The longevity of some automobiles tends to sneak up on you. Living proof: this 2019 Lexus ES. Are you able to consider you are wanting on the seventh-generation mannequin? The ES, together with the marque’s flagship LS sedan, are the 2 longest-running nameplates within the model’s historical past, having been on sale since Lexus’ inception in 1989. In additional human phrases, that implies that the ES household is firmly Era Y — it is a millennial.
Which will come as a shock, as a result of all through its life, the ES has been seen as a conservative, staidly-styled providing. Traditionally, it has been a mannequin whose attraction was that it was straightforward to advocate to consumers “of a sure age” who prioritized qualities like a comfortable journey, quiet cabin and drama-free possession over all different attributes.
Using atop its new GA-Okay chassis, the 2019 mannequin appears set to keep up these hard-won ES-family touchstones. After spending a day driving it in Tennessee, I can affirm that it’s certainly unerringly serene, and it enjoys wonderful journey high quality and sound isolation. Additional, there isn’t any motive to imagine that the brand new ES will ship something aside from sterling reliability.
However that is the place the brand new mannequin’s AARP-friendly likenesses finish. Not like previous iterations, the 2019 ES achieves its calm demeanor with out resorting to the kind of overly tender suspension that in the end yields messy dealing with when pressed. And it does every little thing sporting a daring new look.
Like that famed and much-maligned era of individuals born between the ’80s and the early ’90s, the brand new ES has matured vastly. In reality, the ES and millennials share some generally related traits: The Lexus is assured, achievement-oriented and possesses a surprisingly robust household drive. As for ascribing one other generally held perception about millennials to the ES — tech savviness — I’ve acquired my reservations.
The 2019 ES rides atop a brand new chassis with a markedly longer wheelbase for higher cabin room.
Stylistically, the ES began to let its hair down a little bit within the outgoing era, however not practically as fully and dramatically because the automobile seen right here. The 2019 ES is 2.6 inches longer, Zero.2 inches decrease and 1.Eight inches wider than its forbearer, and it sits on a 2-inch longer wheelbase whereas straddling markedly wider entrance and rear tracks. The takeaway? The brand new ES options extra athletic and substantial proportions, together with improved cabin room.
As earlier than, the ES vary contains each fuel (ES 350) and hybrid (ES 300h) front-wheel drive midsize sedans. New for 2019 is a 3rd choice, the hawkish-looking ES 350 F Sport.
A brand new-for-2019 F Sport mannequin encompasses a distinctive mesh grille, particular decrease fascias and totally different wheels.
Non-F Sport ES fashions (just like the burgundy ES 350 proven in these pictures) shall be straightforward to identify on the road because of its distinctive interpretation of Lexus’ trademark Spindle Grille. On this software, the outsized meeting has a sure “sands via the hourglass” high quality about it.
To my eyes, this software of Lexus’ controversial styling factor is much less profitable than within the bigger LS sedan, and definitely, the corporate’s deeply fashionable LC Coupe. That stated, the grille integrates much better into the automobile’s total design than the extra timid model used on the outgoing mannequin (which all the time seemed just like the tacked-on midyear refresh artifact that it was).
Akio Toyoda, head of Lexus’ father or mother, Toyota Motor Co., made it clear a number of years in the past that boring designs would not be tolerated, and the Lexus crew has taken that message to coronary heart, virtually to a fault. Between its bigger grille, these slashing, glowering headlamps and extra intentionally styled bodysides, the 2019 Lexus ES actually appears extra assured and upscale. Nonetheless, I can even see how its extra aggressive visage could alienate a number of the automobile’s extra conservative core consumers.
The ES 350’s Three.5-liter V6 dispenses 302 hp to the entrance wheels through an eight-speed automated.
What lies beneath
The 2019 ES would not simply put on a extra dynamic and confident new jacket, it is acquired extra muscle lurking beneath, too. Thanks partly to elevated use of high-strength steels, the ES’ new platform is stiffer. And whereas the ES shares a lot of its body-in-white with the extra prosaic 2019 Toyota Avalon, there are a selection of key variations, together with elevated use of laser-screw welding and structural adhesives to additional enhance rigidity. Notably, the ES receives a V-brace mounted behind the rear seats that improves torsional bending resistance on the expense of having the ability to fold the rear setbacks for added utility.
As earlier than, the center of the ES 350 is a naturally aspirated Three.5-liter V6. Because of updates that embody a revised fuel-injection system, output is up meaningfully to 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque (will increase of 34 and 19, respectively).
Simply as importantly, Lexus has binned the outgoing ES’ six-speed automated in favor of a brand new eight-speed gearbox with a wider ratio unfold for each higher acceleration and improved effectivity. All through my day’s drive within the rolling countryside outdoors of Nashville, the Direct Shift transmission comported itself effectively, except being sometimes sluggish to downshift (no matter drive mode) throughout extra enthusiastic driving.
Mixed, the ES 300’s burlier engine and smarter transmission yields an estimated Zero-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds. That is unremarkable, but it surely’s a lot fast for the sort of automobile, and it is a half-second enchancment over its predecessor. Estimated gas financial system numbers are considerably oddly unfold out — simply 22 miles per gallon within the metropolis, however a significantly better 33 mpg on the freeway, or 26 mpg total.
The ES 300h hybrid is estimated to return as much as 45 mpg — severely spectacular for a big luxurious automobile.
The ES 300h, which options Lexus’ fourth-generation hybrid know-how, pairs a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder with a extra highly effective electrical motor and a brand new nickel metallic hydride battery pack. Importantly, the latter’s extra compact dimensions imply that it now suits beneath the rear seat, saving trunk house.
Whole system output is quoted at a modest 215 horsepower (+15), and a torque determine just isn’t obtainable. Preliminary effectivity estimates name for 44 miles per gallon metropolis, 45 freeway and 44 mixed. These are vastly spectacular numbers — Toyota says they’re sufficient to make the ES 300h essentially the most environment friendly luxurious car provided within the US with out a plug.
Constructed solely in Kyushu, Japan (most different North American ES fashions shall be in-built Georgetown, Kentucky), the hybrid’s Zero-60 mph is listed as a casual-sounding Eight.1 seconds, the identical as final yr.
Regardless of a rakish roofline, the rear seat affords loads of head- and legroom. If something, toe room is a little bit tight.
None of these metrics actually inform you how the brand new ES feels whereas producing these numbers, nonetheless, however the reply is “fairly darn good.” Lexus makes a giant deal about how a lot sportier this new XV70 era is to drive than earlier than, and certainly, it breeds driver confidence like no ES earlier than it. That is significantly true of the F Sport, which not solely provides visible drama with a blacked-out mesh grille, distinctive decrease fascias, model-specific wheels, rear spoiler and dark-finish taillights, it additionally nudges the dynamic quotient upward.
Mainly, that is as a result of the ES 350 F Sport is on the market with Adaptive Variable Suspension derived from the system on the LC Coupe. Lexus says the system options no fewer than 650 particular person ranges of damping, which helps preserve the automobile stage, whether or not it is being pitched laborious right into a nook or negotiating a suburban pace bump. Nonetheless, the usual ES with its novel new “swing-valve” passive shocks works effectively, too. As on all 2019 ES fashions, the electrical energy steering module has migrated from the column to a brand new rack mount for improved responsiveness, and turn-in is noticeably keener, even when highway really feel stays considerably muted.
Talking of considerably muted — F Sport fashions characteristic extra drive modes, together with a Sport+ mode designed to reinforce engine noise for a extra athletic really feel. As Yasuhiro Sakakibara, the ES’ chief engineer famous, that allowance was “wanted to maintain the cabin from being ‘unnaturally quiet’.” In my estimation, Lexus has solely partially succeeded, nonetheless. Whereas the free-breathing V6 really sounds fairly good climbing to its 6,600-rpm redline, its tune stays too muffled and distant for my liking — it is as if the engine is swaddled in thick cashmere blankets.
Regardless of driving an early prototype, good fit-and-finish was in proof.
I am happier in regards to the swaddling that occurs within the new inside, which feels impressively upscale. Boasting snug seats, good-quality switchgear and supplies, it is a nice place to be irrespective of which mannequin you are in, and regardless of the design’s extra dramatically sloping roofline, there’s loads of headroom again there for 6-footers.
On the cabin facet of the equation, like every millennial price their salt, the ES travels in all places with a full array of tech goodies, together with an non-compulsory big and crisp head-up show that works higher than most when sporting polarized sun shades. A 10-speaker, 296-watt Pioneer audio system comes customary, however an 1,800-watt, 12-channel Mark Levinson system is non-compulsory. There’s even Amazon Alexa integration and obtainable wi-fi charging.
On fashions outfitted with navigation, the inside is dominated by a 12.Three-inch billboard-style infotainment display screen (automobiles that go with out embedded nav get an Eight-inch show). All ES fashions characteristic an ordinary Verizon WiFi hotspot, and whereas Android Auto customers stay out of luck, Lexus is promising Apple CarPlay on fashions constructed after Oct. 1.
I might counsel ready for a kind of fashions, if solely as a result of Apple CarPlay’s simplified menu construction is considerably extra intuitive to function than the native infotainment system. Keep in mind after I stated I had reservations in regards to the ES’ tech savviness? That is as a result of Lexus’ Distant Contact Interface (RTI) continues to be very irritating to make use of. Whereas enhancements have been made, this trackpad-based system stays maddening — it is my least-favorite infotainment interface within the luxurious automobile enterprise. I do not actually even assume it is a lot of an enchancment over the outgoing ES’ humpbacked mouse-style controller. As RTI use is on the coronary heart of a lot of the automobile’s capabilities, I like to recommend making some extent of getting very acquainted with how the system works whereas driving earlier than signing on the dotted line.
A 12.Three-inch show is customary on navigation-equipped ES fashions. Sadly, so is the Distant Contact interface.
Even when the 2019 ES stumbles with infotainment know-how, this millennial appears poised to excel in the case of family-minded superior security gear. All ES fashions come outfitted with Lexus Security System 2.Zero, which features a precollision auto-brake system with pedestrian and daytime bicyclist detection. All-speed radar-based cruise management can also be a part of the bundle, as is lane-keep help, highway signal recognition and auto high-beams. A blind-spot monitor and 360-degree digital camera are additionally obtainable.
In it for the lengthy haul
Total, the 2019 Lexus ES is a considerably higher automobile than earlier than, with higher-fidelity dealing with, robust complement of security options and a nicer cabin. I would not go as far as to name the brand new ES actually sporty, however it’s extra confidence inspiring.
Lexus officers stay upbeat that the brand new ES will discover houses regardless of customers’ ebbing love affair with conventional sedans (a actuality that has been enjoying out in Toyota’s residence market of Japan for a few years already). The corporate is relying on edgier styling and improved efficiency to offer the mannequin broader attraction amongst all generations of consumers, be they X, Y or Boomer. With over one million ES fashions offered within the US alone to this point, I would not wager in opposition to them.
The 2019 Lexus ES rolls into sellers this September, and pricing shall be introduced nearer to the car’s on-sale date.
The sedan market is waning, however Lexus may choose up its share as others exit the section, too.
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