Took delivery in early February--right around the Lunar Year for the East Asians among us. Just for bragging rights, the car had 8 miles, meaning no other customer tested this car.
I've had the car for two weeks so this shall be a list of preliminary impressions. This car is a Premium Plus/Navigation with the implied accessories such as Bluetooth, wood wheel/shifter, power sunshade, etc. Ultra Luxury would have been nice but I didn't see the value for my dollar.
Positive: Practically the whole car is a positive.
-Exterior styling: Conservative never looked this pretty. I don't see how a car like this can go unnoticed. The theme is very cohesive and admittedly a little feminine--but men nowadays are heading down that direction so I'm OK.
-Interior: Nothing jaw-dropping but very curvy and well-executed with its own personality. Rear-seat knee room is plentiful, even with my tall frame pushing the driver seat all the way back, but stay away from the middle rear seat. Perforated leather feels only slightly inferior to UL package semi-aniline.
-Powertrain: The engine is a load of fun. I can rocket away in five-star tranquility. Transmission shifts very smoothly and I have not noticed any flaring.....yet. I have noticed a little low-speed gear-hunting though. The engine revs well and harshness never enters the cabin.
-Ride & Handling: This is no BMW 3-series but the ES feels well-damped and well-controlled. Steering is Lexus-light but I do appreciate that during a commute. The ride is very quiet and smooth, as expected.
-Keyless entry: Takes time to get accustomed to, but becomes useful.
-Navigation system: Decently simple to operate, but no street names in the announcements. Would like the option of a male voice, though, to cater to my daily mood, LOL. Backup camera is a lifesaver because of the high tail.
-Mirrors: Auto-dimming gets rid of headlight glare from those behind you (which is just about everyone), but now I need to re-train my eyes to spot the headlight style of a Ford Crown Victoria. Especially with that engine...
-CD changer: Lexus has cleverly hidden its CD changer behind pretty wooden panels. Having it in the dash is quite convenient, and nobody notices it.
Negative: A few small ****** in the ES's armor of perfection.
-Roofline is low. I'm 6'1" tall and an explosively spiky hairstyle (in an ES--I love contradictions!) will have me sweeping the headliner like a broom. This is probably my biggest gripe about the car. I'm surprised at how little coverage this gets! Notice, however, that this didn't stop me from choosing the ES.
-Rear visibility: With the rear camera, this is a breeze. Without, the tall tail and high beltline can make parking a hassle.
-Glove compartment is poorly lit with a dim orange glow. This can be annoying at night. What engineer made this bizarre blunder?
-Cupholders are of a fixed size. Basically, they are bottleholders.
Don't care for: Quirks that others may praise or condemn.
LED interior lighting: Not quite the cup of tea for the upper end of the customer age spectrum, but I don't mind it. Roof console needs to be illuminated for ease of use...good thing I don't use it much yet!
Base sound system: Probably vastly inferior to the Mark Levinson system, but not awful enough for me to complain. After some adjustment, it's decently crisp with passable bass and mids. I'm not one to blast ear-piercing symphony orchestra because the car has so much quietness for the occupants to enjoy.
Heated/cooled seats: A great gadget to show off, but I never use it (check my Location to see why).
Competition: Cars I considered before choosing the ES350.
-Acura TL: A more sporting alternative with similar power. Exterior styling was cool in 2004, but looks stodgy now in 2008. Both exterior and interior need to mature to recapture my eyes.
-Infiniti G35: Sporty and powerful. Exterior styling, engine noise and rear seat room lose to the ES.
-Mercedes-Benz C300 & BMW 328i: Too small. C-class interior is a bit downmarket. Aside from handling, both lose out in space & features at a competing price range so the ES has more value.