By on April 25, 2018

Image: Toyota Motor Corp

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.

Image: Toyota Motor Corp

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.

Image: Toyota Motor Corp

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.

Image: Toyota Motor Corp

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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36 Comments on “2019 Lexus ES: The Most Conservative Car in the Lexus Barn Lets Its Hair Down, Dons F Sport Label...”


  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Please stop with all the Toyota and Lexus ads; the more I see those hideous maws, the more I dislike the brands!

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      This.

      I came across a one owner low mileage used 2011 Avalon for sale the other day and I did something I thought I would never do, I stopped and considered it. Yeah it was a bland design but (1) it was designed to be as comfortable as possible before they went off the reservation with the 2013 fiasco, and (2) it looked like a car whose front end people don’t mind seeing first in the morning in their driveway.

      With the new Lexus and Avalon/Camry, they are cars you back into the driveway so you don’t have to look at it before your commute.

      • 0 avatar
        redgolf

        the designers loved the Predator movie, the alien species YAUTJA – “the demon who makes trophies of men” even a mother couldn’t love a grill like that! after the Predator takes off its mask Schwarzenegger says “your one ugly motherf***er

  • avatar

    I think the youthful injection will help sales – but that’ll be down to the styling, and not the F-Sport version. Maybe get some younger people to consider a car which has been a marshmallow shape since 2002.

    PS. The cut line through the chrome trim at the rear door is an atrocity.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Agreed, but overall I like the design, even if it’s a bit generic. Looks good in that metallic red Lexus does.

      I also don’t see the point to the F-sport model here – anyone looking for a performance sedan is going to buy a BMW or Audi.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        FreedMike – They might be looking for something sportier than the standard ES350 but not the maintenance drain of the Germans, especially if they are buying, not leasing. Toyota-safe….

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Not bad looking, yet I’d take the Avalon XSE over this Lexus. Considering these two vehicles are basically the same thing this ES will probably not have optional AWD?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d take a CPO Cadillac XTS V-sport or Continental over either of these.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Mike, I agree. The exteriors of Toyotas/Lexi are improving, but the interiors are just ghastly. That swoopy dash running over the center stack looks terrible. It looks terrible in the Camry and it looks terrible here.

        • 0 avatar
          VW4motion

          Camry would not even be an option. Interior design is just not good. Front passenger foot well is cut off by the center stack. Like Toyota didn’t use humans in the design. But I do like the Avalon, and the interior.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    F Sport trims should have been reserved for RWD models. A Toyota front-driver isn’t going to live up to the IS and GS wearing that badge.

    Between XSE V6 Camry, the Avalon, and the ES350, they’re continuing to parse the expensive FWD sedan market rather thin.

    The door cut line through the c-pillar chrome is unfortunate.

    Lexus is bringing the 80s back with dials and buttons up high on the instrument cluster hood!

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    No replacement for the GS. Looks like a big previous gen Mazda 6.

    *ctrl-F’s “LSD” and “diff”*

    “0 results found”

    Sportier nothing.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Lexus ES F-SPORT – For When Grandma Absolutely HAS to be to BINGO on TIME!

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Nice silhouette – Hard to believe it’s longer than the current ES. Not sure about interior based on that photo. It’s too bad the cruise control stalk is gone – I find the stalk easier than buttons on steering wheel. Do the seat backs fold down?

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Agreed, Secret Hi5, that is too bad about the cruise control. The outgoing stalk (which Toyotas and Lexi have had since at least the early ’90s) has a really positive action, and its position relative to the steering wheel rim makes it quite easy to manipulate vis-a-vis cancel/accelerate/decelerate/resume. Except in heavy traffic, you can almost drive a Toyota or Lexus FDR-style if you’re so inclined. That’s not so easy with other makes’ steering wheel spoke-mounted controls.

      And huge thumbs down to the track pad. I have amount of seat time in an NX 200t, and the track pad is abysmal. To everyone who ever criticized Lexus’ joystick: Be careful what you wish for.

      – – –

      Per other comments about the GS, it’ll be sad to see it go. Tough to justify its existence when the lineup already includes two other RWDers plus the similar-in-size ES.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Agreed, I’m gonna miss the stalk. I’ve been used to these since our Previas. Push in the button, pull down to set, flick up/down to control speed, etc. A good design.

  • avatar
    srh

    “More power and more speeds come to the sedan’s sole powertrain”

    The article describes two powertrains: the 3.5L V6 with 8-speed, and the 2.5L 4-cylinder with CVT.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Looks nice, and the spindle grill works well in this application, but I’m not all that interested. I don’t think the market will be, either. Then again, this will probably be a better moneymaker than the current ES/GS line, considering it’s on the Camry platform.

    But, Lexus…where the heck is the wood trim????

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Wood = slow & boring! FSport = fast & exciting! If you combine the two it’s a matter/anti matter explosion and all that’s left is a smoking crater on the dealership floor. So no wood on the FSport.

      Looks like the new Avalon has wood on the non-“sport” versions, fake (probably) metal trim on the XSE. Lexus may do the same here.

      I miss the bright red wood contrasting with black from the pre-2012 GS. Oh, man, so showy but so right.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      “Various wood-trim offerings include Matte Bamboo, Linear Dark Mocha, and Linear Espresso, while the F Sport comes with aluminum trim that’s meant to have a wavy, three-dimensional effect.”- from C&D’s article

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      The GS and ES are not from the same cloth. ES is Camry and GS RWD from another.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Yeah, there’s definitely not going to be a new GS after this.

    Still, this looks dorky to me. I’d be interested in seeing a more toned-down, non F-Sport version.

  • avatar
    RSF

    Either buy a sports sedan or a near lux sedan, not a near lux sedan trying to be a sports sedan.

    Overall, though, I think this looks better than the Avalon, with the exception of that chrome cut line.

    GS is obviously dead now. Even though I drive 500-600 cars a month I’ve always thought the current generation had some of the most comfortable seats and was a great driver. It will be missed.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Here’s your new GS. And it will do fine in that role, for 90% of the buyers. Too bad about the GS F, but in all honestly Lexus’s dollars are better spent getting that LS-derived crossover ready ASAP. And maybe even spawning an F variant of it with the upcoming turbo V8.

    Oh, and this isn’t even close to the most significant revamp in ES history. That honor goes to the very first one, replacing the also-ran ES250 with the world-beating first ES300.

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      That’s a shame….I love the GS-F…..really want one.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Still watching GS F prices as they age. Still can’t reach. GS350 F-sport still makes me smile though … tick … tock …

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Notice the dash: first thing I thought was that it’s a mosh-mash of the 1st-Gen IS (minus the Swiss watch speedo) with the LS/LC, including the controls on top of the dash which look like Frankenstein’s monster! (As I’ve said before, I don’t remember what the functionality is on those stalks, but it could have been a button someplace else on the IP!)

      (Along with the de rigeur horror-movie-clown Gentex electrochromic mirror, now with HomeLink, just the thing to have to readjust the thing every time you open the garage! But at least you can still turn into sun at a high angle without having your retinas seared before you can put on your sunglasses! Should have bought into Gentex stock last year after seeing those gawd-awful abominations proliferating throughout the industry!)

      And yes, behold the GS replacement! (Sort of what Acura did by combining the TSX and TL.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Wow – rotary dials around the instrument panel just like my 1987 Dodge Colt!

  • avatar
    jkross22

    This interior is weird. Huge center screen, small instrument binnacle, ugly dash material continuing into the center stack.

    The proportions, shapes and lines of everything just look cheap. Maybe individually they look good, but as a whole, this is an ugly bird.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      Lightspeed

      This looks pretty good, and I like the first-gen IS style instrument pod. But, this replacing the GS?! Hell no it better not! Lexus mistake is making the V8 in the GS a very pricy separate GSF trim/model. The V8 should be optional on all GS and the GSF should be a supercharged M5 beater.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        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.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    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.


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