2010 Lexus ES 350

2010 Lexus ES 350

With the economy still in the tank despite ruminations on an improvement, many car buyers are looking to mid-range and entry-level luxury cars where they might have been eying top-tier cars just a few years ago. The benchmark in the category has long been the Lexus ES 350, and though 2010 brings a few new competitors, Lexus is keeping pace with updated styling and features.

The 2010 Lexus ES 350 will have to take on the brand-new 2010 Buick LaCrosse and the 2010 Lincoln MKX in addition to the usual suspects, such as the 2010 Infiniti G37. That means that Lexus, while starting from a lead in the category, can't rest on its laurels.

And it's certainly not, with a revised front fascia and tail lights, upgraded console and interior trim options, and the addition of Lexus's new Enform and Safety Connect telematics system. Despite the added features, price creep is kept to a minimum at just $330 over the 2009 model, with the 2010 ES 350 starting from $34,800 plus a delivery fee of $875, for a total base price of $35,675.

The powertrain remains the same with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 272 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission sends the drive to the road, and features manual shift capability.

On the outside, the ES 350 gets new side mirrors with integrated turn signals, a reworked grille surround and grille insert, chrome body molding, and the addition of rain-sensing wipers for 2010. The rest of the front fascia is restyled as well, as are the standard 17-inch alloy wheels, which now use a split five-spoke design.

Four new exterior colors expand the range of looks, with Truffle Mica, Peridot Mica, Satin Cashmere Metallic and Cerulean Blue Metallic joining the palette, while five other colors were removed for 2010.

2010 Lexus ES 350

2010 Lexus ES 350

Interior revisions include new steering wheel controls, a memory-position driver's seat and new trim choices. The reworked center console offers greater storage volume and the standard leather-trimmed seating is available in a total of three colors, with a new Parchment color replacing last year's Cashmere. Brown walnut takes the place of Medium Brown walnut wood trim, and Espresso Bird's Eye Maple expands the trim selection.

Lexus's Eco Drive indicator is now a standard feature, as are rear coat hooks and a total of 10 standard airbags, with rear side airbags new for 2010.

Technology being the fast-paced field it is, the 2010 ES 350 gets an updated Lexus Premium Audio system with the new hard-disk navigation system also found in the 2010 GS and LS updates, a casual-speech voice recognition feature in Lexus Navigation System models, and all the standard Bluetooth, MP3, USB and auxiliary connectivity you're used to.

The subscription-based Enform with Safety Connect system is now available on the 2010 ES, but only standalone Safety Connect is included in all new ES 350s as standard beyond the one-year trial subscription to the Enform with Safey Connect service.