2022 Lexus ES350 Ultra Luxury — Delivering the Lexus promise

By Jim Prueter

(May 15, 2022) The ES is the midsize level luxury sedan from Lexus and has long been the top-selling sedan in the brand’s lineup. The ES first launched in the U.S. back in 1989 and has maintained its reputation of keeping stylish, luxurious, quiet, well built with an attractive starting price along with outstanding reliability and resale values.

We tested the top trim ES350 Ultra Luxury that’s powered by the standard 3.5-liter 302-horsepower V-6 governed by an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.

There’s also an ES 300h Ultra Luxury hybrid costing an extra $600 powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors that combine to produce an EPA-estimated 43 mpg in the city and 44 mpg on the highway. While those figures are good on their own, they're lower than the fuel economy of nearly all other hybrid cars in its class.

For 2022 the now seventh-generation ES while looking nearly identical to the outgoing model gets a mild refresh including new bi-LED auto-leveling headlights, a tweaked grill design (yes, the large spindle grille is still there) and new alloy wheel designs.

Also new, the ES gets updated safety features from its standard Lexus Safety System+ 2.5. The pre-collision system receives an enhanced lens camera and millimeter-wave radar to improve the response range, benefitting the frontal collision warning system, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection features of the car. The news for 2022 is that all models now come standard with blind spot warning and rear cross traffic warning.

Additionally, further updates to LSS+ 2.5 include Intersection Turning Assist (ITA), Emergency Steering Assist (ESA), All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Curve Speed Reduction, and lane tracing assist.

The 5-passenger ES’s cabin is replete with top-grade materials, leathers and soft-touch surfaces. Our Ultra Lux trim ES included heated and cooled quilted semi-aniline leather seating surfaces, 14-way driver and 10-way front passenger power seats with Lexus memory system, a power rear sunshade and rear side window retractable sunshades, a wood-and-leather steering wheel, and moreover, exceptional build quality where everything feels solid and well screwed together.

There’s ample room for two up front with decent legroom in rear seat, but headroom is a premium because of the sloping rear roofline. There’s a pass-through from the large 17.0 cubic foot trunk through to the rear seat with access via the folding armrest but rear seats are stationary and do not fold forward for additional cargo space. We like that all ES models come with a temporary spare tire.

Other standard Ultra Luxury features included hands free powered open/close trunk, head-up display, windshield deicer and, 18-inch split-V-spoke alloy noise-reduction wheels. Lexus also added the $1,080 optional Navigation/Mark Levinson audio package that upgrades the infotainment display from the standard, smaller 8.0-inch screen to the larger 12.3-inch setup and adds in-dash navigation and voice recognition. It’s also closer to the driver for easier reach.

Thankfully, there’s a new upgraded infotainment system that now has a touchscreen making it much simpler to use than the outdated and overly fussy touchpad that’s awkwardly located on the center console. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, making navigation tasks much easier to use. There’s also Siri Eyes Free and Google Assistant supported with a paired phone.

On the road we found our V-6 powered ES delivered ample and smooth acceleration getting up to interstate speeds or when passing on two lane highways. The transmission shifted smooth and precise. Handling was confident and responsive with a minimal amount of body lean. Brakes and steering both excellent and again, while not a sports sedan our ES handled twisty and undulating mountain roads with composure and control. However, those looking for more thrilling and athletic driving and handling will need to consider other competitors in its class like the BMW 5-Series, Audi A6 or Genesis G80 sedans.

Overall, the ES is a rewarding choice for a mid-size luxury sedan and the best-selling luxury sedan in its class outselling all competitors by a wide margin in part to its indulgent interior and luxury driving and riding dynamics. The exterior styling may not favor all shoppers and there’s been no shortage of criticism of its massive spindle shaped grille or its fussy controls and busy instrument panel with loads of buttons and controls. Still, shoppers drawn to the ES as a good-looking a posh cruiser won’t be disappointed.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $49,900
Price as Tested: $54,650
Engine-Transmission: 302-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine governed by an 8-speed automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 22/32/26 MPG – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Highest possible government 5-star safety rating and highest possible 2022 Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Where Built: Georgetown, Kentucky

Competes With:
Acura TLX
Audi A6
BMW 5-Series
Cadillac CT5
Genesis G80
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Volvo S90

Quiet, luxurious, comfortable interior
Excellent Value
Impressive reliability and resale values

Fussy touchpad operating controls are distracting
Not as sporty as rivals