What was tested? 2007 Lexus ES 350 ($33,470).
Price as tested: $33,470.
People who love cars aren't normal. We're absolute loonies, as if you couldn't figure that out by reading the words in this space each week.
Normal people love normal cars -- Toyotas, Hondas, Fords -- the kinds of cars that are practical, sensible and actually usable when you want to take your family some place. But when God decided to create gearheads, he apparently left out the part of our brains that makes human beings think rationally.
Instead of driving a rational car like a modern Chevy Malibu or Toyota Camry, you'll see us driving a cramped Miata or a leaky old Jaguar or a 1960s muscle car with no seatbelts that gets 20 gallons to the mile. Instead of buying a car that actually starts each morning, we'll buy a rusty Corvette that smells like a mixture of gasoline and sweaty hair gel, or a squeaky MGB that we know will only start a couple of times each year -- if we're lucky.
And instead of liking regular luxury cars, we like BMWs.
Companies that make luxury cars have discovered this BMW fetish, along with the fact that people who write for car magazines are all certifiably crazy gearheads. So the manufacturers try to make their luxury cars drive like BMWs, hoping the wacky car nuts who write for Motor Head and Aggressive Driver magazines will give them good reviews.
Lexus isn't following this trend, and for a good reason. They want to sell their cars to a very special and discriminating demographic group that makes up the largest portion of the car-buying population -- the "normal" demographic.
Thus, Lexus didn't set out to please AutoNut Weekly when it completely redesigned the ES mid-size sedan. Instead of telling its engineers to meet a certain traction rating on the skidpad, a lap time on some obscure European racetrack or a quick zero-to-60 rating, they simply said, "Make it quiet and smooth."
That's exactly what the new ES is. Now called the ES 350, thanks to its bigger, 3.5-liter engine, this car feels like melted butter in every way.
It looks as cool and refined as Charlie Parker at the Apollo, with a sexy, urban style that makes anyone sitting behind the wheel seem sophisticated. Its luxurious suspension is as squishy as Rosie O'Donnel's abdomen, giving it a ride that's softer than Democrats on defense.
Everything inside the car follows the same smooth theme, with a classy, chrome-and-wood-filled interior treatment. The seats and steering wheel are covered in leather so soft you'd swear Lexus had to skin a class of preschoolers to make them.
The 2007 ES is based on the new Camry platform, so it's roomy enough but not quite as limo-like as a full-size luxury car. Still, it comes well equipped for its $33,470 base price, including eight airbags and a lot of standard gizmos.
Unfortunately, prices can climb quickly when you start checking off the option boxes. The Ultra Luxury package adds $5,380, and the navigation system is a whopping $4,050. That's a lot of money to spend on what's still, underneath the pretty skin, a lowly Camry.
At least it has something you can't say about most new luxury cars.
You'll never mistake it for a BMW.
Pros: It's a traditional luxury car with a soft, smooth ride and excellent reputation for reliability.
Cons: It can get very expensive with high-end options, and it still looks a lot like the lowly Camry.
RATINGS (1-10)Style: 9