Aug
25
2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport First Drive | Review | Edmunds


SPEAKER: With the new ES,
Lexus has set themselves a pretty difficult task. They’re trying to
not only please the existing fans of
this car, but to attract a whole new audience. And to that end,
they haven’t just redesigned it to make it look
sleeker and more aggressive, they’ve added a whole
new trim level– the first ever Lexus
ES 350 F Sport. Now, I know that the
front end of this Lexus is creating some mixed
opinions, but there’s no denying this new car
is a lot sleeker looking. The wheelbase has actually
also grown about two inches. So we’re going to
hop inside and see how that’s affected
the interior space and check out the new design. This interior has been
completely redesigned and it’s a big improvement
over the outgoing model. There are a lot of visual cues
from Lexus’s higher end cars– means there’s just a lot of
high end visual touches in here. Also, just the materials
have been handled well. Everything’s textured. Everything feels
good on your hands. There are some hard
plastics around, but all these touch points are
covered in quality materials, and it feels more upscale
than the outgoing model. One of the big obvious
changes in this car is the new infotainment system. Gone is a little joystick, and
now you have this track pad. It’s got its own drawbacks. There are things that I don’t
like about using this system. That said, it
looks a lot better. This giant screen up here
has some sharp graphics. It improves the look
of the interior. The other upgrade you get
here is Apple CarPlay. For the first time ever,
a Lexus has Apple CarPlay. There’s no Android Auto yet. Word is that it’s
coming and will be included as a software update. So you don’t have to
worry about buying one– if it doesn’t have it now,
it should in the future. This is the F sport, so there
are a few differences in here from the standard car. These seats are different. The new seats in the standard
car are very comfortable. I like them a lot. There’s four way
adjustable lumbar, there’s a good
amount of padding, and they’re nicely contoured. These seats are a
scootch less comfortable, but I’ve still been in
them for a couple of hours and I’m pretty happy. I’m way happier than I have been
in most other sports buckets. The seats are also
heated and ventilated. All of that is hooked into
Lexus’s climate concierge service, which will
automatically adjust seat heating and cooling and
steering wheel heating, along with the AC. And that’s a good
thing, because there are fewer buttons in here. I appreciated in
the outgoing model just how many hard buttons
there were to control everything so you didn’t have to deal with
the infotainment interface. Some of the
adjustments here, you have to go through this
interface to make them. So having a good automatic
climate control system is pretty important. Here in the backseat,
I can really see how that extra two inches
of wheelbase has paid off. I have a ton of knee room here. The one issue I have is that
if I sit up all the way, my head starts to
brush the ceiling. I’m a little tall. I think that most
passengers are not going to have an issue with that. I think most adults are going
to be pretty happy sitting back here, even on longer drives. Speaking of which, why don’t
we find out how it drives? SUVs may be all the rage. We all have heard about
Ford saying that they’re not going to make any more sedans. And I think that’s really sad. It’s great that Lexus is still
dedicated to making sedans, and this new ES is a
good example of why. The ride and handling
characteristics of this car are just really impressive. For this new ES, the V6
engine makes more power. It now makes 302 horsepower
and gets from zero to 60 in an estimated 6.6 seconds. The old six speed
automatic has been replaced with a new
eight speed unit that also improves fuel economy. The new hybrid gets
15 extra horsepower for a 215 total system,
now coming in at 44 miles per gallon combined. That is a really
impressive number. Those standard cars– the
ES 350 and the ES 300H– both also get
redesigned suspension. There’s some new
mechanical trickery there that I’m sure Dan
Edmunds would be thrilled to talk to you about at length. I will just cut to
the chase and say that it improves both cornering
stability and the ride. I always thought the
ride in the old ES– once you got onto choppy
pavement on the freeway, it just started to
feel kind of busy. The F sport gets
adaptive suspension. It gets some sound
boosting for the exhaust. So you get more of an aggressive
exhaust note in the cabin. You get a unique gauge cluster
here and a sport plus mode. The adaptive suspension
has really impressed me. It just sort of blows me away. This car handles
bumps spectacularly with the adaptive
suspension setup. Also, the way that it turns
in is really surprising to me. The engineers were
talking about how they’re trying to capture more
of the feel of a rear drive car. And well, when you get
on the accelerator, you can tell this is still
a front-wheel drive car. The way that it
pulls and the way it accelerates out of turns– the way that the car loads up
and the way that it rotates actually feels much more
like a rear-wheel drive car. It’s not all wine
and roses, though. There is the issue of
the eight speed gearbox. In normal driving,
it is just fine. There is no problem with it. It’s unobtrusive. It shifts smoothly. It downshifts quickly. But in the F sport– when you’re trying to
drive aggressively, there’s a little delay. It still wants to upshift. It’s not keeping you in
the power band the way that I’d like. And that means that
when you try and get on it coming out
of a corner, you’ve got to wait for it to downshift. And that just sort of spoils a
little bit of the sporty feel. It’s also– shifting with the
paddles doesn’t really work. It’s not direct shifting. What you’re doing is
selecting the highest gear that you want the car to be in. So the car can still
shift underneath that. But when you’re
driving the F sport, the attitude of the
shifter just doesn’t match that really
impressive handling. Lexus has also done a lot of
work to make the ES quieter, on top of improving the ride. There is now sound deadening
material absolutely everywhere in this car. There are even optional
sound insulating wheels that have a little
resonance chamber in the rims to absorb the noise of impact
and vibration from the tires. And it all works. This car is also much quieter
than the outgoing car. In keeping with Lexus putting
more safety technology in everything, the new ES comes
standard with the full suite. You get blind spot
monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control,
and automatic emergency braking, and lane keeping
assist all standard. And the adaptive cruise
control in this new generation can actually bring the
car to a complete stop, instead of cutting out
at about 25 miles an hour like the old generation did. Overall, this is a really
successful update for the ES. I think the traditional
buyer is going to be really happy with everything. As much as I still don’t
love this touchpad interface, it’s an improvement
over the old system. And Apple CarPlay and
hopefully, Android Auto are really nice to have
in this car, finally. It’s quieter. It’s more comfortable. The interior materials are
nicer and the interior design looks more upscale. I also think the F sport– it has some strengths
that make it appealing. That adaptive
suspension is great. I think that alone is probably
worth the cost of entry. But, if you’re looking
for a sports sedan outside of that really
surprising handling, it still leaves
something to be desired. We don’t have official
pricing for the new ES, yet. It should be about the same
price as the outgoing model. They’re saying
about $39,000 MSRP. So expect it to play in
that same range of about 40 to the mid 50s. So this new Lexus ES is quieter. It’s more comfortable. It’s nicer on the inside. It’s better to drive. The technology has improved,
I mean, really in every way. This is a better car
than the outgoing ES. The F Sport handles really
well, but that gearbox just holds it back a little bit. We’ll know more when we
finally get the new Lexus ES to our test track and do
a full rating and review. And then we can give
you our final verdict. For more information, be sure
to stay tuned to edmunds.com And if you like this
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