2019 Lexus ES 350 Review

2019 Lexus ES 350 - Mid-size Lexus emerges from Camry's shadows

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Lexus finely tunes its popular mid-size sedan with a
seventh-generation effort scheduled to reach Chicago-area dealers in September.


The Lexus ES350 is all new for 2019 sporting a longer,
lower and wider presence. Earlier generations opted for an understated visual,
but this 2019 version is the most athletic-looking to date.  All those
sessions ES spent at the 24-hour fitness center have paid dividends.  

Additional
strength is noticeable under hood through the standard 3.5-liter V-6
naturally-aspirated engine (non- turbocharged) now surpassing 300 horsepower (302
to be exact), up 34 from Gen Six and connecting with a refined eight-speed
automatic transmission.  Fuel economy gets bulked up a notch as well.

The
venerable ES debuted way back in 1989, at the dawn of Lexus itself. Considered
the brand's 'entry luxury' choice, the front-wheel-drive ES slots under lower
volume GS and IS performance burners and the brand's flagship LS sedan.

Spend
time in row two, and the vehicle's additional length (2.6 inches more) and
width (1.8 inches extra) and lower hip point come into perspective, allowing
three adult-sized riders to enjoy the experience.  Design engineers
provided comfortable headroom despite a slightly lower stance from the previous
generation with its 'fast roofline' coupe-type design.  Trunk cargo
volume has marched upward as well.

The 2019 ES 350 rides on
a completely new 'GA-L' platform derived from its parent company's TNGA (Toyota
New Global Architecture) design.  Toyota revamped its uber-popular
Camry (America's best-selling car for 15 years in a row) in the 2018 model year
utilizing the TNGA platform. The updated Lexus ES 350 now enjoys a longer
wheelbase than Camry (distance between front and rear axle) and setting itself
apart.

For too long ES, rightly or wrongly, found itself
stuck in Camry's long-cast shadow (as previous incarnations shared dimensions
and many underpinnings).  With a little extra breathing room, ES now
steps out with its newly-groomed identity.

Lexus certainly
takes inside quiet to the next level, setting the bar for an entire
industry.  While luxury rivals have tinkered tirelessly to catch up
and sometimes match the semi silence, none have yet surpassed the Lexus
library-quiet experience. This 2019 ES adds a greater degree of sound deadening
floor pan insulation along with front fender liners to silence road noise even
further and stay one step ahead.  

Returning
upfront, the brand's spindle' grille, a vertically-dominate layout not
dissimilar from a truncated hourglass.   When introduced
earlier this decade, Lexus took some heat for a 'polarizing' ID front and
center.  But the bold statement set the brand apart and sales never
slowed, continually outpacing Japanese upmarket rivals, Acura and Infiniti. The
pointed grille now blends smoother into the hood and overall design, rather
than jammed into an existing template as an afterthought.

Our
2019 tester sported a new-for-2019 'F-Sport' edition including cosmetic and
not-so-cosmetic nuances. Look closely at that spindle grille, and find tiny,
redundant 'L-shaped' honeycomb-like inserts in place of vertical bars. F-Sport
adds the largest ES tires available (19 inchers) and a slightly elevated rear
spoiler atop the stout deck lid.  Also visually appealing is an F-Sport-exclusive
hue; an Ultra Sonic Blue Mica which drew unsolicited oohhs and ahhhhs from
passersby.

Base price starts at $39,500 reflecting a
nuanced $550 increase from 2018 with added horsepower, size and
content.  Opting for the F-Sport edition, this week's tester, brings a
$44,035 starting point and $1,025 destination charge no matter what trim
gets  selected.

In addition, the 2019 ES also
offers a self-charging (no nightly plug-in required) gas-electric hybrid
opportunity in the form of the ES300h ($41,310 starting price, $510 less than
2018). Lexus and parent company, Toyota, have sold and offer more gas-electric
hybrids than any other automaker worldwide.  For those seeking to take
a luxury hybrid plunge, ES is a smart place to start with a combined
city/highway fuel rating of 43 mpg.

The revamped dashboard
includes a multi-tiered design with a theatre-screen-like, flat
monitor.  This screen, along with the LCD-enhanced instrument panel,
welcomes drivers with cosmic-like animation when entering.

Poking
at the deep-set  prominent center screen quickly accumulates
fingerprints (and no response), so drivers need to reach for the latest
incarnation of the Lexus 'Remote Touch Interface.'   

A
flat, touch sensitive surface between the front buckets and east of the
transmission shifter interacts with the dash monitor.  A screen cursor
moves in tandem with a finger skating over the flat pad.  Choosing an
option simply involves pushing down onto the surface, summoning a semi-muted
'bing.'

The flat, touch-sensitive surface replaces a
squarish, slightly elevated wiggle tab from the previous generation used to
maneuver the curser. Both require practice and patience to master and too often
require more than just a passing glance to operate.

When
ordering the optional navigation system, screen size reaches a sizeable 12.3
inches.  Without navigation, screen size measures eight inches. A
handsome analog clock resides just left of the center screen. The ES350
continues offering an in-dash CD player and now the infotainment system hooks
up with Apple Car Play (the first Lexus  featuring this
in-demand,  user-friendly interface...and it's about time) allowing
seamless Apple Smartphone interaction with the multimedia screen
centerpiece.  A three-month Satellite radio trial subscription also
returns.

A narrow armrest/storage area locates behind the
transmission shifter with a nifty dual-hinge design, opening from left OR right
sides, accessible by both front-seat occupants. F-Sport models include a
'Hadori Aluminum trim' creating fluctuating wave patterns providing a
three-dimensional appearance throughout the stepped dash.

Behind
the wheel, F-Sport drivers enjoy an extra drive mode, a 'Sport Plus' selection
(aggressively tuning the throttle response and transmission shift points)
joining Eco and Sport selections summoned via a bolt-like twist scroll
extending out from  the right side of the cave-like shade shell
outlining the cosmic instrument panel.  A left-side bolt scroll
activates/deactivates traction control.

F-Sport's IP
measures an inch larger and includes a unique in-motion center ring activated
by a steering wheel button, which sends the orb motoring to the right and
upsizes a multi-information display. Unseen but appreciated from behind the
wheel, F-Sport's adaptive dampening system and aggressive coil springs helping
smooth out pesky pavements below.

Standard fare in all Lexus
offerings, "Safety Systems Plus" version 2.0 with easy-to-appreciate
radar-enhances safety nuances including adaptive cruise control, lane departure
warning, parking sonar and forward emergency braking.

We
gave the Destination Assistant (one of seven ' Lexus Enform' platforms) a couple
spins.  It's complimentary during the first year of ownership, with an
available yearly subscription under $100 thereafter.  
Destination Assist provides round-the-clock voice connection with a helpful
real live person by clicking a screen icon. One conversation involved a
pleasant back-and-forth with an authoritative lady sporting a cheery English
accent while looking up a spoken business address.  Driving directions
were sent directly to the in-dash Nav, wherein the car's robotic voice command
took charge,  providing turn-by-turn directions to destinations in
Itasca and Hinsdale. Destination Assistant is available only when ordering
in-vehicle navigation system.

Just a bit of clarification
in an industry that embraces many single and combo-lettered
identifiers.   The Lexus 'F-Sport' option package differs
from the Lexus 'F' sub division.  Lexus launched its high-performance
'F' sub set in 2008 to joust with similar synergetic low-volume efforts from
Mercedes-Benz (AMG), Audi (RS), BMW (M) and Cadillac (V) vehicles. 
The F-Sport option package, now available in the ES350, adorns several other
Lexus offerings.

2019 Lexus ES 350 F-Sport

Starting
Price: $44,035

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6

Horsepower:
302

Wheelbase: 113.0

Overall Length:
195.9 inches

Overall Width: 73.4 inches

Overall
Height: 56.9 inches

Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 31 mpg
highway

Powertrain warranty: 72-month/70.000 miles

Assembly:
Georgetown, Kentucky




Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.