulled and the powertrain felt uncertain.
Where some hybrid EPA estimates seem like laboratory-only probabilities, the 2016 Lexus ES 300h is the real deal. Without even trying, the 40-mpg combined average was a regular occurrence in our tests.
Lexus is never one to short customers on luxury items, even on its lowest priced models. Our ES came equipped with a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof and an 835-watt, 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, the last leaving our jaws agape and our ears ringing.
The 2016 Lexus ES 350 luxury sedan interior boasts upscale materials and the exacting fit and finish we expect in Lexus vehicles. All models offer a centrally mounted screen above the center air vents, operated by the mouse-like Remote Touch system on the center console. The drive-mode selector is a knob in front of the shift handle, allowing drivers to switch among Normal, Sport or Eco modes, and with the push of a button, 300h hybrid models can drive a short distance on battery power alone. The seats are comfortable for four adults thanks to a roomy back seat.
When the current-generation Lexus ES debuted a couple years ago, we were amazed that the once-conservative sedan had taken on the bold new look of the Lexus "spindle" grille. With the revised front end this year, the 2016 Lexus ES and ES hybrid fall right in line with the sporty Lexus IS and RC. And we like it. The flared fenders and narrow windows give this Lexus a slightly aggressive look, and the lines flow smoothly from nose to tail. We like the twin tailpipes on the ES 350, and that you can upgrade from the standard 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
While the 2016 Lexus ES 350 luxury sedan may not come standard with leather seats, it still lays on the features pretty thickly. Base models come with push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a HomeLink garage-door opener. Newly standard this year is the Lexus Display Audio system, which includes a 3-way-split 7-inch screen, Remote Touch controller, Bluetooth and rearview camera. Safety wise, the 2016 ES has 10 airbags, a service that offers emergency assistance at the touch of a button, and Lexus' Automatic Collision Notification in the event of an accident.
Among features available on the lengthy options list for Lexus’ 2016 ES 350 and hybrid ES 300h are a navigation system, leather and aniline-leather seats that can be heated and ventilated, a panorama glass roof, power rear sunshade, and an awesome Mark Levinson premium sound system. It also offers radar cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, parking assist and blind-spot monitoring.
With 268 horsepower, the 3.5-liter V6 engine that's standard in the 2016 Lexus ES 350 has plenty of grunt to get this sedan moving quickly. It's connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission that's a model of smooth operation. Even fuel economy is pretty good, but if saving fuel is part of your luxury experience, then the hybrid powertrain in the Lexus ES 300h is just what you need. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine combines with an electric motor to develop a total of 200 horsepower, routing it through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). That's enough power for day-to-day driving, while also offering fantastic fuel economy. Both Lexus ES models are available only in front-wheel drive, and both run on regular 87-octane gasoline.
3.5-liter V6 (ES 350)
268 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/31 mpg
2.5-liter inline-4 + hybrid electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery module (ES 300h)
156 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm (gasoline engine alone)
Total system horsepower: 200
156 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm (gasoline engine)
EPA fuel city/highway fuel economy: 40/39 mpg
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a 2016 Lexus ES 350 is right around $39,000, including the $940 destination charge. If you want hybrid power, the ES 300h starts at about $42,000. Add options, and you can inflate the price of either car to just under the $50,000 mark, a relative bargain for a luxury brand. That's higher than cars like the Hyundai Genesis and the surprisingly good Buick LaCrosse, but notably less than cars like the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Cadillac CTS. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what buyers are actually paying for the 2016 Lexus ES in your area. Down the road, sleep well knowing that a strong resale value is one of the strongest selling points for the Lexus ES.