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Motoring: Luxurious 2013 Lexus ES350 not fun to drive

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 24th, 2012

If you're in the market for a car that has all the luxuries and comfort of a full-size sedan, but at about half the price (and a bit smaller in size), then the new Lexus ES350 is the car for you.

This new-for-2013 model has all the features you could possibly wish for, including exquisite leather seats — the front seats are not only heated, but ventilated too. Then you have power-operated everything, even the steering column which tilts and telescopes (optional). There is also an option to get the navigation system, which then comes with a reversing camera (which is actually part of the Premium Package). You also get a panoramic sunroof (on the topspec Technology Package model), to enjoy what's left of our sunshine this time of the year.

The good news doesn't end there. This car has a smooth-as-silk six-speed automatic gearbox, which sends the power to the front wheels. The power is also quite impressive. A new 3.5-litre V6 engine is fitted that produces 268 hp, which is quite enough, actually. So make no mistake, this car can carry its weight and yours along quite easily.

So, all looks good — you should rush out and buy one… if you have about $50,000 to spend on a car. But that's not the end of the story.

You see, while this car is very impressive with its features, the joy of driving is missing. In my view, this car is a bit too soft. There is no feeling of you being connected to the road.

While some of my older friends would love how quiet it is on the highway (if you turn off the stereo and climate control at 115 km/h, you hear nothing but some faint sound of the wind — you don't even hear the engine at all), I rather prefer getting the sensation that I am moving. This car made me feel as if my entire body was under anesthetic, but that might be exactly what some people might be looking for.

I don't like the handling, either. The soft nature of the car spoils the fun. This car rolls through corners, and on every off-ramp, I had to make far too many steering corrections to keep it on my intended line. If you want a car to take through some back roads just for the fun of it, this one won't do.

So, the car is not fun to drive, but that's okay, not everyone wants a fun to drive car. Lexus does know its customer base well and has thus engineered a car to keep its existing clientele, but perhaps it won't win over many new ones with this new sixth generation ES model.

To please their current customers, it has features like the keyless entry and ignition, which means the key can stay in your pocket, and as you walk up to the car, it unlocks; step inside, put your foot on the brake, press the Engine Start button and it fires up. Surely these kinds of features will appeal to drivers who like being pampered.

They will also love its new interior, which does have a much classier look than the model it replaces.

It will also appeal to those who like buying hybrids, because for the first time, the ES model will be offered as a hybrid: the ES300h.

If all this sounds good to you, you can go to your local Lexus dealer now and get your hands on the new ES. Prices for the ES350 start at $39,500, while pricing for the hybrid ES300h starts at $43,900.

Personally, I'd rather spend this sort of money on the IS series from Lexus, which offers similar luxuries with some driving appeal.
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