Our tester ES350 came in a boring beige leather, but I wasn’t one to complaint as without any sun shades to keep on the windscreen, sitting on these seats during the daytime meant I wasn’t melting. Also, the cooling vents in the seats help out a lot. Otherwise, the new ES has design characteristics similar to its German counterparts, with a sweeping dashboard that has multiple layers. The a/c vents are thin, with the analog clock in the middle, below which are the main menu controls for media playback.
You’ll notice the air conditioning controls below that and the seat cooling/ heating controls just under that. Now the gearbox is obviously located in convenient place, but the drive control knob (Eco-mode/ Normal/ Sports) is well ahead of the gear. Now I can see that switching between Normal and Eco-mode may not happen all the time during a regular drive, but certainly the Sports mode needs to be ‘on hand’ for instant use, and that’s not the case with the faraway knob.
Notice on the right of the gearbox a raising palm rest, beyond which is a rectangular knob. This is the multi-directional control unit (along with some context-sensitive menu buttons) for the main navigation & entertainment system whose screen remains in-laid at the very top of the dash.
This is certainly one of the most convenient control mechanisms I’ve seen in any recent luxury car, so it’s a damn shame that it doesn’t work as well as it feels. Basically the if you want to select any menu (or specific option button) you’ll often overshoot your selection because the control knob is a bit too sensitive. The thing is that the control knob doesn’t have any grooves whereby pointing it in any one direction will ‘click’ into place. The floaty feeling of free movement results in imprecise menu navigation. And if that wasn’t irritating enough, the whole navigation system feels slow, oftentimes lagging when switching between different media sources or the map. This is definitely strange because the Camry I tested earlier had one of the fastest responses I’ve seen in a navigation system, which was certainly a pleasant surprise in car that costs almost half of what our test ES350 does.
I don’t know who Lexus contracted or what their engineering department was doing, but they could certainly learn from the Camry’s team on how to make an excellent navigation system. Obviously one can get used to the slow and sometimes over-responsive feel of this system; your mileage may vary.
As was the case with the Camry, the rear seats in the ES350 have ample leg room in the back, with the a/c and media control system built into the middle seat/ armrest especially coming in handy. And when it comes to the rest of the interior design, from the materials used to the quality finishing to the exceptional soundproofing, there’s nothing to complaint about.
The suspension in the ES350 takes comfort to a whole new level, going above and beyond what the Camry offered, which was already very comfortable to begin with. Whether you’re on a speed hump, or taking tight corners, or flooring it, the ES350 will keep you in a very well cushioned bubble of safety and comfort. While driving there’s hardly any feel of torque, while the gas filled shocks will smooths out anything the roads of Dubai can throw at you. With the exception of potholes, I doubt there’s any road surface where the ES will come even close to being uncomfortable.