2019 Lexus ES first drive review: Better in all key ways but one
The longevity of some cars tends to sneak up on you. Case in point: this 2019 Lexus ES. Can you believe you're looking at the seventh-generation model? The ES, along with the marque's flagship LS sedan, are the two longest-running nameplates in the brand's history, having been on sale since Lexus' inception in 1989. In more human terms, that means that the ES family is firmly Generation Y -- it's a millennial.
That may come as a surprise, because throughout its life, the ES has been seen as a conservative, staidly-styled offering. Historically, it's been a model whose appeal was that it was easy to recommend to buyers "of a certain age" who prioritized qualities like a cushy ride, quiet cabin and drama-free ownership over all other attributes.
Riding atop its new GA-K chassis, the 2019 model looks set to maintain those hard-won ES-family touchstones. After spending a day driving it in Tennessee, I can confirm that it is indeed unerringly serene, and it enjoys excellent ride quality and sound isolation. Further, there's no reason to assume that the new ES will deliver anything other than sterling reliability.
But that's where the new model's AARP-friendly likenesses end. Unlike past iterations, the 2019 ES achieves its calm demeanor without resorting to the sort of overly soft suspension that ultimately yields messy handling when pressed. And it does everything wearing a bold new look.
Like that famed and much-maligned generation of people born between the '80s and the early '90s, the new ES has matured greatly. In fact, the ES and millennials share some commonly associated characteristics: The Lexus is confident, achievement-oriented and possesses a surprisingly strong family drive. As for ascribing another commonly held belief about millennials to the ES -- tech savviness -- I've got my reservations.
Stylistically, the ES started to let its hair down a little in the outgoing generation, but not nearly as completely and dramatically as the car seen here. The 2019 ES is 2.6 inches longer, 0.2 inches lower and 1.8 inches wider than its forbearer, and it sits on a 2-inch longer wheelbase while straddling markedly wider front and rear tracks. The takeaway? The new ES features more athletic and substantial proportions, along with improved cabin room.
As before, the ES range comprises both gas (ES 350) and hybrid (ES 300h) front-wheel drive midsize sedans. New for 2019 is a third option, the hawkish-looking ES 350 F Sport.
Non-F Sport ES models (like the burgundy ES 350 shown in these photos) will be easy to spot on the street thanks to its unique interpretation of Lexus' trademark Spindle Grille. In this application, the oversized assembly has a certain "sands through the hourglass" quality about it.
To my eyes, as seen here, Lexus' controversial styling element is less successful than in the larger LS sedan, and certainly, the company's deeply stylish LC Coupe. That said, the grille integrates far better into the car's overall design than the more timid version used on the outgoing model (which always looked like the tacked-on midyear refresh artifact that it was).
Akio Toyoda, head of Lexus' parent, Toyota Motor Co., made it clear a few years ago that boring designs would no longer be tolerated, and the Lexus team has taken that message to heart, almost to a fault. Between its larger grille, those slashing, glowering headlamps and more deliberately styled bodysides, the 2019 Lexus ES certainly looks more confident and upscale. However, I can also see how its more aggressive visage may alienate some of the car's more conservative core buyers.
What lies beneath
The 2019 ES doesn't just wear a more dynamic and self-assured new jacket, it's got more muscle lurking underneath, too. Thanks in part to increased use of high-strength steels, the ES' new platform is stiffer. And while the ES shares much of its body-in-white with the more prosaic 2019 Toyota Avalon, there are a number of key differences, including increased use of laser-screw welding and structural adhesives to further improve rigidity. Notably, the ES receives a V-brace mounted behind the rear seats that improves torsional bending resistance at the expense of being able to fold the rear setbacks for added utility.
The 2019 Lexus ES rolls into dealers this September, with pricing starting at $39,500 (just $550 more than the outgoing model) before delivery fees. With a base price of $41,310, the 2019 ES 300h is actually $510 less than its predecessor. Finally, the ES 350 F Sport, with its sportier performance and longer list of features, will ring up at $44,035.
Full Review https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/reviews/2019-lexus-es-preview/