Lexus ES: Sixth Generation

Review Roundup: The 2019 Lexus ES 350 & ES 300h

Lexus ES 350 2019

The first reviews of the seventh-generation 2019 Lexus ES sedan are popping up around the Internet — yesteday, I posted an extensive technical overview of the new model, but let’s see some more subjective opinions of the new model.


From the CNET review by Chris Paukert:

None of those metrics really tell you how the new ES feels while generating those numbers, however, but the answer is “pretty darn good.” Lexus makes a big deal about how much sportier this new XV70 generation is to drive than before, and indeed, it breeds driver confidence like no ES before it. That’s particularly true of the F Sport, which not only adds visual drama with a blacked-out mesh grille, unique lower fascias, model-specific wheels, rear spoiler and dark-finish taillights, it also nudges the dynamic quotient upward.

Chiefly, that’s because the ES 350 F Sport is available with Adaptive Variable Suspension derived from the system on the LC Coupe. Lexus says the system features no fewer than 650 individual levels of damping, which helps keep the car level, whether it’s being pitched hard into a corner or negotiating a suburban speed bump. However, the standard ES with its novel new “swing-valve” passive shocks works well, too.


Lexus ES F SPORT

More praise for the ES F SPORT from Tony Swan of Car & Driver:

Although its powertrain is the same as that of the standard ES350, the F Sport feels much more the athlete, thanks primarily to suspension tuning, highlighted by adaptive dampers. Developed by KYB, the new Adaptive Variable Suspension employs damping that responds rapidly to changing road-surface conditions based on multiple presets, and it’s most noticeable in the Sport and Sport+ driving modes. The action is an adaptation of conventional shock technology, with a new internal valving system.

The upshot is an ES sedan with level cornering attitudes, eager responses, and precise, tactile steering, all of which is augmented by 19-inch wheels fitted with available summer performance tires. It adds up to the first ES that can claim to be a sports sedan with somewhat of a straight face.


Will Kaufman of Edmunds is more critical of the ES F SPORT driving experience:

Turn-in is sharp, and the car doesn’t feel front-heavy when you pitch it into a turn. It grips impressively, cornering flat and giving the driver more confidence than seems proper in a Lexus ES. In fact, the F Sport doesn’t remind you it’s a front-wheel-drive car until you get on the gas.

Without a locking front differential, there’s some torque steer under acceleration, and the front tires struggle a bit for grip coming out of a corner. Further, the eight-speed automatic has not be sufficiently retuned from the regular car, and even in Sport+ it’s too quick to upshift. Lift off the gas pedal in a turn and the car has to downshift again when you’re ready for some acceleration.


Lexus ES 300h

Jake Lingeman from Autoweek prefers the ES 300h hybrid over the gas-powered models:

I jump in the hybrid next and, like the new Porsche Panamera, this might be the one to buy. Though it only has 215 hp, off-the-line speed is good with help from the electrics and on the road it’s library quiet. The engine kick-on is almost imperceptible, except when you’re flooring it, which means the 2.5-liter four revs near redline with the CVT adjusting the ratios. That sends a little snarl and vibration into the cabin. At cruising speed though, you could whisper to your passenger next you without a problem.


Alisa Priddle of Motor Trend calls the ES a “joy to drive”:

There is no bad choice. All performed well at absorbing bumps, big and small, and the adjustable dampers kept the car steady even in harder cornering. We were pleased that the F Sport did not share the stiff and rigid ride we’ve experienced with some F Sports in the past. Maybe the marriage of ES comfort and F Sport does find a sweet spot.

The electric power steering, now mounted on the steering rack, was a joy to drive. It was responsive without being too heavy or flighty.

Comments
Krew, I want to thank you for your very thorough review. All my questions have been answered.
I don't want to incline you towards a new ES300h review from a Polish guy. His name is Pertyn Ględzi. I will tell you only that I like how he gives the sensation of acceleration from a camera being fitted at the driver's side windscreen pointing towards the cabin. Of course video has English subs.
Sakura
+1 Good info to know. While I never really thought about it, its true. The USA AWD take-rate is pretty low.
Now i'm no expert in sales and marketing...but I would think that AWD uptake would increase if they cull the GS. I know GS sales are not through the roof. But there will be IS owners wanting bigger cars but not necessarily looking at the SUV offerings being left without any viable options. They are not going to step down into a FWD. I mean yes, in the real world, FWD and RWD makes almost no difference to the driving experience. But luxury cars are not just about practicality right?

I also believe that the hump there is not just aesthetic. The GA-K platform does support AWD. As seen in the Toyota CH-R and upcoming RAV4 lexus UX and future Toyota/lexus SUVs like the next generation RX and NX. There was also rumours of a hotted up camry a while back (https://www.caradvice.com.au/603430/hotted-up-toyota-camry-chief-engineer-loves-the-idea/ ...i'm Australian...). And yes there are a lot of differences but at the end of the day, the drivetrains are pretty much the same. So there is still hope right?

Boy wouldn't it be awesome to have a more powerful ES...roughly 250kw AWD...10 speed...i'm not asking for too much right? Also gimme rear seet warmers and double wishbone front suspension...it seems such a waste to have such a beautiful car hindered by FWD...Australians get it even worse. Just two grades, no F-sport and no V6. such a shame.
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thtupid
Now i'm no expert in sales and marketing...but I would think that AWD uptake would increase if they cull the GS. I know GS sales are not through the roof. But there will be IS owners wanting bigger cars but not necessarily looking at the SUV offerings being left without any viable options. They are not going to step down into a FWD. I mean yes, in the real world, FWD and RWD makes almost no difference to the driving experience. But luxury cars are not just about practicality right?

I also believe that the hump there is not just aesthetic. The GA-K platform does support AWD. As seen in the Toyota CH-R and upcoming RAV4 lexus UX and future Toyota/lexus SUVs like the next generation RX and NX. There was also rumours of a hotted up camry a while back (https://www.caradvice.com.au/603430/hotted-up-toyota-camry-chief-engineer-loves-the-idea/ ...i'm Australian...). And yes there are a lot of differences but at the end of the day, the drivetrains are pretty much the same. So there is still hope right?

Boy wouldn't it be awesome to have a more powerful ES...roughly 250kw AWD...10 speed...i'm not asking for too much right? Also gimme rear seet warmers and double wishbone front suspension...it seems such a waste to have such a beautiful car hindered by FWD...Australians get it even worse. Just two grades, no F-sport and no V6. such a shame.
Not necessarily. The Lexus ES's core demographic is a male of 50 years of age or older. Its also - these likely owners are current Lexus ES owners or Camry/Avalon owners looking for a change. This shows evidence that the Lexus ES is in no demand of a AWD because sales of the previous were insanely good without AWD. With no complaints or demands for it from core consumers. The only reason why anyone is saying "AWD ES" is because of the rumors of the GS going away and these are from minority of people or enthusiasts.

The problem is: GS owners or potential GS buyers will not "drop a tier" to go buy an AWD ES. Its more likely GS owners will bail on the Lexus brand and go German. A lot of CL (ClubLexus) GS owners are saying this. And it make sense. A RWD owner wouldn't substitute having RWD for AWD.

Similarity, to the Lexus IS. Majority of IS owners are younger and want something entry-level + sporty + RWD. The Lexus IS loaded will be cheaper by at least by a couple thousand compared to a AWD ES.

Sure - maybe a little bit of the IS/GS owners will be in the minority and go to the ES. But the question is: how much money will Lexus make from an AWD ES? Will it be worth for the little bit extra of sales? You likely won't get enough GS and IS owners to buy the ES to make developing an AWD worth it. Especially since the USA market is on a SUV craze and the sedan is already facing tough competition. An AWD SUV will make more sense too because it has more clearance.

The hump, of course, is not purely aesthetics. The GA-K platform does support AWD. But Toyota is pretty much catching up in this department. Many FWD cars had humps for the exhaust pipes since the early 2000s. The Acura TSX had a hump and was never offered AWD.

Of course - it would be awesome. As car enthusiasts, we would love to see it. As a car enthusiasts, I would love to see an ES AWD with a Turbo engine. As a Toyota shareholder, I will not want to do it. An AWD will not generate enough return to create enough profits. It'll be a waste of development cash. A Turbo ES will damage the core image of the ES - will deter sales from mass consumers in favor of enthusiasts, which isn't the driving force of profits.
Sakura
The hump, of course, is not purely aesthetics. The GA-K platform does support AWD. But Toyota is pretty much catching up in this department. Many FWD cars had humps for the exhaust pipes since the early 2000s. The Acura TSX had a hump and was never offered AWD.

Of course - it would be awesome. As car enthusiasts, we would love to see it. As a car enthusiasts, I would love to see an ES AWD with a Turbo engine. As a Toyota shareholder, an AWD Turbo ES would be bad business. An AWD will not generate enough return to create enough profits. It'll be a waste of development cash. A Turbo ES will damage the core image of the ES - will deter sales from mass consumers in favor of enthusiasts, which isn't the driving force of profits.
1) First point is false. The hump is much more pronounced than a regular exhaust hump. The height is what you'd expect from a RWD or AWD car. If they didn't prepare it for the axle then they are just wasting valuable leg room in the rear.

2) Nobody is saying they are making an AWD Turbo ES, just an AWD ES in general. 8% take rate is just a statistic without context. In what segment? In which area? On what type of vehicle? Which category of consumers buy AWD? Is there a year-to-year trend that suggests it is staying that way? I would like to hear about the details. There are areas in North America where AWD is a must. What you are saying is they should stop selling the ES sedan in these areas because there aren't any ES buyers or potential ES buyers there, which makes between 1% and 50% sense. Going by that logic, the IS and LS shouldn't be offered AWD either because they are selling at a much lower volume than the ES, and thus the absolute number of AWD sales is even lower, and as a result spending resources on AWD models is an even bigger waste.

I'm not fully denying your point here. Sometimes it's okay to abandon a certain demographics to achieve better overall results, sometimes it's not. But the thing is, we can't really tell on this issue without the data analysis capability of the accounting department of a mega corporation.

Oh also on the matter of turbo, they will replace the 3.5 V6 with a turbo at some point if only to reduce fuel consumption. It has nothing to do with the core image of the car, or trying to favor the enthusiasts for that matter (seriously, what kind of enthusiast would choose a turbo 4 vs. a naturally aspirated V6?). In fact replacing V6s with turbo 4s is all it took Toyota and Lexus to drastically increase sales in regions that favor turbo engines like China. Not having a turbo 4 on the ES is restricting how high they can reach in China; they are confined to the lower end of the premium segment with the 2.5 and 2.5 hybrid.

By the way they have already made the R&D investment in multiple AWD systems and integration of AWD with GA-K. I would call engineering a LC-F or LS-F a bigger waste of development cash because these two programs are almost guaranteed to lose money. If we take the argument even further, to optimize their business results, all the company really need to invest in are crossovers. The fact that even the most optimized automaker in the world does not run an seemingly optimized strategy means those earning six-figures are analyzing things with much more depth than we could.

To bring an end to this AWD discussion (seriously, it has been brought up way too many times in this forum that it needs to end), I would say let's just wait and see. The ES lineup is surely not complete at this point but honestly I don't care. The ES300h is really the sweet spot.
Well, AWD is rumored to come... I was just point how all these people who want AWD on the internet, in the end very few will buy AWD version.

But with worldwide models, AWD is more important now for ES. Not just snowy areas of USA but also Japanese love their AWDs.
Sakura
A RWD owner wouldn't substitute having RWD for AWD.

An AWD SUV will make more sense too because it has more clearance.
There is a difference between F4-T (FWD-based AWD) and F4-L (RWD-based AWD), where the buyer of the later won't substitute for the former. And no buyer complains about the new E AMG or new M5 being AWD only. It is likely, should there be a hypothetical GS-F with turbo V8, it will not sell because of the lack of AWD. If cars sell thanks to Marketing, RWD is so yesterday. Anyone not interested in AWD, will not care if it is FWD. Proof by case is the BMW X1, that never sold as well.

As for SUVs, unfortunately they do not have significantly more clearance.
L
Krew just out of curiosity does Lexus ever make feedback driven changes between the time the media drives the vehicles and production? Im talking most about the downshifting delay on the 8 speed transmission which every single reviewer to date has pointed out as a major buzzkill. I understand no major transmission changes would probably be made but one or two reviewers said this could be corrected with a software update. Any thoughts?
lsu5508
Krew just out of curiosity does Lexus ever make feedback driven changes between the time the media drives the vehicles and production? Im talking most about the downshifting delay on the 8 speed transmission which every single reviewer to date has pointed out as a major buzzkill. I understand no major transmission changes would probably be made but one or two reviewers said this could be corrected with a software update. Any thoughts?
I can answer with confidence that this is a no, unless the downshifting issue is a pre-production flaw.
Transmission integration is actually very complicated because it affects the ride quality, fuel consumption, and emissions a lot. It will not be as simple as changing some code in the ECU. Will a quicker dowshift cause more jerky ride? Will the accelerated rev change impact the chemical composition of the exhaust? In the case of turbocharged engines, will it increase stress on the turbocharger? The drivetrain engineer will have to make sure these areas are not affected.
It's not changing the software that is time-consuming. It's the validation.

Or this could be a non-issue at all, since their transmissions are known to learn the driving style of the owner over time. Maybe the press just doesn't have enough time to have the transmission adapt to more aggressive driving.
Someone made a good point that Lexus sells a ton of these FWD only. That said if they are going to move the ES over to the sportier spectrum there is going to be a desire for more than FWD. AWD is obviously mostly sold in the NE, PNW and Central area....the biggest sales areas are the South Florida and Southern Cali regions ....

I do believe the take rate on the AWD Acura TLX is around 15% as a comparison.
One reason why manuals can be better. Automatic (CVT) is better suited to hybrids and electrics.
lsu5508
Krew just out of curiosity does Lexus ever make feedback driven changes between the time the media drives the vehicles and production? Im talking most about the downshifting delay on the 8 speed transmission which every single reviewer to date has pointed out as a major buzzkill. I understand no major transmission changes would probably be made but one or two reviewers said this could be corrected with a software update. Any thoughts?
The Camry V6 launched with a few complaints about the shift logic, and I'm sure the ES uses the exact same transmission. There have since been 2 TSiBs for the fix and Camry owners are quite happy now. I assume the ES should be good to go for production - maybe these were early prototypes that had not been reflashed for press drives (unfortunately).
Gecko
The Camry V6 launched with a few complaints about the shift logic, and I'm sure the ES uses the exact same transmission. There have since been 2 TSiBs for the fix and Camry owners are quite happy now. I assume the ES should be good to go for production - maybe these were early prototypes that had not been reflashed for press drives (unfortunately).
good to know, thanks for the info.
Lexus has really nailed the design here. The last generation I was a fan A pillar back intially and more so after the MMC. Nothing awkward about the front here.
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ssun30
1) First point is false. The hump is much more pronounced than a regular exhaust hump. The height is what you'd expect from a RWD or AWD car. If they didn't prepare it for the axle then they are just wasting valuable leg room in the rear.
Well - I haven't step inside the Lexus ES yet. But from pictures - the hump size is similar to those of the Acura 1G/2G TSX and 3G TL, which never offered AWD.

Secondly - all this talk about the future process of the ES is tiring. We are all speculating on a car that isn't even on sale yet. That's where I'll agree with you - lets wait and see. No one knows if the car is going to have AWD or Turbo.

Side note - I'm not saying the car isn't going to go Turbo. I'm saying it won't go Turbo in 1-3 years like some people here are alluding to. 1-3 years to switch out an engine is ridiculously bad business.

ssun30
It has nothing to do with the core image of the car, or trying to favor the enthusiasts for that matter (seriously, what kind of enthusiast would choose a turbo 4 vs. a naturally aspirated V6?).
The Lexus ES has a core image. Its design to be a Lexus ES. I think we tend to forget the Lexus ES is designed as a non-enthusiasts type vehicle.

What kind of enthusiasts would choose a Inline 4 Turbo over N/A V6? Tons would. This is why the STi and EVO sells so well. This is why the Civic Type R sells over sticker and people demanded it in the USA. This is why the S12, S13, S14 and S15 are so popular.

To restrict being a car enthusiasts to V6 and above is merely false.
But car enthusiasts are the one percenters among car users.
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Levi
But car enthusiasts are the one percenters among car users.
Yeah. Car enthusiasts is a small percentage of people.

That's why I was saying the Lexus ES doesn't appeal to them. Its one of the reasons, I think, the Lexus ES won't get AWD. How much profit will Toyota really get from introducing a AWD Lexus ES? Enthusiasts will welcome it, like myself, but I would never buy one still.

The Lexus ES is made to cater to the masses - thus why I think the Lexus ES will stay relatively vanilla so Toyota can keep their cash-cow.
Sakura
Yeah. Car enthusiasts is a small percentage of people.

That's why I was saying the Lexus ES doesn't appeal to them. Its one of the reasons, I think, the Lexus ES won't get AWD. How much profit will Toyota really get from introducing a AWD Lexus ES? Enthusiasts will welcome it, like myself, but I would never buy one still.

The Lexus ES is made to cater to the masses - thus why I think the Lexus ES will stay relatively vanilla so Toyota can keep their cash-cow.
Why wouldnt ES appeal to car enthusiasts?

And there are plenty of RWD cars with high performance, they dont need AWD, and with AWD you will lose a lot of that feel that makes RWD special. But hey, I guess they will be able to stomp the gas pedal to merge into the highway fast.
Sakura
Yeah. Car enthusiasts is a small percentage of people.

That's why I was saying the Lexus ES doesn't appeal to them. Its one of the reasons, I think, the Lexus ES won't get AWD. How much profit will Toyota really get from introducing a AWD Lexus ES? Enthusiasts will welcome it, like myself, but I would never buy one still.

The Lexus ES is made to cater to the masses - thus why I think the Lexus ES will stay relatively vanilla so Toyota can keep their cash-cow.
As car enthusiasts are a small percentage, not much is lost by not targeting them, however they can be very profitable in terms of margin.

As for AWD, I disagree, it is nothing for enthusiasts. It is on the contrary for the masses that it appeals. There have never been so many AWD cars, AWD is sold as a security measure and for driver's confidence.
Levi
As for AWD, I disagree, it is nothing for enthusiasts. It is on the contrary for the masses that it appeals. There have never been so many AWD cars, AWD is sold as a security measure and for driver's confidence.
Audi's always marketed AWD as an enthusiast thing, and good AWD systems can improve handling.
Ian Schmidt
Audi's always marketed AWD as an enthusiast thing, and good AWD systems can improve handling.
well Audi did that because most of their vehicles are FWD platform and are offered in FWD.
50k a year is about 4,200 a month. That seems pretty conservative to me, as the current ES has sold above those numbers. Lexus must be predicting further decline in the sedan market.
lsu5508
Krew just out of curiosity does Lexus ever make feedback driven changes between the time the media drives the vehicles and production? Im talking most about the downshifting delay on the 8 speed transmission which every single reviewer to date has pointed out as a major buzzkill. I understand no major transmission changes would probably be made but one or two reviewers said this could be corrected with a software update. Any thoughts?
ssun30
I can answer with confidence that this is a no, unless the downshifting issue is a pre-production flaw.
Gecko
The Camry V6 launched with a few complaints about the shift logic, and I'm sure the ES uses the exact same transmission. There have since been 2 TSiBs for the fix and Camry owners are quite happy now. I assume the ES should be good to go for production - maybe these were early prototypes that had not been reflashed for press drives (unfortunately).
These pre-production units that are driven during the press previews are not perfect, and it's possibly a flaw with these specific transmissions. However, it's also possible that the AI-shift software that learns driver preference is skewed by a couple weeks of auto journalists revving to the redline. This has been something I've noticed at past previews (the LS & LC specifically).

Then, as @Gecko says, perhaps this is something that will reach production and be resolved with a later mapping flash.
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spwolf
Why wouldnt ES appeal to car enthusiasts?

And there are plenty of RWD cars with high performance, they dont need AWD, and with AWD you will lose a lot of that feel that makes RWD special. But hey, I guess they will be able to stomp the gas pedal to merge into the highway fast.
Why wouldn't the ES appeal to car enthusiasts?
You really think the ES screams car enthusiasts? The Lexus ES target demographic is a male of 50 years of age or older. The Lexus ES was specifically designed to be not a car enthusiasts car. It was never suppose to be one - that's why it never appeals to car enthusiasts.

The following is my personal opinion of why I wouldn't the Lexus ES as a car enthusiast:
1) FWD
2) Even if its AWD, its transverse layout FWD/AWD set up.
3) MacPherson Suspensions (cheap)
4) It doesn't handle well
5) Its not "nimble" - won't be fun on the edge or on the hills.
6) There will be torque-steer.
7) There will be horrible wheel-spin.
8) Its a Camry/Avalon re-skin. Its literally badge-engineering. Horrible to pay 50K for that.

Bonus one - this is just a pet peeve of mine: Its made in America next to the Camry/Avalon.
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Levi
Does the new M5 need AWD? No, but it has it. Has it lost the feel that makes RWD special? No, the previous RWD M5 already did not feel special.
Yes. The new M5 does need AWD. It produces too much power not to have it. If the M5 today was RWD only, it'll never be able to put down the power.

RWD feels special in the way it drives. RWD feels special in some cars because some cars are tail-happy.

You can never compare the modern new cars to the OG way of RWD, Front Engine and Manual.
mikeavelli
Someone made a good point that Lexus sells a ton of these FWD only. That said if they are going to move the ES over to the sportier spectrum there is going to be a desire for more than FWD. AWD is obviously mostly sold in the NE, PNW and Central area....the biggest sales areas are the South Florida and Southern Cali regions ....

I do believe the take rate on the AWD Acura TLX is around 15% as a comparison.
Sakura
That's why I was saying the Lexus ES doesn't appeal to them. Its one of the reasons, I think, the Lexus ES won't get AWD. How much profit will Toyota really get from introducing a AWD Lexus ES? Enthusiasts will welcome it, like myself, but I would never buy one still.
One point missing here is that the ES is now a global vehicle, and there are multiple regions around the world where AWD is a very big deal (like up here in Canada and many countries in Europe). If the ES is to replace the GS effectively, it needs to have power to all four wheels both for performance and positioning.

Sakura
The Lexus ES is made to cater to the masses - thus why I think the Lexus ES will stay relatively vanilla so Toyota can keep their cash-cow.
I don't want to hype up the ES F SPORT as this grand performance car, but it's serviceable when looking for an engaging drive -- I think most people on this site will be pleasantly surprised by its ability. And as the person that started Lexus Enthusiast, I would buy an ES F SPORT in a second. :D
spwolf
3) MacPherson Suspensions (cheap)
And yet Porsche 718 and 911 get away with this.
krew
One point missing here is that the ES is now a global vehicle, and there are multiple regions around the world where AWD is a very big deal (like up here in Canada and many countries in Europe). If the ES is to replace the GS effectively, it needs to have power to all four wheels both for performance and positioning.
Right. Lexus dealers here in Maryland don't stock RWD cars for the most part, everything on the lot is FWD or AWD. And our winters are pretty mild usually compared to what you'd see in Boston or Toronto.

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