The Lexus ES has been around for almost 30 years. The last remake occurred with the 2013 model, so it was getting long in the tooth. For 2019, Lexus has given the ES a total makeover.
The new ES350 and companion 300h hybrid, have a new look inside and out, and a new platform. The engine, suspension, and steering have all been upgraded.
The development team made a serious effort to tweak the car’s dynamic performance without losing any of the quality, reliability, and refinement.
They also managed to cut the price, making it an even better value proposition. At a base price of $45,000, the 2019 ES350 is several thousand dollars less expensive, and much better equipped than the competition.
The new ES sits on a new and significantly stronger platform, shared with Camry, Avalon and RAV4. Exceptionally rigid, it is made of several grades of high strength steel, joined by 20-metres of structural adhesive (twice that used in the outgoing model) and “laser screw welding” in 120 locations. It also gets a strut tower brace, multiple reinforcement panels for the towers, and additional radiator support.
All ES 350s use the silky-smooth, and well-proven 3.5-litre V6 common across the Toyota and Lexus lines. It too has been updated. Multiple upgrades to moving parts, a new fuel injection system, and variable valve timing have upped the redline from 6,200 rpm to 6,600 rpm.
All this techno talk aside, the important news is that there are 34 more horses in the corral than the same engine in the outgoing model, and an additional 19 lb.-ft. of torque. Power is delivered to the front wheels through a new eight-speed automatic transmission.
The revised engine results in improved acceleration, and combined with the new transmission, fuel economy is also improved. I did find, on occasion, the transmission was reluctant to downshift. This is likely a programming issue. In the pursuit of maximum fuel economy the transmission holds unto gears as long as possible.
The ES has a reputation as a “plain vanilla” car, suitable for all, but not on the wish list of anyone with a modicum of motoring enthusiasm. Nobody who enjoys driving — as opposed to being driven, or merely getting there — has an ES on their wish list.
To address this, the seventh generation ES has been endowed with a host of upgrades, especially under the F Sport name. There are two performance-oriented F Sport models. F-Sport 1 starts with the $48,800 ES 350 with the Premium package and adds visual touches like aluminum trim, a small spoiler, unique grill, seats with upgraded upholstery, pedals, gauges, and wheels — inside and out. Blind spot monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and active noise control are also included.
The $54,800 F Sport 2 adds navigation, a 31-cm infotainment system screen, 25-cm heads-up display, triple, and adaptive LED headlights.
All that is typical Lexus.
What you can’t see, gives the F Sport package credibility. In addition to the more powerful engine, they get unique shock absorbers and an S+ Mode for the Drive Mode Select system.
On the road, you quickly notice the absence of wind or road noise typical of Lexus products, only more so. Most of the new floor pan is covered with sound deadening material — 25 per cent more than before. There are new covers under the body, and liners in the wheel wells.
Front suspensions settings have been changed to improve ride quality and stability. Parts of the rear suspension have been relocated, and there are new shock absorbers at both ends. F Sport models get different shock absorbers, capable of adapting to road surface changes at an astounding rate. The result is improved handling with no degradation of ride quality.
The interior is a work of art. Fit, finish, and material quality are all excellent. The instrument panel has a unique, configurable LCD display. At this trim level, there is a massive (25 cm), configurable, colour Heads Up Display. A 31-cm infotainment screen rests atop the centre stack.
Unfortunately, it is controlled by an ultra-sensitive touch pad on the centre console, instead of a touch screen. Voice controls help, but there is also a row of eight identical buttons for the HVAC system, requiring you to take your eyes well off the road.
Toyota and Apple have worked out their differences, so the new ES is the first Lexus to offer Apple CarPlay.
The relationship between seat, pedals, and steering wheel has been altered for a more natural position. There is plenty of head and legroom in the rear seat for three occupants. The repositioned rear suspension has brought additional cargo space. It was already atop the class.
The ES features a full slate of active and passive safety system, and a new one. Daytime bicyclist detection uses a millimetre wave radar and camera to detect oncoming vehicles with two or more wheels.
The 2019 Lexus ES retains the refinement, ride quality, low noise levels and interior space it has become known for.
But it now boasts more performance, improved driving dynamics and value.
- Model: 2019 Lexus ES 350
- Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, 268 horsepower, 248 lb.-ft. of torque
- Transmission: eight speed automatic
- NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 11.4 / 7.7
- Length: 4,910 mm
- Width: 1,820 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,820 mm
- Weight: 1,620 kg
- Price: $48,800 base, $57,000 as tested, including freight
- Competition: Acura RLX, Audi A6, BMW 5-series, Mercedes E-Class, Genesis G80
- Standard equipment; heated steering wheel, 17-in alloy wheels, dual zone automatic climate control, automatic high beams, dynamic cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicycle detection, lane tracing assist, lane departure warning with steering assist and road edge detection, navigation system with Enform destination assist (one-year subscription) and map updates (three years or three updates).
- Options on test vehicle: F Sport 2 package: Active Noise Control, Drive Mode Select with S+ mode, heated steering wheel, F Sport steering wheel, Adaptive Variable Suspension, 19-in F Sport alloy wheels, blind spot monitor system, rear cross traffic alert, NuLuxe F Sport, driver seat memory system, 25-cm heads-up display, F Sport metre, rain sensing wipers, LED Headlamps