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2009 Lexus ES Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Lexus ES was new.


Performance: 8.5

Lexus has carved out the ES's place clearly in an increasingly crowded upscale sedan market. This is the comfortable one, not the car that pretends to be headed for the track. You'll probably be content cruising quietly in the ES and feel no need to prove your car's muscles. But if you're not careful, you might find yourself getting a speeding ticket. The car's engine is so smooth that 30 and 90 don't feel very different.

  • "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." -- Mother Proof
  • "The automotive antidote to stress and road rage in one very convenient and comfortable package." -- Car and Driver
  • "The ES 350 is one of those cars that can play tricks with your senses; it's incredibly easy to find yourself driving much faster than you think you are." -- Car.com
  • The ES is "either as smooth as an eel swimming through an oil slick or a lobbyist slipping a sweetheart provision into an appropriations bill - it's hard to say." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Ride and handling have a cushioned feel that is tilted decidedly on the comfort side of the comfort/sport continuum and that's not intended as a negative." -- AutoMedia.com

Acceleration and Power

For 2008, Lexus has beefed up the engine in the front-wheel drive ES, offering as standard a 3.5 liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission that delivers 272 hp. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the ES delivers 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway. The increase in fuel economy over previous models is due in large part to high-tech engineering.

  • "ES 350 scoots from a stop with satisfying strength. In Consumer Guide testing, an ES 350 did 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds. The transmission changes gears smoothly, but it can require lots of throttle to deliver a highway-speed downshift." -- Consumer Guide
  • "What this engine does best is flex its considerable muscle in a smooth, almost unassuming way, moving the sedan as swiftly as required without ruffling the passengers." -- The Family Car
  • "Quick to respond, the engine is as smooth and quiet as you would expect, and the transmission operation is flawless, automatic or manual mode, downshift or upshift. Engine and transmission are linked by several electronic modules and the electronic throttle, and there were no glitches we could find." -- Carbuytip.com

Handling and Braking

Reviewers reach a consensus quickly on the 2009 ES: this is no athletic driver's car. Its ride is quiet, competent and comfortable. It isn't going to lose its composure and slip in turns, but it doesn't seem to crave them like a BMW 3-Series or an Audi A4.

  • "ES 350 has competent front-drive behavior. But the ride-biased suspension tuning precludes the cornering poise of its sportier rivals. The steering filters out most road feel. Brake performance is good, though the pedal feels mushy in simulated panic stops." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The four-wheel independent MacPherson strut-type suspension and gas pressurized shock absorbers help provide an exceptionally smooth ride." -- Rocky Mount Telegram.
  • "The car is soft in corners, but well controlled over bumpy, uneven road surfaces. It'll neither excite nor surprise, and except for some vague on-center steering feel, it won't make the spirited driver feel out of sorts." -- Motor Trend
  • "A suspension system consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear works in concert with a speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering assembly, as well as stability and traction control systems, to help the driver maintain control. It's only when fishing for limits, which few ES 350 owners are likely to often consider, that things get unsettled." -- Car.com
  • Brakes are "too soft when you first apply the pedal. You think nothing's happening and push harder, resulting in more dramatic stops than you intended." -- USA Today
  • "Although the brakes themselves are average in size for this class, the electronic control package that comes with them makes them very powerful and very repeatable, with no sign of brake fade after a hard workout," -- Carbuytip.com.

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