By: Shin Takei, Automotive Editor at Large
Following the debut of the RC and LS models, the all new 2019 Lexus ES series features their Global Architecture-K (GA-K} platform and is longer, lower and wider than previous ES model. Realistically it looks much better than its predecessor and despite its lower roof, there’s more room inside. There are three models offered at this time, the ES 350, ES 350H and for the first time the ES 350 F-Sport. The signature spindle grill is a vertical pattern in the ES 350 and 350H while for the F-Sport it’s similar to the LS with a wider meshed “L” pattern. The overall look is a smooth, fluid faster looking shape. Three wheel choices are available; standard 17,” 18” and the 19” for the F-Sport. Powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 (2GR-FKS) engine that develops 302 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm the ES still returns 22mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. Each ES is built by a team lead by Master Craftsmen who go through rigorous technical training back in Japan. This includes strict discipline such as to feel by touch tolerances in panel gaps and surface irregularities.
The GA-K chassis is an extremely rigid chassis with structural adhesives and laser-weld screws as well as reinforcements for the front strut towers to improve front end stiffness. Sound deadening insulation covers 93% of the floor plan and performance dampeners reduce vibration on all Ultra Luxury and F-Sport models. Furthermore, the wheels are designed to direct road noise into the tire chamber to help quiet the ride. Dynamic Control shocks were designed to smooth out the ride and reduce roll. In the F-Sport Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) is offered with 650 levels of adjustment to deliver optimal ride and precise control. Instead of the steering column mounted power steering assist, a rack-assist Electric Power Steering (EPS) has been incorporated to provide precise feedback.
The ES is equipped with a Drive Mode Select system that allows the driver to choose from Eco, Normal and Sports node for the AVS cars and those with AVS gets Sports S, Sports S+ and Custom where there are three engine and transmission programs and two steering and suspension programs. Fun stuff like quicker throttle response, faster shifting and steering parameters are enhanced. The Eco Mode is for those more environmentally concerned and the ES 350h has an all new Hybrid drivetrain that gets up to 44 combined mpg. We will report on this car when we have time to test it later. For the ES the already driver-centric cockpit has been further enhanced with a Seat in Control concept which places all instruments and switches within the direct view and reach of the driver with up to an 8” LCD display as well as an optional Heads-Up display. An additional Multi-Media display sits high in the line of sight with up to a 12.3” Navigation Electro Multi Vision (EMV) screen. All of this is accessible through an updated Remote Touch Interface (RTI). Headroom was increased despite the lower roofline because of a lower hip point and headliner positioning. A more natural steering wheel angle as well as revised pedal position and the 10-way power adjustable seats contribute to a comfortable driving environment. There are three interior color schemes, four types of trim and three different material choices for the seats. The F-Sport gets an additional Circuit Red seats and door panels. There are three wood trims and for the F Sport an aluminum trim inspired by the Japanese sword called Hadori Aluminum is included.
Being connected is now a breeze with the ES with Apple CarPlay© and Amazon Alexa©. While the standard audio is a 10-speaker Pioneer system, the optional Mark Levinson with 17 speakers and 1,800 watts of power is available for the audiophile. Onboard Wi-Fi by Verizon is standard and the Lexus Enform Safety Connect is free for a year and Lexus Enform Service Connect reminds you of maintenance schedules. Other features include Lexus Enform Remote that connects your phone with your ES to perform certain functions, Lexus Safety System 2.0 with daytime bicyclist detection, Pre-Collision System (PCS), Lane Departure Assist (LDA), Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), All Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) and Road Sign Assist (RSA) in case you missed it.
So how does it drive? The ES 350 is a pretty nice package of comfort and performance which brings the car to previously uncharted territory and finally cuts the grade with its rivals. The F Sport brings excitement by being a worthy contender with added emotional content. Because of the engineering, one might forget that the ES is still a front drive configuration until it is driven to the limit and even if so, it retains its composure. Most drivers will never get there but it is reassuring to know that if you ever do, the ES will be quite stable. The steering has enough feel and stability and directs the car exactly where you want it to go in spirited driving. It’s refreshing to think you can drive an ES hard and actually enjoy it.
The result of Chief Designer Yasuo Kajino and Chief Engineer Yasuhiro Sakakibara’s creation is remarkable. They set out to move on from the past image often associated with the ES which were good but boring or unexciting. The 2019 Lexus ES 350 is a car to look forward to specially if you are looking into buying or leasing a car in this crowded segment. You will be looking forward to driving this car for fun and not just a car to transport yourself to and from your destination.
For more information visit: www.lexus.com