For awhile, the best Buick you could buy was a Lexus ES. Lexus was able to take the formula that Buick had worked so hard on proving a smooth and comfortable car and just do it better. But Buick is back on the upswing. The recently refreshed LaCrosse shows that Buick is back and wanting to challenge the ES on territory it once held. So which is the better model; the LaCrosse or the ES? I spent some time in the 2014 ES 350 to try answer this.
The ES 350’s exterior looks awkward as it seems Lexus was trying to make the ES look somewhat sportier, while retaining some of the handsomeness of previous models. The front has the spindle grille with flat bars running across and a set of headlights with LEDs running along the outer edges. Around back, Lexus designers gave it upright and flat look with a new trunk lid. While the ES now has some style, it comes at the cost of looking like a bloated GS.
Thankfully the interior avoids the awkwardness. Again, there is a bit of GS influence for the ES’ interior, but Lexus made sure to make ES a bit more inviting. That means cream leather for the seats and bamboo trim along the dash and door panels. The dashboard itself is similar to the GS with a flat face and simple layout of controls. Space-wise, the ES 350 is very impressive. Back seat passengers will find plenty of legroom and headroom. Trunk space measures out to 15.2 cubic feet, slightly larger than the Buick LaCrosse’s 13.3 cubic feet trunk.
Lexus’ Enform infotainment system came equipped on my tester which features a new interface which makes it easier to navigate around. However, the remote touch controller is still makes controlling the system tough since you have to move it and press down on it carefully on the function you want. One wrong move and you’ll end up in a function that you didn’t want.
Power comes from a 3.5L V6 with 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic. The 3.5L V6 is a perfect match for the ES as it provides smooth acceleration throughout and NVH levels that rival Buick’s LaCrosse. The six-speed automatic provided silky smooth shifts and didn’t show any signs of confusion. Fuel economy is rated at 21 City/31 Highway/24 Combined. My average landed around 23 MPG.
On the ride and handling front, the ES 350 provides a seemingly smooth ride. The suspension makes sure potholes and road imperfections are smoothed out and don’t make their way into the cabin. One downside is the amount of road noise that come into the cabin. I put the blame on the Bridgestone tires that the ES came equipped with. Out on the curves, the ES 350 does show some sign of body roll if you push it. Keep in mind the ES 350 is meant to be a cruiser, not a curve bruiser.
After a week with the Lexus ES 350, I think it does certain things better than the LaCrosse and vice versa. The ES 350 has a much more potent engine, better NVH levels in the engine, and a larger trunk than the LaCrosse. However, the LaCrosse is a bit more quieter, features a better infotainment control system, and looks much nicer than the ES 350.
So which is better car? While the Lexus ES 350 is a nice improvement over previous models, the Buick LaCrosse is the better car.
Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the ES 350, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve VVT-i V6
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 268 @ 6,200
Torque @ RPM: 248 @ 4,700
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/31/24
Curb Weight: 3,549 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
Base Price: $36,470
As Tested Price: $43,105 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge)
Hard Disk Drive Navigation with Lexus Inform: $2,625
Luxury Package: $1,370
High Intensity Discharge (HID) Headlights: $565.00
Intuitive Parking Assist: $500.00
Bamboo & Leather Trimmed Shift Knob and Heated Wood & Leather Trimmed Steering Wheel: $300.00
Power Rear Sunshade: $210.00
Rain Sensing Wipers with Deicer: $155.00