Lexus has announced the 2019 ES sedan for Japan, saying the model will further enhance ride comfort and driving dynamics in its seventh generation while also raising consumer expectations of the tech that goes into making a premium vehicle. Don’t start groaning yet; this doesn’t have anything to do with overblown self-driving capabilities. Toyota’s luxury arm wouldn’t do that to you.
Instead, the ES will become the first production vehicle to replace conventional side mirrors with optional cameras. Dubbed “Digital Side-View Monitors,” the system use exterior cameras mounted on the front doors to transmit images to two 5-inch monitors inside the cabin at the base of each A-pillar.
I’ll admit it — my brow furrowed after first glimpsing the digital side mirrors adorning the Japanese-market 2019 Lexus ES. Strange, foreign, and unnecessary, the automaker’s new “Digital Outer Mirrors” seem like an answer to a question no one asked, but obviously someone did.
My next thought was how this would meld well with automakers’ infuriating tendency to outfit their concept vehicles with narrow, useless blades jutting from the leading edge of the side glass. Thinking it over, I realized Toyota’s little mirror-scrapping experiment has too many upsides to ignore.
Long regarded as the pinnacle of worry-free premium transport, the Lexus ES throws off its dowdy clothes for 2019 in favor of a new, sportier look. It’s a makeover shared with its platform-mate, the Toyota Avalon, and the two large sedans both call dibs on the same V6 engine, four-cylinder hybrid powertrain, and eight-speed and continuously variable automatics.
The mission of this ES is not just to compel existing owners to return to the dealer for another go-around. It wants fresh blood — hence the new sheetmetal and addition of an F Sport model. To help keep both sets of buyers in its good books, Lexus hasn’t gone wild with the pricing. One version actually sees a price decrease for 2019.
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.
It’s been fun watching the Lexus ES’ face evolve over the past couple of decades. While the upscale midsizer always offered a more reserved and staid body than its brash IS and GS siblings, its grille slowly expanded over time. The grille creep sped up when the sixth-generation model arrived for 2013, with the transformation becoming complete after a 2016 mid-cycle refresh.
The ES had became fully spindle-ized.
With a next-generation ES arriving for the 2019 model year, it’s clear Lexus has no plans to swap out the model’s gaping maw. It will change its platform, however.