Whats it up against?

This ones tough to answer: The ES doesnt really have many direct rivals aside from the Ford Fusion-based Lincoln MKZ, the Cadillac CTS , the Acura TL and the Volvo S80 since the segment is all-but ignored by the default German luxury carmakers and even those four really take on different roles.

The redesigned MKZ has a capable chassis and a nice V6, but it trails the competition in terms of interior appointments. The CTS has wowed us over and over by being so, well, un-GM, but its rear-wheel-drive sportiness might turn some shoppers off. The controversial TL abandoned its conservative roots for 2009, but like the ES, it offers a lot for the money. The S80, also fresh off a makeover for 2010, might be the ES 350′s most direct rival thanks to its sophisticated and quiet demeanor, but wed be surprised if theres truly much cross-shopping between the two brands.

Any breakthroughs?

Lots of luxe for the cash thats the ES promise. You wont find much thats truly groundbreaking, but you will find the coddling of the larger LS in a less expensive package.

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    And the inside?
    Like the exterior, the ES interior makes neither friends nor enemies. Its business as usual for Lexus, which means youll be treated to acres of glossy wood, sumptuous leather and a generally co ...