Overview

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Overview (Final Score: B)

The Lexus ES has been a very popular model for the brand as it provided a number of luxury appointments and traits in a very conservative package. For a number of buyers of a buyers "of a certain age," the ES hit the spot with providing a relaxing ride and an ownership period that wouldn't bring any drama. But it also gave the model a reputation for being the automotive equivalent of Ambien for a certain segment of enthusiasts.

The past few years, Lexus has been working on making their vehicles more exciting to look at and drive. Already, the flagship LS have undergone this. Now, it is the ES' turn.

What We Love About the 2019 Lexus ES 350
An exterior design that is more fluid and handsome
Interior that is gorgeous
Standard model feels slightly more athletic

What We Didn't Love About the 2019 Lexus ES 350
Infotainment system still quite a pain to use
Rear seats cannot fold down
Transmission is slow to downshift

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Exterior View (9/10)

The previous-generation ES 350 was a bit of a mess. It seemed like Lexus designers had locked in the design before being told to put on the then new spindle grille. The grille really messed with the overall proportions of the ES and made it look ungainly. Thankfully, Lexus' designers were able to fix many of the wrongs with the 2019 model.

Elements of the flagship LS sedan appear on the ES. This includes the striking headlight and front bumper shape, and a set of slimmed-down taillights. The hood has been to not only give a more aggressive profile, but to also better incorporate the spindle grille. In terms of measurements, the 2019 ES is 2.6-inches longer, 1.7-inches wider, and slightly lower than the 2018 model. The new shape allows the ES to post some impressive coefficient of drag figures. The standard model has a 0.29 CD rating, while the new F-Sport model that adds a number of sport touches drops that figure to 0.26. This allows the ES to not only have higher fuel economy figures but also minimize wind noise.

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Interior Comfort, Quality and Ease of Use (9/10)

When we first stepped inside the ES, we had to double check whether or not we were entering the LS. Many of the elements from the flagship sedan appear here, albeit somewhat toned down. Many of the surfaces are covered in leather, not soft-touch plastic. Parts of the dash feature aluminum and wood trim that looks and feel nice to the touch. The various knobs and buttons have a solid feel when in use. Considering the 2019 ES begins at just under $40,000, it sets a new mark in interiors.

Our ES tester came equipped with semi-aniline leather upholstery and 10-way power seats with a memory function for the driver. The seats are some of the most comfortable we have ever sat in. They provide the right amount of cushioning and support needed for those long road trips. Moving into the back seat, there is plenty of room for those under six feet to stretch out. Anyone above six-feet will find headroom to be somewhat cramped.

Trunk space is almost class-leading with 16.7 cubic feet. One item to be aware of is the ES doesn't offer folding rear-seats.

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Technology (7/10)

Lexus offers two screens for the ES' infotainment system, measuring 8 and 12.3-inches. Both screens come with the latest version of Lexus' Enform infotainment system and touchpad variant of the Remote Touch controller. Our tester came with the larger screen.

Let's begin with the good parts of the infotainment system. The updated interface for Lexus Enform is much improved with easier to read text, larger icons, and snappier performance. The larger screen also allows a split-screen functionality. As an example, you have can have navigation on the larger part of the split-screen and what you're listening to on the smaller part. Lexus has also added Apple CarPlay compatibility to Enform when you add navigation. It only took a few seconds for the system to find our iPhone and bring up the CarPlay interface. Compared to Enform, we found CarPlay slightly easier to navigate around.

This brings us to the bad parts of Enform and Remote Touch controller. While we find the touchpad slightly easier to use than the joystick controller found on some Lexus vehicles, it still a pain to use. For one, it takes a number of steps just to complete a simple task such as changing audio inputs or moving to a different app in CarPlay. This also means your eyes are off the road to see what you're doing with the system. Not helping is the awkward placement of the touchpad on the passenger side of the center console. We could never find a position that felt comfortable. Another downside to Enform, no Android Auto compatibility.

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Fuel Economy (9/10)

The EPA says the ES 350's V6 will return 22 City/33 Highway/26 Combined. Opt for the F-Sport and fuel economy drops slightly to 22 City/31 Highway/25 Combined. The ES 300h is the mileage champ with ratings of 43/45/44.

Our fuel economy average for the week came in at 26.7 mpg, with a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving. Considering the ES 350 has just over 300 horsepower, getting over 26 mpg is impressive.

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Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (9/10)

Consumer Reports is the only group to give a predicted reliability rating for the 2019 ES. It stands at above average. J.D. Power hasn't issued an initial quality for the ES, but Lexus as a whole is towards the top in the most recent initial quality study.

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Safety (N/A)

At the time of this writing, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have issued crash test ratings for the 2019 ES.

All ES models come equipped with Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 that features adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist; adaptive high beams, parking sensors, and 911 assist. Other safety features include a full set of airbags, backup camera, traction control, and stability control. One disappointment is blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and parking assist is optional on ES models. We feel this should be standard on all of them.

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Performance (8/10)

The ES 350 uses a 3.5L V6 engine with 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. For the ES 300h, it uses a new 2.5L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and a larger 29.1-kW nickel metal hydride battery. Total output is rated at 215 horsepower. This powertrain is teamed with a CVT.

Compared to the last-generation ES 350, the new model produces 34 more horsepower and 19 pound-feet of torque. It shows in overall acceleration as the ES zips to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds - an improvement of 0.5 seconds over the old model. That may seem unremarkable on paper, but it shows in terms of the daily drive as the engine has no issue getting to speed on the highway or leaving an intersection. Not so impressive is the automatic transmission which is somewhat reluctant to downshift.

Lexus is touting how the good the ES 350 is to drive thanks to a new platform and new shocks that are said to control body motions better. The steering system has been updated to improve overall responsiveness. If you opt for the F-Sport model, then you have the option of the Adaptive Variable Suspension which is derived from the LC coupe. The system uses special adaptive dampers that offer 650 individual levels of damping to keep the vehicle level in various situations such as cornering or driving or a speed bump.

The improvements Lexus has made does make the driver slightly more confident with less body roll and steering that instantly responds when turned. However, a BMW 5-Series will run circles around the ES as can be pushed slightly more in the turns. At least the ES 350 still retains a very smooth ride. Bumps and other imperfections turn into mere ripples.

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Pricing and Value (8/10)

The 2019 ES lineup begins at $39,600 for the base 350 and climbs to $45,060 for the ES 300h Ultra Luxury. Our ES 350 tester is the midlevel Luxury and begins at $42,255. With various options including navigation, blind spot monitoring, and 18-inch wheels, our as-tested price came to $49,975.

Our recommendation for the ES lineup is to go with the Luxury trim for both the 350 and 300h. Be sure to order the package with blind-spot monitoring.

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Total Score and Competitive Comparison (59/70, 84.2%)

The 2019 Genesis G80 with the 3.8 V6 is slightly more expensive at $42,050, but comes loaded with a number of features that are optional on the ES such as navigation and blind spot monitoring. It also boasts a slightly larger back seat, and similar performance and ride to the ES. The G80 does trail the ES in terms of design, having a somewhat plain look to the ES. It also drinks more fuel. EPA says the G80 with the 3.8 V6 will 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. Those numbers drop further if you add all-wheel drive, something not available on the ES.

The 2019 Toyota Avalon is the sister vehicle to the ES 350, but you wouldn't know that by looking at it. Recently redesigned, the 2019 Avalon is out there in terms of its design with a more aggressive front end treatment a lower roofline. The look may push some people away. But the Avalon is slightly better in the corners thanks to a slightly firmer suspension. Pricing for the Avalon begins at $35,500, undercutting the ES by $4,000, but it isn't as nice to sit in as the ES.

When Lexus announced the next-generation ES would become a bit more exciting, we'll admit we were quite skeptical. The ES has always been a luxury sedan that has focused on coddling those driving, not providing driving fun. But the 2019 ES 350 is quite surprising in terms of driving. While it will not give rivals from Germany a real threat in handling, Lexus was somehow able to strike that delicate balance of enhancing the handling, while retaining the smooth ride the ES is known for. Add in an impressive interior and a V6 engine that not only provides enough power, but high fuel economy figures, and you have one impressive sedan. The major downfall though is the infotainment system. If you are interested in the ES, we highly recommend spending a large amount of time playing with the infotainment system as it will be the make or break decision.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Sedan - FWD
ES 350 FWD V6 FWD 39600
ES 350 Luxury Luxury FWD V6 FWD 42255
ES 350 Ultra Luxury Ultra Luxury FWD V6 FWD 43250
ES 350 F SPORT F SPORT FWD V6 FWD 44135

Comparison of 2019 Lexus ES 350 with Similar Cars

2019 Lexus ES 350 MSRP Invoice
2019 Lexus ES 350 $39,600 $37,000
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2019 BMW 3 Series $40,250 $37,935 2019 Lexus ES 350 VS 2019 BMW 3 Series
2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class $41,400 $38,916 2019 Lexus ES 350 VS 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2019 Audi A4 $37,400 $0 2019 Lexus ES 350 VS 2019 Audi A4
2019 Lincoln MKZ $35,995 $34,375 2019 Lexus ES 350 VS 2019 Lincoln MKZ
2019 Volvo S60 $35,800 $33,652 2019 Lexus ES 350 VS 2019 Volvo S60

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2019 Lexus ES 350 ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2019 Lexus ES 350 rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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