The Differences Between the Lexus IS350 & ES350by Michael G. Sanchez
The IS350 and ES350 comprised the entry-level end of Lexus' sedan lineup. The IS was a dedicated sports sedan, designed to compete with performance-oriented cars like the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The ES was the more traditionally luxurious choice. It was a bit roomier inside and offered a relatively relaxed, compliant driving experience.
The rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive IS shared much of its underpinnings with the company's larger GS sedan, as well as the upcoming RC sports coupe. The front-wheel-drive ES, on the other hand, was built on the same platform as Toyota's full-size Avalon.
The IS350 was all-new for 2014, while the ES350 had been redesigned the previous year.
Exterior & Interior Dimensions
Classified as a compact sedan, the IS350 was 183.7 inches long, 71.3 inches wide and 56.3 inches high, with a 110.2 inch wheelbase. The full-size ES350 was 192.7 inches long, 71.1 inches wide and 57.1 inches high. It sat on a 111-inch wheelbase. The IS350's front seats provided 38.2 inches of headroom, 55.9 inches of shoulder room, 54.3 inches of hip room and 44.8 inches of legroom. Its back seats offered 36.9 inches of headroom, 53.4 inches of shoulder room, 54.0 inches of hip room and 32.2 inches of legroom. The larger ES350's front seats provided 37.5 inches of headroom, 57.6 inches of shoulder room, 54.8 inches of hip room and 41.9 inches of legroom. Backseat passengers got 37.5 inches of headroom, 55.0 inches of shoulder room, 53.8 inches of hip room and 40.0 inches of legroom. The IS350's trunk offered 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space, while the ES350's had room for 15.2 cubic feet worth of stuff.
Both models were powered by 3.5-liter, dual-overhead-cam V-6s. The IS350's engine produced 306 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 277 foot-pounds of torque at 4,800 rpm. The ES350's lower-output V-6 generated 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 foot-pounds of torque at 4,700 rpm. The rear-wheel-drive IS350 came with an eight-speed automatic transmission, while the all-wheel-drive version came with a six-speed unit. All ES350s came standard with a six-speed automatic. As a sports sedan, the IS was naturally the clear winner in terms of performance. It could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in a sports-car-like 5.6 seconds. The softer, more relaxed ES could do the same in a slower, but still very respectable, 6.5 seconds.
Features & Options
The IS350's list of standard equipment included 17-inch alloy wheels, leatherette vinyl upholstery, a 60-40 folding rear seat with armrest, LED daytime running lights and brake lights, HID headlamps, keyless ignition and entry, heated side mirrors, a moonroof, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, the Safety Connect telematics system, a 7-inch color touchscreen infotainment display and an eight-speaker audio system with satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and iPod-USB connections. In addition, the IS offered four options packages: Premium, Luxury and F Sport. The Premium package added heated and ventilated front seats and LED headlights. The Luxury package added leather upholstery, auto-dimming side mirrors, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a driver's seat memory function, rain-sensing windshield wipers, wood trim and a blind-spot monitoring assist with rear cross-traffic alert. The performance-oriented F Sport package added LED headlamps, 18-inch wheels, a special mesh grille and revised front bumper, a stiffer, sport-tuned suspension, performance brake pads, a perforated-leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum trim on the pedals and door scuff plates, and special sport instrumentation. Rear-wheel-drive F Sport models also got a more aggressive "S+" setting for the drive mode selector and an adaptive suspension system. Finally, stand-alone options for the IS350 included a GPS navigation system, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, a rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and a lane departure warning system. The ES350 came standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, LED running lights, xenon headlights, keyless ignition and entry, a sunroof, leatherette upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, heated mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, eight-way power front seats with two-way adjustable lumbar support, Bluetooth connectivity, the Safety Connect telematics system and an eight-speaker audio system with satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and an iPod-USB interface. The ES350 was available with five options packages: Display Audio, Navigation, Premium, Luxury and Ultra Luxury. The Display Audio package added a 7-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera and an upgraded audio system with HD radio. The Navigation package included everything in the Display Audio package, plus a GPS navigation system, a larger 8-inch touchscreen, surround-sound audio processing and voice controls. A 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system was optional with the Navigation package. The Premium package added a power-adjustable steering wheel, a driver's seat memory function and wood trim. The Luxury package added leather upholstery and heated and ventilated front seats. Finally, the Ultra Luxury package added upgraded leather upholstery, an adjustable seat-bottom cushion for the driver seat, a panoramic sunroof, ambient interior lighting, manual rear side sunshades and a power rear sunshade. Stand-alone options on the ES350 included adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, a blind-spot warning system, rain-sensing wipers, a power-closing trunk, heated and ventilated front seats with the standard leatherette upholstery, parking sensors and a heated steering wheel.
The two cars offered a strong lineup of safety features. Both the IS350 and ES350 came standard with four-wheel ABS, traction control, stability control, the Safety Connect system, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Safety Connect provided roadside assistance from a dedicated response center via an always-on cellular connection, as well as stolen-vehicle locator and collision notification functions.
The rear-wheel-drive IS350 received an EPA fuel economy rating of 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The all-wheel-drive version was rated at 19-26. The ES350 was the fuel economy leader of the duo, though, with its 21-31 rating. The IS350's base price was $39,615 for the rear-wheel-drive version and $41,850 for the all-wheel-drive car. The ES350 started at $36,620.
Michael G. Sanchez has been a professional writer for over 10 years. A lifelong car enthusiast and former senior mechanic, he has written on a wide range of automotive topics. He holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Castleton State College. Sanchez started writing about cars as a part-time copywriter for a local dealership while still in high school.