He said/She said: Lexus ES 350

She ? If blindfolded and riding in the front passenger seat of the entry-level Lexus ES 350 sedan and then the top-of-the-line Lexus LS 460, I am not sure I could tell the difference. ?True the ES is, in theory, a gussied up version of the Toyota Camry and the LS is a sophisticated V-8-powered rear-drive luxury sedan.? Plus the LS is almost twice as expensive as the ES, however, when it comes to riding down the freeway at 60 to 70 mph both cars are as comfortable and quiet as about any car I?ve been in.

He ? She, you certainly make a compelling argument for saving $30,000 or more by buying the ES instead of the LS, but you are right.? For an entry-level luxury car, it certainly has many of the attributers of the Lexus flagship sedan.? I guess that?s why this entry-level ES is the best selling Lexus sedan.

She ? The ES may have the same design elements as the Camry, but the overall look is more opulent, especially in the interior appointments. ?Our test car included the Ultra Luxury Package ($3,535) which added features like double-contrast stitching for the seats, console and door trip along with leather seating with heat and ventilated front seats with memory. The package also adds features like HID adaptive headlights that swivel when the steering wheel is turned, panorama sunroof, power rear sunshade and several other features associated with the most expensive luxury cars.

He ? An all aluminum 272-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine drives the front wheels of the ES 350 through a silky smooth six-speed electronically controlled transmission.? I appreciate that Lexus engineers added a sequential manual shift feature to allow some driver input rather than forcing a premapped program on the driver.

The combination is quite fast running from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and to a top track speed limited to 137 mph. The EPA lists fuel economy at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.? We averaged 24.7 mph during a week of driving.

As we expect in luxury cars, the ES has all the latest electronic safety enhancements like stability and traction control, ABS electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.? A new feature this year is a switch to shut off the stability control system.? This could be helpful if the car is stuck in mud or snow and it?s necessary to spin the tires to get it unstuck.

Additional safety features include eight airbags and the Lexus proprietary Enform? with Safety Connect? system that provides automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location, emergency assistance (SOS) and enhanced roadside assistance. ??The Enform part of the new telematics system includes an advanced destination assistance program along with listing of Zagat?-rated restaurants, gas stations and movie theaters.? Owners can even go online at home and save up to 20 destination folders for use in the vehicle.

The Enform service combined with XM radio provides real-time traffic information, weather reports along with stock reports and sports scores.? Living in the northwest, I also appreciated the rain sensing wipers.

She ? Lexus planners kept the buying process simple by producing only one well equipped version of the ES for $35,675.? For the buyer that wants a little extra technology and creature comforts a couple of major option packages and few free standing options kick the price up to just over $45,000, but still much less than the LS 460.

The Lexus ES is in an interesting position in the entry luxury market.? Most of the cars in this category are luxurious sport sedans placing a great deal of emphasis on performance and handling, in addition to luxury. ?While the ES performs well, it is primarily a luxury sedan with none of the harshness that is often noticeably in sport sedans.? I can?t think of another car that is luxury first, like this one.? So, for a shopper looking for luxury without the performance and handling bias, this could be the perfect car.

He ? It is easy to see why the ES 350 is the most popular Lexus sedan.? It has a great level of features, with few cars with such comfort and luxury.? At $41,748 including destination charge, our test car was about the best example I?ve seen of entry luxury.