The Lexus ES has had a bad rap in Australia. Dismissed as a flash Camry with a gold badge in earlier days, it's now finally out on its own but still struggling for traction in the prestige showroom.
It's not as driver-focused as the rear-drive IS stablemate or as roomy and cushy as the larger GS, so it's a bit like Momma Bear. And you cannot escape the comparisons with the Camry, which has always been much the same size with a similar engine and mechanical package.
But the change to the latest ES brings a car that's more sophisticated than before and would work for a lot of people who want an easy life with lots of luxury.
It's a true Lexus, not a reworked Camry, for the first time. But it's important not to undervalue the Camry comparison, because the mid-sized Toyota is surprisingly good. It's no sports car and it's vanilla in flavour, but it is a good drive, solidly dependable and a good size with good value.
The latest ES 350 is not cheap from $65,000 but it packs a lot of value from a classy sound system and leather trim through to a giant boot and plenty of rear-seat space. It also runs easily, with 9.1L/100km fuel economy, and has a sophisticated V6 that's silky smooth yet eager when you ask the right questions.
When I first jump into the ES 350 I have to admit to feeling slightly underwhelmed. The new car is very quiet, calm and sophisticated, but it does not have the "special" feeling I expect when the price tag zooms up to the threshold of the Luxury Car Tax. And it doesn't have the extra punch and green credentials of the ES hybrid.
But time has a way of changing things and the more time I spend with the ES the more I appreciate its ability to cover ground with minimal fuss. No matter what sort of road, or what sort of distance, I arrive relaxed.
I would like paddle-shifters to get more from the six-speed automatic, and the soft-riding suspension is not to my taste - I much prefer something like the AMG settings on a Benz C Class - but there is no reason to complain.
And that's the whole story. There is nothing to dislike in the ES. It might not have the taut feel of a BMW or Benz, or the flashiness of a fully loaded Audi, but there are people who are happy to fly under the radar and regard a car as a tool.
Yes, the ES 350 is still a super Camry but that's not a bad thing. In fact, for some people, it's a very good thing.