Review: 2016 Lexus ES 350, Kentucky-Built Luxury

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Quite often there are little changes between model years of vehicles, yet the 2016 Lexus ES 350 has a host of changes with probably the largest being a new production facility in the U.S. Yep, the Lexus flagship model is now American made.

Review: 2016 Lexus ES 350, Kentucky-Built Luxury

Sometimes I get the lighting just right with a really good looking car.

Last October, the Georgetown, Kentucky plant – known for building the Camry – added the Lexus ES 350 to its production plans. Increasing production was a big ordeal with 2 and half years of renovation, $360 million toward the new dedicated assembly line and 750 new jobs to build 50,000 vehicles. This raises the plants overall production to 550,000 units. (Side note: we hope Toyota considers a similar investment in San Antonio).

Besides the Kentucky homecoming, Lexus made some fairly significant changes to the Lexus ES 350 for 2016.

Review: 2016 Lexus ES 350, Kentucky-Built Luxury

The blue color lightens up with the sun.

For styling, Lexus changed up the vehicle with:

  • Restyled with bolder, chrome-trimmed spindle grille, LED headlights, new front fascia, L-themed taillights, semi-integrated exhaust.
  • Numerous exterior detail upgrades, including new wheel designs and exterior colors (Autumn Shimmer, Nightfall Mica, Caviar and Eminent White Pearl).
  • New interior luxury features and finishes, including Linear Dark Mocha wood, Illustrious Piano Black wood (replaces Piano Black) and Bamboo with a matte finish (replaces gloss finish); Flaxen interior.

These improvements add to an already stylish vehicle. Plus, it is now available in four new colors including the Nightfall Mica color as pictured. This color is a dark blue and changes to a true blue during the day with what I swear is a shimmer effect. Lexus says these new colors all use “self-healing clear coat technology.”

Review: 2016 Lexus ES 350, Kentucky-Built Luxury

Lexus simply nailed the styling on the 2016 ES 350. Also, these are the optional 18″ alloy wheels and they look really good to me.

Doing a quick internet search, I found this technology creates a “soft” clear coat finish which “flows” and can absorb small scratches. Note it takes longer to “heal” when the weather is cold, but it still absorb scratches.  Pretty crazy.

The freshened design extends to new optional 17-inch alloy wheels.

Like other Toyota and Lexus models, they introduced a slew of safety features such as Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.

Also, the Lexus upgraded the Enform Service Connect system with vehicle information and alerts as well as made the Mark Levinson Premium Sound and Panoramic Roof as an option on all packages. Offering those packages as options throughout the lineup seems like a no-brainer to me.

Review: 2016 Lexus ES 350, Kentucky-Built Luxury

Got photobombed by a horse!

Finally, Lexus says the front suspension now employs “opposite-wound coil springs” that enhance straight-line stability. As well as better high body rigidity through additional high-tensile strength, added bracing and more spot welds than previous models.

On the Road

All of these new additions are great and all, but how does it drive? Really, really good and it is clear why this model is the top selling model for Lexus. Off the line it is smooth, the braking is firm without grabbing tight, it glides through the corners and vibrations are minimized at  highway speeds. This is a car you could drive for a long time and not feel tired.

Review: 2016 Lexus ES 350, Kentucky-Built Luxury

Behind the wheel, the Lexus ES 350 is buttery smooth.

In comparison, I just drove a 2016 BMW 340i and while not a direct competitor (the 4 series the BMW has more 0-60 straight line speed and can corner better than the Lexus ES 350, I prefer the overall driving performance of the Lexus. Why? The ES 350 is just smoother and easier to drive. Where the BMW is a bit peppy on the start/stop due to the twin-turbo V6, the 3.5L V6 in the Lexus mated to the 6-speed automatic provides a smoother shifting and off the line feeling. Sure, the BMW throws you back into your seat more than the Lexus, but after driving it for a few days, that gets a little old.

Review: 2016 Lexus ES 350, Kentucky-Built Luxury

It may not have the massive HP or motor size of rivals, but it is just fine for everyday driving.

Also, the rear legroom in the Lexus ES 350 is great and my kids car seats fit without kicking the driver seat continually. (A big deal for parents).

Review: 2016 Lexus ES 350, Kentucky-Built Luxury

I could sit in these seats all day.

Finally, the fuel economy is pretty good for a non-hybrid of 21/31/24 city/highway/combined and the $49,160 price point is fully loaded with a starting MSRP of $38,000 (hybrid starts at $40,920).

Review: 2016 Lexus ES 350, Kentucky-Built Luxury

What else can you say about the styling? It is great from front to rear.

In the end, the 2016 Lexus ES 350 is just a joy to drive. If I was in the market for a luxury sedan and wanted a smooth ride that I could put thousands of miles on and not tire from, this would be a top choice. It is really that good.

Model: 2016 Lexus ES 350

Engine: 3.5L V6

Transmission: 6-speed Automatic

HP/Torque: 268 HP/248 lb-ft

0-60: 7.1 seconds


  • Blind Spot Monitor with Cross Traffic Alert – $500
  • 18″ wheels with High Gloss Finish – $880
  • Lexus Safety System + – $1,015
  • Navigation System with Mark Levinson Stereo – $2,650
  • One-Touch Power Trunk – $400
  • Intuitive Parking Assist – $500
  • Rain Sensing Wipers with Deicer – $155
  • Ultra Luxury Package: Wood Trim Interior, Drive/Passenger Memory Seats, Heated + Ventilated Front Seats, Power Rear and Manual Door Sunshades, Driver Seat Power Cushion Extender, Ambient Lighting, Power tilt-and-telescoping Steering Wheel – $3,500
  • Heated Wood and Leather Trimmed Steering Wheel – $450
  • Cargo Net – $65
  • Trunk Mat – $105

Price as Tested: $49,160 with $940 Delivery, Processing and Handling Fee

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  1. DJ says:

    Nice car, but Toyota is seriously so cheap and uninventive.

    That’s the same 3.5L V6 that can be had in:
    Lexus ES
    Lexus GS
    Lexus IS
    Lexus RS
    Lexus IS
    and now the Tacoma!

    And I’m probably missing a few. I get the whole assembly line/dealership efficiency thing but this is beyond that, it’s cheap, it’s lazy, and at this point getting embarrassing.

    How can you expect two entire line-ups of vehicles to be properly powered by the same flipping engine?!?!!?

    It’s no wonder we haven’t gotten a new engine in the Tundra. But I bet you can guess what they’d love to put in it………

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      I find your comment to be a little puzzling. EVERY manufacture uses similar engines throughout their lineup. Hell, check out the EcoBoost sometime. Also, the Chevy small block has been in use for decades

      What they do differently is they tune them to respond differently in different vehicles and they offer different features. Like the Tacoma with the port injection system. This system turns the engine into a much different animal than what is in the ES.

      In the end it is economics of scale. Why build individual engines for a whole host of vehicles when you can simply tune the same engine differently and add different features like direct/port injection? You wouldn’t be in business very long with that many different engines in production.


      • DJ says:

        I completely understand what you’re saying.

        But for example I went and looked at the Chevrolet line, I see turbo 4 cylinders, powerful V-6’s, small but powerful diesels, the 5.3 and the 6.2 in the full size stuff and of course their large 6.6 diesel.

        Toyota seems to have base 4-bangers, the same V-6 for everything (tuned slightly differently), and one V-8. You have to admit it’s a pretty limited offering.

        • Tim Esterdahl says:

          I see your point. Kind of the Toyota way though. They build fewer models, use less parts and offer less choices than most major manufactures. Goes back to why you can’t really special order a Tundra.


  2. Captain Critical 101 says:

    The grill reminds me of a Japanese fighting mask.

  3. Hi, i want use your post to translate to my language for my website about Lexus car

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