2019 Lexus ES
Lexus will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this fall. Part of the celebration is to remember the two original models that debuted as the doors opened of its gleaming marble lined dealerships. Along with the class-disrupting LS 400 sedan was a smaller, less expensive model designed to welcome buyers who might not afford to step up to the LS: The ES 250.
The first ES models have a familiar look, despite having distinctive front and rear ends and a hardtop sedan roofline. They were actually based on a cousin of the Toyota Camry. Potential customers questioned whether they would buy a more expensive version of one of the most popular passenger cars in this country.
The Lexus ES has come a long way from its fall 1989 debut. It now rides on its own platform and exudes its own cache and class that Lexus customers expect. It is now a sales leader among passenger cars in the brand. This newest version is all new from the ground up, from its sharper design to a new addition to the lineup.
Our 2019 ES 350 arrived for us to see how far this former “entry level” Lexus has come since 1989.
On the outside, it is sharper and more focused. It is sportier and more luxurious. Perhaps it is the Sunlit Green paint job outside? The Spindle Grille dictates the front-end design, with a more rakish version of the signature face of Lexus. The headlamps are narrower but emit superb light. The boomerang LED driving lights are more integrated, complimenting the headlamps units.
Front the Spindle Grille, the rest of the new ES falls into line. Well, sharper lines that offer a sleeker look overall. The roofline is more rakish, leading to a sculptured rear deck. The taillights are more tapered than before. A familiar look on various sedans these days not naming names, but, at least Lexus made their trunk lid more are sculptured and distinctive than the rest. The wide doors help in accessing the interior and for better exits.
Once inside, you are charmed by the biggest leap in the history of the ES. The cabin is absolutely stylish. The infotainment screen is wider and set back above the center stack. Perhaps the big change is in the instrumentation, which is completely a TFT screen derived from the various F Sport and F Performance models in the Lexus lineup. There is a single dial with the tachometer on the outside, the digital speedometer in the middle, flanked by a customizable information screen to the left and analog fuel and temperature gauges on the right. Warning lights mostly reside to the far-right side of the instrument binnacle.
The switches for the traction control and drive modes now flank the instrument binnacle. The Remote Touch is gone, in favor of the trackpad. The gear lever is now more linear than notched. The new steering wheel offers more tactile controls and a thick rim for better control. Lastly, this is the first vehicle I have ever driven with automatic settings for the heated/cooled seats and heated steering wheel.
The semi-aniline leather seats are perforated for comfort. Front seats offer plenty of options with 14 powered settings for the driver, 10 for the passenger. They are big and supportive. Rear seat room is very good for plenty of bodies. Despite the rakish roofline, someone with a tall torso can find headroom in the rear. The rear seatbacks do fold down to increase the cargo space that is already very generous. With the seatbacks up there are 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space to fill.
Our ES 350 tester is powered by the uprated 3.5-liter V6, now with 302 horsepower. A new eight-speed automatic transmission feeds this power to the front wheels with quick and undetectable shifts and excellent power delivery. It feels almost like a sportier V6-powered Lexus car. In terms of fuel economy, we averaged 26.0 MPG in my care.
Without question, this is the finest ride in its class. It is buttery smooth, something you expect from a 113-inch wheelbase mid-sized luxury car. All credit goes to a new suspension design with the swing-valve shock absorber. That component alone makes for both a relaxed drive across town or over state lines. Handling is more controlled with minimal roll and lean evident in evasive maneuvers and cloverleaf interchanges.
The electronic power steering system offers a great turning radius and solid response at the wheel. Just wished for a bit more on-center stability. That is where the ES 350 F Sport will come into play, with its Sport S+ setting and better-weighted steering. Otherwise, the steering system in this tester is simply just fine. The brakes are excellent, with superb pedal feel and response. The result is great stops in normal and panic situations.
The new 2019 ES starts with a base price of $39,600 for a “base” ES 350. Our ES 350 Ultra Luxury tester came with a sticker price of $51,459.
The Lexus ES resides in a class with some rather formidable rivals. Those rivals include the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6, Jaguar XF, Acura TLX, Cadillac CTS and XTS, Lincoln MKZ, Buick La Crosse, and Genesis G80.
What makes the Lexus ES one of the better buys in this premium mid-sized market is the level of value it offers. This is measured not just on price alone, but for what it offers. And, what the Lexus ES offers is an absolutely superb luxury sedan – period.
Story Credits: CarSoup Editors