COAL Update: 2016 Lexus ES350 – A Real Snoozefest, In A Good Way

My 2016 Lexus ES350 has rolled past 50,000 miles now, almost 14 months to the day after I bought used at 13,800 miles or so. So how have things been?

Well, as you would expect with a newish Toyota/Lexus, which is to say perfectly fine. Boring, even. Which is a good thing, as that’s exactly what I was looking for, with two kids in college, soon to be three. Relaxing, entry-luxury motoring, with low operating expense.

In my driving which tends to be skewed towards country roads and interstate, I consistently average 30mpg a tank, which is the highway rating. A longer interstate trip will net 34mpg. I checked this with paper and pencil a few times, and found that the computer was consistently 0.5 mpg off, both optimistic and pessimistic, so I guess that means it has a 1mpg margin of error.

If there is any “quirk”, it is the low fuel light which comes on when you have 4 gallons or more left of a 17 gallon tank. It was annoying at first, but now I just note the mileage and fill up 100 miles later.

The first four services were free with a Lexus CPO purchase. The 15,000 mile service was done predelivery, with an oil change as part of the CPO process (which is over and above the every 10,000 mile schedule). So then I got the 20,000, 25,000, 30,000 and 35,000 mile services gratis.

Every 10,000 miles is an oil and filter, cabin filter, rotation, and check everything out (brakes, fluids, etc.). The in-between 5,000 mile services are just rotation and check the fluids on newer models. Older models with my same engine (which has been used since the 2007 model year) have oil and filter required every 5,000 miles.

The receipt from 20,000 miles indicated that had it not been covered, it would have set me back about $200.00, which seems steep for an oil and filter and rotate the tires. Sure, they check the pads and fluids and whatnot, and replace the cabin filter, but still…..

The 25,000 mile service would have been $100.00, which is even sillier for what is essentially just a rotation. Though they do always give it a very good bath in and out, and you get a new RX or something else juicy to drive for free.

Every 30,000 miles is a larger service, with oil and filter, cabin filter, engine air filter, brake flush, and more checking of the fluids, battery, and underside. That would have been $600.00 or so if not covered by the CPO offer.

I skipped the last 35,000 mile service at the dealer, as the tire shop near my house rotated the tires for free when I rolled in the for the annual emissions test.

As I usually do with most of my cars, I changed the oil and cabin filter myself at 40,000 miles. The genuine Toyota oil filters are $6 on Amazon, and a non-OEM cabin filter is about the same. Every 10,000 miles for a cabin filter seems a little excessive, but it is cheap and very easy to get to, so why not. It is smaller than filters in other cars I have worked on, so maybe it needs to be swapped out due to the lack of surface area.

6.5 quarts of synthetic 0w20 is required; I used Mobil 1. So both filters and the required quantity of Mobil 1 purchased by the five quart jug at Wally World, adds up to about $45.00.

For the 50,000 mile service, I had every intention of doing it myself (even bought the oil), but unseasonably cold and wet weather arrived. I swapped out the cabin filter in 45 seconds, but getting underneath to the oil filter and drain plug wasn’t appealing in that weather. I have to use my ramps outside in the driveway, because the garage floor is too smooth (they just slide when you try to drive up).

There is a Toyota dealer five minutes from my office, so I wanted to try their “quick lane” drop-in oil and filter change (the 2013-2018 ES and Avalon are the same from underneath). I really like my Lexus dealer’s service department, but it’s 45 minutes each way from my office with traffic. So for just a simple oil and filter, it’s a little too much of a production. The Toyota dealer’s website said they had four quick oil change lanes in addition to the regular bays, and “no waiting” for an oil and filter.

I called to make sure of this, and was told otherwise. “We are all booked up today” was the curt reply. I asked about the four quick change lanes touted on the website and was told “that just means we will work you in, but the appointments come first”. OK, well, that didn’t sound promising.

A few hundred feet down the street from them was a Valvoline oil change place. The Lexus dealer here uses Valvoline synthetic, so I went there. 15 minutes and $82 later, I was on my way with 0w20 Valvoline full synthetic. I didn’t like paying twice what it would have cost to do it myself, but it was 38 degrees and raining, so I got over it. And that was cheaper and quicker than the Lexus dealer.

To their credit, they pulled the cabin filter (which was new) and engine air filter (which has only 20,000 miles on it) and told me that they were clean, rather than try to upsell me. They get a demerit for leaving a sticker on the windshield saying my next change was due in 3,000 miles.

I think I’ll keep going with my own changes (or at Valvoline if weather dictates it) until 90,000 miles, and then let the dealer do that one for a brake flush at that time. I’ll hit 90,000 miles within 24 months or so of the last brake flush, so that seems soon enough.

Though Toyota/Lexus uses “Super Long Life Coolant”, they want the system drained and refilled (including the block) at 100,000 miles and then every 50,000 thereafter instead of waiting to 150,000 miles like most makes call for these days.

The radiator has a draincock on it, so draining the radiator and simply refilling it, is super easy. The block is more involved of course, harder to get to, and the V6 engine is known for air bubble problems in the course of refilling.

Most Toyota/Lexus club sites say do the easy rad drain and refill every 50,000 miles, and that’s good enough to keep the coolant fresh, if done that often. I’ll drain the radiator when we get a warm day and refill with a gallon of the genuine Toyota coolant (again, off Amazon, $30).

I did have an odd situation develop with the factory Michelin Primacy MXV4 tires. At 42,000 miles, one of them was worn near slick, past the wear bars. A second one was at the wear bars, and the last two were in pretty decent shape. With the tires being rotated (allegedly) every 5,000 miles at the dealer, I don’t know how that happened. Maybe it was something about that one tire, maybe it was how they were (or were not) rotated.

Anyway, I needed one tire for sure, and probably two. But, I hesitated to buy just two new tires and set myself up to perpetually have two new and two worn tires. Two tires were too good to throw out and buy a full set now, though.

One night, I was perusing the Facebook Marketplace for no good reason and there was an ad for two new Michelin Defender tires, in my size (215/55/17). $125 or best offer. That seemed too good to be true, but I eventually made contact with the elderly seller (he wasn’t on Facebook, a neighbor had posted them for him). In a similar situation, he had bought a full set for his MINI, which had two worn tires and two decent tires. He replaced just the two worn tires, and waited to replace the other two once they were more worn. But the car got traded before that happened, so now he was stuck with these two tires that had never been mounted.

He said he had lost count of how many people said they were coming to get them, but never showed. He just wanted them gone, and after some back and forth, we agreed on $60 for the pair and met at a local grocery store. So for that little money, I was happy to have two worn and two new tires.

I got them mounted on the front, and put the two best factory tires on the rear. The Defenders have about 8,000 miles on them and show very little wear. I am going to leave them on the front on purpose, and when they are shot I’ll buy a new full set.

I did install quite a bit of Dynamat in the car but don’t have any meaningful pictures of that process to share. The ES had more more road noise than I expected after living with it for a while, and I had always wondered about Dynamat, so I tried it. They have a variety of products, but a self-adhesive asphalt sheet about 1/8 inch thick with a foil facing is the main product.

You apply it to a minimum of 1/3 of the surface area of body panels to dampen resonation. I took off the interior door panels and applied it to the backside of the outer door skins, then covered the every inch of the interior-facing door frame before reinstalling the door panels.

That made a huge difference, so I kept going. I removed the rear seat and covered the metal beneath and behind the seat; removed the trunk lining and covered 1/3 of each rear quarter panel, the underside of the trunk lid, and the trunk floor and spare tire well. I pulled up the carpet enough to cover much of the front and rear footwells. I also laid Dynamat’s 1/2 inch thick foam pad under and behind the rear seat, and cut it to fit under the trunk carpet.

I removed the hood pad, covered the underside of the hood with the asphalt, and then replicated the factory tissue-thin hood pad with the 1/2 inch Dynamat pad (it’s heatproof/flame retardant). I pulled the front wheel well liners loose, covered as much of the cabin bulkhead as I could reach with the asphalt sheet, added a layer of the foam, and reinstalled the liners.

It all sounds like a lot more work than it was; I did it when I had time, an hour here, an hour there in the evenings. It all cuts easily with a boxcutter. I installed it so as to be hidden; except for the hood pad, you don’t see it anywhere unless you go looking for it. All told, I added about 80 pounds of asphalt and foam insulation and it transformed the car. It’s at least as quiet as Bertha (the S550) was, and seems to approach the quiet of the LS460 I test-drove, which was library-like. The doors also shut with a much more solid and satisfying “thunk” than before.

The trunk lighting was pitiful, just one little incandescent bulb under the “hat shelf”. Maybe it’s my eyes, but you couldn’t see a thing at night. I applied a self-adhesive LED strip to the underside of the “hat shelf” and connected the wires to the leads for the factory light with heat shrink tubing, so it goes on and off like the factory light. Voila, all the light you need for about $15.

The lower door panels are hard plastic, and it seems to me like they should be carpeted. I found a kit on eBay that claimed to do this. Well, what I received wasn’t for my car, for sure. And wasn’t what I would call carpet, either. I might tackle this with black speaker box carpet, haven’t made up my mind about that yet.

I think I wrote before about upgrading the dash and door speakers with Polk units from Crutchfield. It made a huge difference in sound quality. Crutchfield now has instructions for accessing the subwoofer on the rear deck, so I might try that. It would be a little more involved; the factory amp only sends 60 watts to the sub, and that’s not enough to drive even a small 8 inch Kicker sub (same size as the factory sub). Crutchfield recommends a small Alpine amp in the trunk. I’d have to run a power lead to the fusebox under the instrument panel, but that’s not too bad. Maybe a topic for the future!

I’ve previously written a little about our 1988 Jaguar Cabriolet, and there’s been some developments on that front lately. We will turn our attention to it soon and hope to update you on that project, as we let the Lexus continue to roll up the miles!