First impressions have a way of biting you in the ass. After seeing the trailer for the first time, I declared with absolute conviction that a movie about a slow-witted Southerner who blunders his way through a tumultuous period in American history would leave theatre seats as empty as store shelves before a Category 5 hurricane. Alas, Forrest Gump was not the colossal flop I predicted.
Nor was the suddenly sportified Lexus ES 350 that appeared in my driveway the embarrassing wannabe I envisioned after learning my tester wasn’t the basic ES 350. (Testers are rarely ever basic, sadly.) All new for 2019, Lexus’s most conservative passenger car gains not just a version of the new TNGA platform shared with the equally new Toyota Avalon, but also the F Sport badge found elsewhere in the Lexus lineup.
While dressing up traditional sedans seems to be a compulsion at Toyota these days, this ES 350 F Sport, red leather and all, managed to throw a number of assumptions back in my face. Some … but not all.
The Avalon has been something of a caricature since it wafted on stage in 1994. The stretched Camry was low on soul, devoid of style and soft of spring. In short, it was the Buick that wouldn’t leave you stranded. Since then Toyota has struggled to divine a mission for their full size sedan, a problem complicated by the re-invigoration of the large sedan market by the American brands. In hopes of resurrecting sales numbers, which have slid to 25% of their 2000 year shipments, Toyota has injected something hitherto unseen in an Avalon: style. Is it enough?
Even when stacked up against other Lexus models, the front-drive ES has long been considered boring. Yet the Camry-based sedan has been a best-seller for Lexus and in its segment. For this reason, it has become a benchmark; just as every compact sport sedan targets the BMW 3-Series, every upper-midsize near-luxury sedan targets the ES. Well aware of the beads drawn on its back, [s]Toyota[/s] Lexus has redesigned the car for the 2013 model year. But has it raised the bar enough to keep Koreans with upward aspirations in their place?
The Lexus ES has been the best-selling Lexus sedan for decades, outselling every Lexus model except for the RX. While the ES was originally designed as the Japanese luxury brand’s entry-level vehicle in America, it is slowly becoming one of Lexus’ flagship products. To prove to us that Lexus has what it takes to reign supreme in the FWD luxury class they created in 1989, they flew us up to Oregon to sample the all-new, sixth generation ES 350 and 300h hybrid.
[Update 3: This post is now officially obsolete, having been supplanted by the much more accurate update here]
[Update 2: In a new post, I have noted that 53% of Toyota UA complaints were filed after the mat advisory was issued on 9/29/09. The number used her are not adjusted for that. As soon as they are available, I will redo this spreadsheet, using more accurate sales stats]
[Update ans Disclaimer: As I noted below, this spreadsheet will be updated when I can access actual sales stats from our source, Morgan and Co. on Monday for the years (’05-’10) covered. That will very likely change the rankings somewhat. The Lincoln may actually be #2. But this is not about which car is #1 or #2; it’s about finding patterns in certain makes, and within makes. It’s an attempt to see if these statistics can shed light on a complex and opaque issue. As an example, why the Toyota Yaris is so low in reported incidents. It’s more about these patterns and discrepancies, than about singling out the car with the highest rate, so please don’t take the current exact rankings as the final word. It’s a work in progress. The fact that the complaints are not tabulated by individual MY also limits this substantially, as running changes in a given car during the five year period will change things significantly. So this data dive is fundamentally flawed; take it as such. But nevertheless, it’s still a huge step over the raw data that Edmunds put out, which doesn’t begin to account for the number of any given cars sold.]
Numbers and statistics are largely useless without context. Edmunds.com took a first good step in going through NHTSA’s data base and reporting the number of UA events reported per make, brand and vehicle. But what was obviously missing was the correlation to the number of cars on the road in relation to those numbers. We’ve taken the next (tedious) step, and the results are most interesting indeed. They’re certainly not completely conclusive, but we’re not finished yet. The full list of 95 cars follows, as well as our methodology, a stab at some analysis, and more questions to still be answered.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- ToolGuy "Having the dual sliders has been amazing as it let's me and my wife have our own "sides" of the van to prep for rides/races."Who goes on the traffic side??
- ToolGuy "I caught a little bit Saturday, but Sunday it seemed impossible to find on my cable. I think it was streaming on Peacock, which I have, all weekend, so I could've watched it that way. I'm not complaining, to be clear, since I could've popped Peacock on and yet I chose to watch something else."Being you sounds like a real chore. 😉
- ToolGuy If it is the longer-wheelbase version, good. (If not, it isn't.)
- ToolGuy "circumvent(ing) dealerships" should be illegal.Does "circumventing" mean spending my money there?
- ToolGuy If my head gets flatter I might consider this.