SALT LAKE CITY — Richard Ratliff is nearly 70, and loves to drive. He’ll take his family on three to eight day trips and would rather drive than fly.
He prides himself on his use of the controls; he likes to pretend he’s a limousine driver keeping things smooth for his client.
He took the borrowed Lexus ES 350 through a traffic circle, giving it a “don’t spill a cup of water” test. He imagines there’s a cup of water sitting on the dash.
Ratliff said the ES was smooth enough for him, calling it “extremely comfortable, just feels right.” However, after a Prius pulled in front of us, it was a good thing the water was only imagined.
Ratliff’s own car is an older Camry. The Camry is a close relative of the Lexus, but the ES adds a lot of features Ratliff hadn’t considered, like a power trunk.
“It’s a neat gadget, it’s not something that I would need in a car,” he said.
Key-sensing door locks and ignition with memory settings — “I can’t believe this.”
He was also impressed with the power sunshade and said, "Oh my goodness" when it came on.
The Lexus also has a mouse-type controller that gives a notched feel when moving over and between on-screen choices. Ratliff said that he enjoyed that feature.
The voice recognition is easier to use than the controller, and that hasn’t always been the case.
Regarding the heated and cooled seats, Ratliff didn't think they were a necessary feature.
“I’ve never used them," he said. "I’ve never felt like I needed them.”
For us rough drivers, the 268 horsepower is peppy.
The Nav system announces traffic delays, but not when they clear up, and we didn’t like having a car the same color as the road. We’d rather have one that stands out a little.
The price starts at $36,100, but our tester optioned up to $46,004, including destination charges. This was mostly due to the luxury package, adding $2,935, and the $3,745 navigation and stereo package.
The power trunk alone costs $400 extra, so Ratliff might be more of a base buyer, adding, “I wouldn’t use all of the gadgets, but it’s a very comfortable car.”
Brian Champagne has reported on cars for more than nine years. He holds a master's degree in communications from the University of the Pacific and teaches at Utah State University.