By Scott Oldham -- Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 8.1
From its modern style, to its excellent reliability record to the hybrid’s 40 mpg, the new 2017 Lexus ES is the closest thing to a sure bet in the luxury-sedan world. Offered in two styles, the V6-powered ES 350 and the hybrid-powered ES 300h, Lexus’ most popular sedan is a perennial favorite with luxury buyers who place a high priority on comfort without completely sacrificing the performance aspects expected in this class. It’s true a BMW 5 Series or Cadillac CTS offers a more engaging drive, but not every luxury-car buyer is a driving enthusiast shopping for an all-out sports sedan. The new Lexus ES proves there’s still a place for a premium automobile with strong performance balanced with traditional values of comfort and dependability.
If your luxury sedan must include real sports-sedan performance and street cred, the front-wheel-drive 2017 ES won’t satisfy your inner race-car driver. Although the Lexus performs well, rear-wheel-drive sedans like the BMW 5 Series, Cadillac CTS and Mercedes E Class are sportier options.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2017 Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h hybrid get notable safety upgrades. The Lexus Safety System+ package, introduced last year as an option, is now standard on every ES. The system includes Pre-Collision System (PCS), Lane Departure Alert (LDA) with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam (IHB) and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
If a serene ride and a quiet cabin are your idea of luxury, you’ll find the new 2017 Lexus ES 350 luxury sedan and 300h hybrid-luxury sedan extremely satisfying. Beyond...
... their sophisticated road manners, both ES models provide excellent acceleration, with the V6-powered ES 350 sprinting to 60 mph in just over seven seconds. It will leave many other luxury sedans eating its dust. For those who occasionally like to push the limits, the ES’s 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. The powertrain is exceptionally smooth. 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 2017 Lexus ES 300h is the real deal. Without even trying, the 40-mpg combined average was a regular occurrence in our tests. In addition, the combined 200 horsepower is sufficient, and the powertrain is extremely smooth.
Lexus never shorts customers on luxury items. Our new ES featured a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof and an 835-watt, 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system that left our jaws agape and our ears ringing. Seat comfort is also high thanks to 10-way-power adjustments, high-quality leather and supportive shaping.
The 2017 Lexus ES 350 luxury sedan boasts upscale interior materials and the exacting fit and finish we’ve come to expect in Lexus vehicles. All models offer a centrally mounted multimedia screen above the center air vents, operated by a console-mounted mouse-like Remote Touch system, which some find overly sensitive and frustrating to use. The drive-mode selector in front of the shift handle allows drivers to switch among Normal, Sport or Eco modes with the push of a button. The seats are comfortable and the interior is roomy enough for four adults. Rear-seat legroom is ample.
Once the very definition of a conservative sedan, the current-generation Lexus ES has taken on a bold new look with sleek lines and the aggressive Lexus "spindle" grille. With the revised front end introduced last year, the 2017 Lexus ES and ES hybrid fall right in line with the sporty Lexus IS and RC. The flared fenders and narrow windows give this Lexus a tough masculine look, and the lines flow smoothly from nose to tail. We like the sporty twin tailpipes on the ES 350, and that you can upgrade from the standard 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels to a cool set of 18s.
Every new ES comes 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 Safety System+ package, introduced last year as an option. The system includes Pre-Collision System (PCS), Lane Departure Alert (LDA) with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam (IHB) and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Bluetooth, heated outside mirrors, 10-way-power adjustable front seats and a rearview camera are also standard as are the sedan’s 10 airbags, and Lexus' Automatic Collision Notification, which notifies emergency assistance in the event of an accident.
Among features available on the lengthy options list for Lexus’ 2017 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. Fully loaded examples will also feature a heated wood-and-leather steering wheel, a one-touch power trunklid, a power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, memory seats, door sunshades and perhaps the ultimate luxury, a genuine wood-trimmed cup holder.
With 268 horsepower, the 3.5-liter V6 engine that's standard in the 2017 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. Fuel economy is good for the class, but if saving fuel is part of your luxury experience, then the hybrid powertrain in the Lexus ES 300h is 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
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a 2017 Lexus ES 350 is right around $40,000, including the $940 destination charge. If you want hybrid power, the ES 300h starts just under $43,000. Add options, and you can inflate the price of either car to just over 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 2017 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.