Premium midsize car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $16,500 – $35,000*

2008 Lexus ES 350

2008 Lexus ES 350

2008 Lexus ES 350

2008 Lexus ES 350

  • Acceleration
  • Control layout
  • Quietness
  • Ride
  • Seat comfort
  • Cargo room
  • Ride (occasionally imperfect)

In 2007, Lexus took a two-pronged approach to the premium midsize car market. The company pointed its trimmer, tauter IS model toward the performance end, and aimed the bigger, more comfortable ES 350 at the luxury end of the spectrum. This strategy allowed the ES to drop most sporty pretensions, and concentrate on coddling-which it does exceptionally well. Few cars have so clear a mission or accomplish it so thoroughly as this Best Buy pick.


Lexus’s best-selling car was redesigned for 2007 with fresh styling, more power, and additional features. In its reworked form, the midsize front-drive ES remained essentially a luxury version of the Toyota Camry. (Lexus is Toyota’s premium division.) Compared to the 2002-2006 version, the ES gained 2.2 inches in wheelbase, but other dimensions were little-altered. Newly designated the ES 350 for its 272-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, it replaced the ES 330, which had a 218-hp 3.3-liter V6. The sole transmission was again an automatic, but a six-speed rather than a five-speed as before.

Antilock braking and traction/antiskid control were standard. Standard front side airbags and curtain side airbags were joined for 2007 by front knee airbags and by optional rear side airbags. Newly optional was Lexus’s Pre-Collision System, which readied airbags, seatbelts, and brakes when sensors detected a skid or imminent crash. That system was paired with newly available adaptive cruise control.

Wood interior trim and a sunroof were included; leather upholstery was optional. Newly available was an Ultra Luxury Package with a “panorama” glass roof. A navigation system was again optional, but now included a rearview camera. Steering-linked headlamps joined the option list. With its ES, Lexus competed against the Acura TL, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac CTS, and Infiniti G35.

Yearly Updates

2008 ES 350
Mirrors were modified for 2008, and rear-seat riders got personal reading lamps. At midyear, a Pebble Beach Edition joined the lineup, with only 6,000 to be built. Otherwise, little changed this year for the ES 350.
2009 ES 350
The ES 350 carried over virtually unchanged.
2010 ES 350
The 2010 Lexus ES 350 received freshened interior and exterior styling and new features. Newly standard were rain-sensing windshield wipers and a driver-seat memory system. Also newly standard was Lexus’ Safety Connect, which includes collision notification, stolen vehicle location, emergency assistance, and enhanced roadside assistance.
2011 ES 350
The 2011 Lexus ES 350 gets slightly less power, but these midsize sedans no longer require premium-grade gasoline.
2012 ES 350
There were only minor changes to the 2012 Lexus ES 350.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

All ES 350s have a 3.5-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Early versions made 272 horsepower, but dropped to 268 starting in 2011, when their fuel recommendation went from premium to regular.

dohc V61
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/211
Engine HP 268-272
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 248-254
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic



1. EPA Note: Figures shown are for 2008 models. The Environmental Protection Agency changed its procedure for 2008 to yield more realistic estimates. Therefore, estimated mileage is lower than for prior years.

Road Test

Acceleration is swift enough. The V6 takes a moment to summon power, but then this sedan scoots away with satisfying strength. A test sedan accelerated to 60 mph in a snappy 6.4 seconds. The transmission changes gears smoothly, but can require plenty of throttle to deliver a highway-speed downshift.

Test examples of the ES 350 have averaged 19.6 to 19.8 mpg overall. Others averaged 23.6 to 26.3 mpg in mostly highway driving, and 18.9 mpg with more city use and gas-eating acceleration runs. Lexus recommends premium-grade gasoline for ES 350s through 2010, regular for those starting in 2011.

A class leader for cushioned ride comfort, the ES 350 trails European rivals for composure on fast, bumpy roads. Some undue bobbing and weaving may be noted at high speeds.

Front-drive behavior ranks more than competent, but ride-biased suspension tuning precludes the sporty cornering poise of an Acura TL, BMW 3-Series, or Infiniti G35. Similarly, steering is precise enough, but filters out most road feel. This sedan’s tight turning radius is helpful for maneuvering. Brake performance is good, though the pedal feels mushy in simulated panic stops.

Among the class leaders in quietness, the ES 350 provides excellent isolation from the road and wind. The V6 suffers minor vibration at idle, but the only sound is a rich growl during rapid acceleration.

Large gauges are clearly marked. Center dashboard controls are numerous, but not obtuse. On the negative side, a steering-wheel spoke hides the windshield-wiper stalk, and the rain-sensing wiper function is frustratingly inconsistent. The navigation system requires familiarization and absorbs some audio and climate controls. Wood trim, padded surfaces, and grained panels add to the upscale ambiance.

Tall occupants may complain of insufficient front-seat head clearance beneath the housing for the sunroof or the panorama ceiling, but legroom is generous. Seats are nicely padded, contoured for set-and-forget support. A power tilt and telescoping steering column replaced the previous manual tilt-only unit, for finer tuning of the driving position, though power-adjustable pedals no longer were offered. Fine outward visibility may be enhanced by the convenience of the rearview camera.

In the backseat, too, taller riders may want more headroom. Knee clearance is plentiful, though foot space is a tad tight beneath front seats. The rear cushion is comfortably shaped, but a little low to the floor for best thigh support. Three-across seating would be tolerable for short distances, thanks to soft padding and a nearly flat floorboard that makes the center position more comfortable than most. The panorama roof enhances the airy cabin feel. Entry and exit are easy.

Sickle-shaped trunklid hinges impede on the otherwise roomy, usefully shaped trunk. Liftover is low, but the opening is cramped for loading bulky boxes. The rear seatback has a pass-through opening. In-cabin storage is good. The center console lid slides up and back-a clever idea, but not the best for full access to the console bin.


Model Tested: 2008 ES 350 w/Premium Plus Pkg.

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 7
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 7
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 8


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 6
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 10

Total: 65


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
109.3 191.1 71.7 57.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.7 18.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.4 36.8 42.2 35.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2008 es 350 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The rear vents blow warmer air then the front vents when the A/C is on requiring replacement of the rear duct servo on some early-production vehicles. (2007)
Brake noise
Description: Buzzing noise from right side of dash when pressing the brake pedal or coasting unless the vacuum booster check valve has been replaced. (2007-10)
Description: The brake pedal may pulse when applied and new brake pads were made available for both rear brakes. (2007-09)
Cold-starting problems
Description: The engine may not start and numerous warning lights may come on when the car is started in cold (15 degree F or lower) temperatures unless a new ignition relay and wiring harness was installed. (2007-09)
Audio system
Description: Noise may come from the speakers when using an MP3 player, etc. plugged into the auxiliary power port; an improved port with electrical filters has been made available. (2007-08)
Rear axle noise
Description: The rear brakes may make noise and wear out prematurely and revised brake pads have been made available. (2007-08)
Steering noise
Description: Popping or clunking noises from the steering wheel may require replacement of the steering column intermediate shaft. (2007)
Description: The moonroof may not auto close requiring reinitialization. (2007-09)
Transmission noise
Description: The vehicle may vibrate and a droning noise may come from the engine compartment while the transmission is in gear requiring replacement of the active control motor mount. (2007-08)

Recall History

2007-08 ES 350
Description: Improperly secured optional floor mat could cause accelerator pedal to become stuck, temporarily, in partially depressed position.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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