2019 Lexus ES Review

Written by Mary Chapman

 In an apparent effort to appeal to a broader range of car buyers, Lexus went and sprinkled personality on a ride that was already decent and comely, if only in a genteel sort of way. Sort of like the nice-looking but slight and kind of bland classmate who, over summer, produced a keen wit and newly buff triceps. Just like that, all his Saturdays were booked.


Now, it did take Lexus nearly 30 years to get the ES right. In previous iterations, when it shared bones with Toyota’s Camry and then, the Avalon, the model was, well, stylish and cultured, but a bit of a bore. Those vigor-free days are over.


Fully redesigned for 2019, the ES 350 sports a brawnier 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine, made so by a gussied-up fuel injection port system. That means an additional 34 ponies and 19 more pound-feet of pull, totaling 302 horsepower and 267 in torque. The car scoots off the mark most satisfyingly, not least due to a new eight-speed tranny that supplants the six-speed.


Built on a form of the Toyota New Global Architecture, the ES has more rigidity and an improved suspension, if relatively staid steering and handling. This is still a well-structured, comfy, extra-quiet whip, but with newfound charisma. The ride quality is superb.


It’s also a tad longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, imparting an aura of strength and mission that makes it, dare I say, kind of fun to drive, whether in eco, normal or sport mode. In the main, this is a new, more in-your-face persona, folks.


Like it or not, even the controversial spindle grille is bigger. The thing seems to be growing on me, literally and figuratively. I didn’t care for it early on, and in that I know I had company. I am getting used to it, however. Overall, I do like the clean-lined but shapely exterior. The car also sits nicely on its 18-inch wheels.


With MSRPs ranging from $39,500 to $44,035, trim levels include the base ES, Luxury, Ultra Luxury and F Sport. There is also gas-electric hybrid version. I tested a Luxury loaner, which starts at $42,255 and gets a combined 26 m.p.g., using regular petrol, to boot.


Interior-wise, this is a sumptuously classy, upscale ride, rife with quality materials and tasteful appointments. Front to back, it looks and feels like money. And there’s plenty of room for five peeps, even if one - moi - is a six-footer. I never felt cramped, nor did a passenger behind me. Too bad the rear seats don’t fold, though.


The Luxury trim comes with leather seating, heated and ventilated front seats, interior wood and ambient lighting, heated mirrors, noise-reducing front side windows, and a massive 12.3-inch display.


It also adds an array of upgraded technology gizmos, including a long list of standard safety features such as a pre-collision auto-brake system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, radar cruise control with road sign assist, lane keeping and change assist, blind-spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert brake, and vehicle stability control. Other standards include parking assist, intelligent clearance sonar and panoramic view monitor.


In addition, I got a hands-free power trunk lid, interior door handle with illumination, glass roof, Lexus Climate Concierge, LED headlamps, primo Pioneer 10-speaker system, Apple CarPlay capability and Amazon Alexa integration.


I do have to express impatience, however, with the new infotainment system. Although it uses a touchpad controller instead of the much-maligned joystick, I did not feel wholly familiar with it by week’s end. Some things, it sometimes seems, are too sophisticated for their own good.


All told, it took Lexus seven gens to produce the right combination. But all’s well that ends well, as the saying goes, and now that the ES has flair on top of elegance, chances are it will do well by a lot more buyers.

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