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2012 Lexus ES Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Lexus ES was new.


Performance: 8.2

When it comes to performance, reviewers make the 2012 Lexus ES’ niche in the industry very clear: it’s a luxury cruiser, not a sport sedan. With that purpose in mind, most members of the automotive press are quite satisfied with the Lexus ES 350’s performance. It’s not thrilling on a twisty road, but critics aren’t disappointed with its smooth-shifting transmission and comfortable ride.

  • "ES 350 excels for cushioned comfort but trails rivals for composure on bumpy roads. Some bobbing and pitching is noted at high speeds." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 2012 Lexus ES 350 delivers a refined and serene driving experience. The V6 engine is smooth and sufficiently powerful, and if you're not particularly interested in sporty handling dynamics, the ES 350's isolated and soft ride will be to your liking." -- Edmunds 
  • "Across town or across country, the ES 350 is as luxurious as it is comfortable. Backed with enough power and agility to maneuver out of most unforeseen traffic challenges, the ES 350 is a perfect highway cruiser." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

The ES is available with just one engine, a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 268 horsepower. Power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, which reviewers praise for its smooth shifts. The EPA estimates that the 2012 Lexus ES 350 gets 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Although 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, which is helpful for highway passing.

  • "ES 350 scoots from a stop with satisfying strength. The transmission changes gears smoothly, but it can require lots of throttle to deliver a highway-speed downshift." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "Its V6 engine is smooth and will likely strike most drivers as strong enough for a luxury-themed sedan with no sport-sedan pretenses." -- Edmunds 
  • "The V-6 engine gave this mom all the pep I could want." -- Mother Proof 

Handling and Braking

The Lexus ES has been one of the best-selling entry-level luxury cars in recent years, in part because of its soft, cushioned ride. The ES 350’s suspension smoothes out road imperfections, but test drivers say it isn’t the most agile. Canyon-carving sport sedans like the Audi A4 or Infiniti G37 often get the nod for their sportier handling, but if you prioritize comfort, the Lexus ES offers a softer ride than many performance-oriented upscale midsize cars.

  • "ES 350 has competent front-drive behavior. But the ride-biased suspension tuning precludes the cornering poise of its sportier rivals." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "If you do find yourself on a curvy road, know that the ES's wallowy handling and numb steering will be notable drawbacks." -- Edmunds
  • "Thankfully, braking was as effortless and smooth as accelerating." -- Mother Proof 

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