2019 Lexus ES 350 Ultra Lux Review

2019 Lexus ES 350 Ultra Lux - The 2019 redesigned Lexus ES 350 Ultra Lux is a top genuine luxury sedan.

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Prices: $43,150

Pros-Redesigned. Sporty look. Top construction. Roomy. Smooth ride. Good handling. Luxury features. Decent economy.

Cons-Still controversial grille. Distracting, complicated infotainment system. Rather firm steering.  

Bottom Line-A genuine luxury car with great credentials partly designed to lure younger buyers.

The Lexus ES humbly began life as the 1990 ES 250, which was a thinly modified version of the Toyota Camry meant to back up the flagship Lexus LS 400 luxury model. Lexus thought most would want the less costly ES 250 but soon found seemingly everyone wanted the LS 400. I was at the California media introduction of both cars in 1989 and the ES 250 clearly was markedly inferior to the LS 400.

Years passed, and the ES became vastly improved and has long been a top Lexus seller.

The seventh-generation ES 350 arrives as a redesigned 2019 model that's a solid revamp of its predecessor, with top construction. It's sportier because it is designed to attract younger buyers-not that it should disappoint older ones.

There's an all-new more-rigid chassis for a more dynamic look and better handling. The new model is 2.6 inches longer, slightly lower and 1.8 inches wider, with wheels pulled to its corners thanks to a 2 inch longer wheelbase at 103 inches and wider front and rear tracks. This sleek four-door sedan now somewhat resembles a fastback model, without a sacrifice in rear-seat headroom. Actually, headroom has been slightly increased despite the sleek roofline through use of a lower hip point and a carefully configured headliner.  

The typical large, still somewhat-controversial Lexus signature grille remains, although in modified form. And the sharply chiseled rear has LED taillights that wrap around the quarter panels to provide a continuous styling line. The large chromed, artfully shaped dual exhaust tips are a definite visual plus.

The front-wheel-drive ES 350 comes in various trim levels, starting with a $39,600 base model and going to the $43,150 Ultra Lux model that I tested. Oh, there's also a sportier $44,135 F Sport version that's new for 2019, but it has no additional horsepower. In fact, no ES 350 can be called a sports sedan. It's primarily a solid luxury vehicle, despite its sound roadability. Nothing sloppy here.

All ES 350 models come with a smooth 3.5-liter V-6 with high-pressure injectors that generates 302 horsepower and 287 pound/feet of torque. Despite near-identical displacement to its predecessor, it provides approximately 20 more horsepower and 12 additional pound/feet of torque.The compression ratio is a sky high (at least by old muscle car standards) 11.8:1, but only 87 octane gasoline is needed.

The engine works with a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift feature. The 0-60 m.p.h. time is a Lexus-claimed claimed 6.6 seconds. It actually felt a  little faster.

There's a 15.9-gallon gas tank, and estimated fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon the city and 33 on highways despite the car's 3,649-pound weight and lively performance in town and on highways. (There's also a $41,410-$45,060 ES 300h hybrid model with a combined 215 total horsepower and a Lexus-estimated 44 combined mile-per-gallon figure.)  

I found my test car's fast, accurate steering to be a bit heavy, perhaps as a result of the new rack-assist type Electric Power Steering system. There was essentially little change in driving characteristics when I put the car via driver-adjustable control in "Eco," "Normal" and "Sport" modes. Basically, you just get higher revs and a slightly firmer ride in "Sport" mode for quicker engine response.

Handling is helped by a vehicle stability control system. The brake pedal has a linear action that allows smooth stops with the anti-lock braking system, which has electronic brake force distribution.

Safety features include side curtain air bags, a pre-collision system with pedestrian and daytime bicycle detection, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane tracing assist, lane departure alert with steering assist and road sign assist. If road markings aren't detected, the Lexus Safety System can, in certain conditions, follow the vehicle ahead of it when used in conjunction with the Lexus All-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system.

My test car's options included the always-handy blind sport monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, rear pedestrian detection and a 10.2-inch heads-up display that keeps a driver posted of such things as speed limits. Other options included a navigation system with a 12.3-inch color multimedia display, upscale 17-speaker sound system, heated wood and leather steering wheel and fast response interior heater that I greatly appreciated on a cold Chicago day.  

This is the first Lexus model to offer Apple CarPlay phone functionality, letting drivers control their iPhones through the dashboard display screen with Siri Eyes Free voice control.

All doors open wide to allow easy entry to the church-quiet, plush interior, which has extra-supportive front heated and ventilated seats and easily read backlit gauges. There's a pushbutton start, dual-zone automatic climate control and one-touch open/close power tilt-and-slide sunroof. The steering wheel even has more fore/aft adjustment and dashboard HIV vents have a unique design, showing good attention to detail.

There is impressive occupant room, front and rear, and a good amount of cabin storage areas.

However, the remote touch interface is frustrating to use, making the infotainment system complicated and distracting. However, there's lots of small but clearly marked secondary manual controls for the sound system and such.

The impressively large trunk has a wide opening and power open/close feature. Cargo room has been increased. There's now 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space with additional underfloor side pockets for smaller items. However, the rear seatbacks don't fold forward. Instead there's a large fold-down rear center armrest with twin cupholders.

The hood glides open on twin structs, revealing a neatly designed engine compartment with a huge plastic engine cover that seems to say "Just check a few fluid levels, if you wish, then please go away. We're complicated."







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Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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