Lexus is lord of the laid-back luxury car, but that's an image this upscale Toyota brand is looking to change with the all-new ES sedan it has rolled out for the 2019 model year.
Following on the heels of the redesigned Toyota Camry with which it shares its architecture, the ES rolls into showrooms this year with a more stylish body and this model's first ever F Sport options, which promise more driver engagement than the outgoing version.
As before, the range starts with the ES 350, this year powered by a new version of Lexus's 3.5L V6 engine, which gains 34 hp and 19 lb-ft of torque for new totals of 302 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. Also new is an eight-speed automatic transmission, once again driving the front wheels.
A gas-electric hybrid ES 300h model returns, but with the addition of 15 hp from its combination of a 2.5L four-cylinder engine and electric motor, for a total of 215 hp.
The new design also brings the first ever F Sport option to the ES 350, which includes an adaptive variable suspension that responds to an augmented drive mode selector with a Sport+ mode.
As Toyota did with the 2018 Camry redesign, Lexus wants to change what people think of the ES, and the ES 350 F Sport is the company's effort to expand the car's appeal to drivers who might otherwise consider a German sedan, or an Infiniti Q50 or Acura TLX. We think it will attract some of the few shoppers who visit a Lexus store looking for the brand's GS model; while it has traditionally been the brand's most driver-focused mid-sizer, the ES's more efficient packaging lends it a lot more interior space.
However, we suspect the new ES will find homes mostly with buyers who appreciate this car's reputation for serenely comfortable cruising; this car's key competition comes from Buick and Lincoln, other brands whose efforts to appeal to driving enthusiasts have met with modest success.
Key callouts in the standard features lists for both gas and hybrid models include a digital gauge cluster, a drive mode selector modeled after that in the LFA supercar and a 10-speaker stereo.
A premium package adds navigation, heated steering wheel, 12.3-inch display audio system and blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert. Add the luxury group for steerable triple LED headlights, full leather seating and wireless smartphone charging. The ultra luxury option brings noise-reducing tires, 17-speaker stereo, hands-free trunklid, 10-inch head-up display and a 360-degree exterior camera system.
A pair of F Sport packages are positioned as stand-alone trims. F Sport 1 includes the S+ drive mode and adaptive suspension, blind spot monitor, rain-sensing wipers, lip spoiler, active noise control and 19-inch wheels. The F Sport 2 upgrade adds navigation, 12.3-inch display audio, head-up display and the steering-responsive triple LED headlights.
This vehicle has not yet been reviewed