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William Maley

Quick Drive: 2014 Lexus ES 350

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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

Year: 2014

Make: Lexus

Model: ES

Trim: 350

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)

Options:

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


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I know they don't attract the same type of buyer, but around here the "premium" fwd sedan bargain is currently the clearout Nissan Maxima, something like 10K+ off sticker.

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That's a good buy at that price. I wonder if they are clearing out inventory ahead of the new model that is coming very soon.

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So how's a 35hp & 20+ lbs ft deficit a better more potent engine comparing v6's, you know apples to apples.

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    • By William Maley
      The Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX 570 are part of an endangered species: SUVs designed with the purpose of going off-road. It may seem somewhat mad to describe most SUVs as not off-road oriented, but most buyers don’t really take SUVs off the beaten path. Automakers have responded in kind by providing a minimum four-wheel capability while improving on-road behavior. The Land Cruiser and LX 570 haven’t gone down this path as they have a small, but loyal owner base that would cry foul if Toyota/Lexus decided to do this. But as I found out during my week with them, Toyota and Lexus need to do some serious thinking about the future of these models if they want to keep them around.
      Exterior
      Both the Land Cruiser and LX 570 share the same boxy shape with a slightly angled front end, large area of glass, and a split opening tailgate. Where the two differentiate is in the details. Toyota plays it safe with a large rectangular grille and chrome bars that separate the front headlights. The set of 18-inch alloy wheels look somewhat small on the Land Cruiser, mostly due to the large size of the off-road tires. The LX 570 is very extroverted as evidenced by the front end styling. It features the largest version of Lexus’ spindle grille that gives it an intense look. A set of LED headlights with a unique lamp design sit on either side. Multi-spoke 20-inch wheels are standard and seem suited to fit the large size of the SUV.
      Interior
      Considering the $84k+ price tag of this Land Cruiser, it is slightly disappointing that Toyota went for a very utilitarian look. It doesn’t have the flash or elegance and you’ll find in competitors such as the Range Rover or Mercedes-Benz GLS. Material quality is what you expect for the price with an abundance of soft-touch plastic, leather upholstery, wood trim, and faux metal used all around. 
      The Lexus LX 570 takes a different approach with the interior, feeling more like a real contender to the likes of the Germans and Range Rover. The dash design is very modern with a short center stack, a widescreen display for the infotainment system, and glossy wood trim. Both models have a button-ladened center stack, but I found the LX 570’s easier to use as the buttons weren’t tightly packed.
      Getting inside either SUV is somewhat tough due to the tall ride height. But thanks to doorsteps and pull handles, entering both models becomes easier. The front seats are some of best I have sat in, offering plenty of cushioning and support for any trip length. Power adjustments and memory come standard on both models. The second-row offers plenty of head and legroom for passengers. You can slide the seat to either increase legroom or cargo space. The third-row should only be used for small kids as there is only a minuscule amount of legroom. The lack of padding also makes third-row best for short trips.
      One quirk about the Land Cruiser and LX 570’s third-row is that the seats don’t fold into the floor. Instead, the seats flip towards the side. Not only does it make it slightly awkward to load cargo into either model, but it also makes for a small cargo area. Measurements for the two models are 16.1 cubic feet with all three-rows up, 44.7 with the third-row folded, and 81.7 with the second-row folded. For 2018, Lexus did introduce a two-row version that increases space by 5.8 cubic feet - bringing the total to 50.5 cubic feet.
      Infotainment
      Lexus has fitted one the of largest infotainment screens in the class into the LX 570. Measuring 12.3-inches, this allows for a split-screen capability where you can have various functions up at the same time. For example, you can have navigation on one side and audio on the other. Some of the configuration options Lexus offers are strange to say in the least like having two maps of the navigation system up at the same time. Where the LX 570 falls short is the Remote Touch controller. The joystick controller is a pain to use as it feels quite vague when moving around and causes you to overshoot when trying to select something. This is very problematic when you’re driving as you’ll find yourself paying more attention to the system than the road.
      In the Land Cruiser, you’ll find a smaller 9-inch infotainment system with Toyota’s Entune system. Thankfully, Toyota had decided to use a touchscreen instead of a frustrating controller. Moving around in Entune is easy thanks to a simple interface with large touchscreen buttons and a set of physical shortcut buttons underneath. I did notice that Entune was a few ticks slower than the system found in the LX 570.
      Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is not available on either model.
      Powertrain
      Under the hoods of the Land Cruiser and LX 570 is a 5.7L V8. The Land Cruiser gets 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. The LX 570 features 383 horsepower and 403 pound-feet of torque. This is teamed with an eight-speed automatic and a full-time four-wheel drive system. Interestingly, the Land Cruiser feels slightly faster than the LX 570. Outlets who have timed both models say the Land Cruiser is about 0.5 seconds quicker to 60 than the LX 570. This is a bit surprising considering the two models are nearly identical in power and weight. But the LX 570 has a noticeable pause when accelerating. It feels like the engine was asleep and was startled by the throttle being prodded, before realizing it needed to get to work. The eight-speed automatic delivers rapid and smooth upshifts, but stumbles somewhat when it comes to downshifts.
      Both models come fully-equipped to take on whatever Mother Nature decides to dish out. This includes a two-speed transfer case, locking center differential, crawl-control system, terrain selection system, and an adjustable suspension system. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to take either model off the paved road to see what they are capable of.
      Fuel Economy
      EPA rates the 2018 Land Cruiser and LX 570 at 13 City/18 Highway/15 Combined. My average in both vehicles landed around 14.9 mpg in a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving.
      Ride and Handling
      These SUVs prefer the roads to be straight as there is significant body motion when cornering. Blame the tall ride height and soft-suspension tuning. Steering feels very numb and slow, making it somewhat tough to figure out how much input is needed when turning. When the road is straight, both vehicles provide a smooth ride. I did find that on the highway, I needed to make constant corrections with the steering to keep it in the middle of the lane.
      One major difference between the two is braking. The LX 570’s braking system felt very discombobulated. It was very difficult to modulate the pedal to provide a smooth stop. Either the vehicle wasn’t slowing down or the braking system would enter panic stop mode and passengers being thrown from their seats. I thought this was an issue that was limited to my LX, but other people who have driven different LXs have reported similar behavior. The Land Cruiser didn’t experience any of this during my week.
      Value
      The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser begins at $83,665, while the LX 570 begins at $85,630 for the two-row variant and $89,980 for the three-row model. Both models come generously equipped with a number of standard features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, heated and ventilated front seats; power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, and three-zone climate control. The vehicles tested here came lightly optioned. The Land Cruiser featured a set of optional floor mats, bringing the as-tested price to $85,185. For the LX 570, it came with a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and center console cool box to bring its as-tested price to $93,350.
      The best value of the two models has to be the two-row LX 570 as you get a nicer interior and more cargo space, for not much more money than the three-row Land Cruiser. But if you really want three-rows, then the Land Cruiser is your best bet.
      Verdict
      Unless your daily commute includes traversing the Rocky Mountains or driving through Death Valley, I cannot recommend either of these SUVs. They have a number of flaws such as middling fuel economy, small cargo area, and needing constant steering corrections on the highway. But the LX 570 comes off slightly worse as it has some issues with the powertrain and brakes need to be addressed quickly. Besides, the Land Cruiser offers many of the features of LX 570, albeit in a more utilitarian package for a couple of grand less.
      But for some people, the off-road capability and legendary reliability of these two models are more than enough to excuse the faults. That group of people though we have to think is getting smaller as time goes on and makes us wonder if the next-generation of the Land Cruiser and LX 570 will go through a dramatic change or not.
      Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Lexus
      Model: LX 570
      Trim: N/A
      Engine: 5.7L 32-Valve, DOHC, Dual VVT-i V8
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 383 @ 5,600
      Torque @ RPM: 403 @ 3,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/18/15
      Curb Weight: 5,815 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, Japan
      Base Price: $89,980
      As Tested Price: $93,350 (Includes $1,195.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Dual-Screen DVD Rear-Entertainment System - $2,005.00
      Cool Box - $170.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Land Cruiser
      Trim: N/A
      Engine: 5.7L 32-Valve, DOHC, Dual VVT-i V8
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 381@ 5,600
      Torque @ RPM: 401 @ 3,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/18/15
      Curb Weight: 5,815 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, Japan
      Base Price: $83,685
      As Tested Price: $85,185 (Includes $1,295.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpet Floor/Cargo Mat Set - $225.00
    • By dfelt
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      It is amazing the hand skill used in this and how cool it is to watch, Never had heard of this till this story caught my attention today. Talk about proving they can swing with the Mercedes-Benz S class on ultimate luxury, hand made quality.
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      This is the Lexus Executive Seating Package. From totally comfort of the seating to the interior quality it is an amazing thing to see. But is it worth it?
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