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2011 Lexus ES Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Lexus ES was new.


Performance: 8.5

When it comes to performance, reviewers make the 2011 Lexus ES’s niche in the industry very clear: it’s a luxury cruiser, not a sporty cruiser, so if you want a car that goes zoom-zoom, check out the BMW 3-Series. With the ES’s purpose in mind, most members of the automotive press are quite satisfied with the Lexus ES’s performance. More than one calls the 2011 ES unsurprising, but they aren’t disappointed with its smooth-shifting transmission and ability to float over rough pavement.

  • “Soft, springy, and quiet, it’s what a Buick should be.” -- Car and Driver
  • “The ES 350 is designed to comfortably whisk you away from that long day at the office while drawing as little attention to itself as possible.” -- Edmunds
  • "It may be built on the same platform as the Toyota Camry, but its cabin appointments and ride are pure Lexus. Lacking any sporting character, the ES 350 serves as luxury transportation. In classic Lexus style, it is effortless to drive, with a wheel that turns easily and a smooth-shifting transmission." -- CNET

Acceleration and Power

The ES is available with just one engine, a 3.5 liter V6 that puts out 272 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. It sends that power through a six-speed Electronically Controlled Transmission with intelligence (ETC-I) automatic transmission. The ETC-I helps make the ES one of the smoothest shifters in the class by adjusting hydraulic pressure gradually and responding to a person’s driving behavior.

While reviewers say the ES is not as sporty as performance-oriented upscale midsize cars like the BMW 3-Series, the Lexus doesn’t lack power. It offers particularly brisk acceleration between 50 and 75 mph -- for the perfect amount for highway passing. The Lexus ES does have a sport mode, but reviewers say it isn’t anywhere near sporty.

The EPA hasn’t released fuel economy data for the 2011 ES, but the 2010 model delivers 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Lexus hasn’t changed the ES’s transmission or engine for 2011, so these figures should remain the same.

If the 2011 Lexus ES is at the top of your price point, you should be aware that this car drives on premium fuel. Analysts don’t expect gas prices to increase astronomically in the next year, but fuel type is still another factor to consider when purchasing a car. If you don’t want to pay for premium gasoline, the Cadillac CTS, Hyundai Genesis, Volvo C70, and Lincoln MKZ use regular.

  • “The V6 engine is civilized and offers a pleasing mix of power and fuel economy." -- Edmunds
  • "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
  • "Smooth, quiet and impressively quick, the ES 350 excels in effortless cruising, across town or cross country, boasting sufficient power and responsiveness to master virtually any kind of traffic challenge." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Speaking of mountain highways, the transmission includes sport and manual modes, along with the standard drive setting. Don't be fooled, as these settings just come with the transmission, and aren't really suited to this particular car." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

The ES doesn’t attempt to compete with canyon-carving sport sedans like the Audi A4 or Infiniti G37. That leads to some criticism from reviewers, who often conduct measured performance testing under track conditions and are impressed by the sportiest cars. But the ES has been one of the best-selling entry-level luxury cars in recent years, in part because of its soft, cushioned ride -- which smoothes out road imperfections to create a comfortable commute. 

  • "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
  • “Unimpressive handling and braking,” but “the isolated ride melts road imperfections away" -- Edmunds
  • "Despite a comfort-tuned chassis, the ES 350 can still negotiate twisty roads with a fair bit of enthusiasm - accompanied by some expected body roll as you push more intensely into corners." -- Kelley Blue Book

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