AutoGuide cut through some of the marketing hype and took the Lexus ES 350 and its advertised Buick rival for a multi-day test, with the review team rating both cars on 19 categories from driver comfort to price. They had praise and criticisms for both vehicles, and the final score tally was close—here’s the ES 350’s result:
As a whole, the Lexus is by far the more premium vehicle. Yes the interior is dull, as is the exterior, but the cabin is still better executed with higher-grade materials and workmanship. With more style to the interior of the Buick, a flashy promo photo can make it appear more luxurious, but the reality is less flattering. While less flashy, at least the Lexus’ interior is more user friendly than the Buick with far less clutter on the dash. The higher-grade leather also makes a significant difference in the feel.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not considering Buick’s history), the LaCrosse is close in the softness of the ride, but the ES manages to achieve a slightly more cloud-like feel while also being a bit more dynamic – although neither car comes anywhere close to that term. We have to credit the more agile feel of the ES350 to its significantly lower curb weight. […]
Most noticeable in the driving experience between the two models is the excellent feeling of isolation the ES delivers – something even reasonably priced Lexus models offer after years of striving and achieving Mercedes-like standards.
Other factors in the ES’ favor include better fuel economy (albeit with premium fuel), eight standard airbags plus available rear side airbags (vs. the Buick’s six airbags), 14.7 cubic feet of trunk space (vs. the Buick’s 12.8 cu.-ft), dynamic radar cruise control and pre-collision system options, and higher ratings for driver comfort, engine noise, and acceleration. However, the LaCrosse did have a larger rear seat, higher style ratings, and available features such as AWD and a forthcoming four-cylinder model. In the end, AutoGuide concluded:
In keeping with GM’s marketing of the LaCrosse, we took the “Buick Challenge,” but found the LaCrosse wanting. The Lexus ES simply out-shines its competitor in those areas where it really counts for a luxury sedan, namely, interior quality and the driving experience. Yes, the ES350 costs a premium, and yes, we wish it also came with a heads-up display and a heated steering wheel, not to mention some actual style. We’re also compelled to mention here that the Buick is also available in AWD, while the Lexus is not. […]
But as improved a Buick as the LaCrosse is, it’s no Lexus – not even an ES.
AutoGuide’s review team evidently felt that the ES 350’s $2,000-5,000 price premium was well worth it. It’s an interesting comparison, and with a number of rivals targeting the ES 350, shows that being a benchmark entry-luxury model also means defending the title once and a while.