2019 Lexus ES: The Most Conservative Car in the Lexus Barn Lets Its Hair Down, Dons F Sport Label

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
2019 lexus es the most conservative car in the lexus barn lets its hair down dons f

Long the preferred ride of the casual golf membership set, the Lexus ES enjoys a reputation of high reliability and very gradual change. Toss that cred out the window, as the 2019 ES undergoes what’s arguably the most significant revamp in its nearly three-decade-long history.

Revealed Wednesday in Beijing, the new ES rides atop a platform shared with its fellow Kentucky-built stablemate, the Toyota Avalon, and grows in all the time-honored ways. It’s longer, lower, and wider than the outgoing version. More power and more speeds come to the sedan’s sole powertrain, while the body undergoes a transformation that takes years off (the age of its perceived driver).

With this 2019 model, Lexus seems pretty determined to rid the ES of its longstanding image as a staid conveyance for those with high-performing mutual funds. How determined? There’s now, for the first time, an ES F Sport.

Under the hood resides a familiar 3.5-liter V6, now generating 302 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque — a 34 hp, 19 lb-ft increase from the previous model. Sending that power to the front wheels only is Toyota’s eight-speed Direct Shift automatic, which doesn’t have the greatest reputation around these parts. Dimension-wise, the ES adds 2 inches to its wheelbase, 2.6 inches to its overall length, and 1.8 inches in width, with a roofline a fraction of an inch lower than before. However, due to the drastically reshaped sheetmetal, the ES appears shorter than before.

The platform’s increased strength means a car with less flex, planted more firmly to the road thanks to an increase in track, especially in the rear (up 1.5 inches). A new multi-link rear suspension corrals wallow.

If this all sounds very similar to the 2019 Toyota Avalon tested earlier this week, that’s because it is. The two models are veritable twins beneath the skin. This means pleasant handling, effortless steering, and decent power, though we found fault in the eight-speed’s responsiveness. While that may be of no concern for returning ES owners, buyers targeted by the new F Sport model might find themselves rubbed the wrong way. Regardless, we’ll hold off on judgement until after we drive this particular car.

Going the F Sport route doesn’t gain a driver any extra power, but it does add an adaptive variable suspension that monitors the road continuously, selecting one of 650 levels of damping force to smooth out the pavement beneath its 19-inch wheels. A Sport + drive mode appears in this trim to firm everything up. Unthinkable in previous ES models, Toyota’s Engine Sound Enhancement feature pumps up the engine note in the cabin for a more visceral aural experience.

As before, there’s a 300h hybrid model on offer, pairing a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and electric motor with a continuously variable transmission. Lexus estimates a combined fuel economy of 44 mpg. Like with the Avalon, total system output is 215 hp. The gas-only model should see incremental improvements thanks to the eight-speed’s wider ratio spread.

For safety, both ES350 and ES300h carry the brand’s updated suite of driver assist features. New for 2019 is daytime bicyclist detection bundled into the car’s pre-collision system. In terms of infotainment, buyers can choose from a standard 8-inch screen or spring for a 12.3-inch unit with navigation feature. All inputs are controlled by a console-mounted Remote Touch Interface trackpad, we’re sorry to say.

Apple CarPlay enabled, the new sedan’s connectivity functions include interactions with Amazon Alexa, should you be the type who enjoys giving orders.

Much like the Avalon, the changes coming to the 2019 ES show the brand’s desire to lure a younger, upwardly mobile buyer while retaining the existing customer base. Whether or not this halts the model’s downward annual sales decline remains to be seen. The revamped sedan goes on sale in September, with pricing announced closer to that date.

[Images: Lexus]

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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Apr 25, 2018

    So does this lend credence to the rumors of the GS being discontinued? The GS and ES are somewhat similar in size, but the RWD GS has always been targeted at the BMW and Mercedes-Benz owners, where the FWD ES was targeted at people who didn't care so much about performance and sportiness.

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    • 30-mile fetch 30-mile fetch on Apr 25, 2018

      @Lightspeed That wouldn't have done it, Lightspeed. The current GS debuted in 2013, peaked at 23K annual sales, and declined to a third of that by 2017. Lexus can't compete in the expensive horsepower war being waged between M and AMG, but the GS *was* a BMW 5-series beater in volume trims. The Lexus was reportedly far sharper and more engaging and for most of those years the V6 was standard compared to the BMWs little turbo four. BMW's sales for the inferior driver's car? 41K in 2017. This segment doesn't want a driver's car. It wants a German badge.

  • ThomasSchiffer ThomasSchiffer on Apr 25, 2018

    The Toyota Avalon and the Lexus ES are both not sold in my country. Based solely on the media photos of these two vehicles, I will have to give the beauty award to the Avalon, which strikes me as quite an attractive vehicle. Yes, I find the Avalon attractive. You read that correctly. What bothers me the most on the design of the ES Lexus is the incredibly short wheel-to-wheelwell styling. A stretched, longer bonnet and a longer wheel-to-wheelwell styling would have worked some wonders for this design, in my opinion.

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.