2019 Lexus ES

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
February 6, 2019

Buying tip

A base ES350 represents very good value, but the ES300h remains a standout for gas mileage.

features & specs

ES 300h FWD
ES 300h Luxury FWD
ES 300h Ultra Luxury FWD
43 city / 45 hwy
43 city / 45 hwy
43 city / 45 hwy

The 2019 Lexus ES deletes “sedate” from its vocabulary.

Freed from its burden of being the mid-size sedan for every luxury buyer, the 2019 Lexus ES sedan has grown slightly sharper in each of its several distinct flavors: ES350, F Sport, and ES300h hybrid.

It earns an excellent 8.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Beneath its sleek, toned shape the 2019 Lexus ES has a split personality. Base ES350 and hybrid ES300h models prioritize plush control, while the F Sport pipes in a sporty personality, as well as exhaust sounds.

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The ES is sinewy but cohesive, perhaps the best integration yet of Lexus’ polarizing “spindle” grille design. The roof sits quarter-inch compared to last year’s model.

If the new ES’ silhouette recalls the Toyota Camry, that’s no accident since the two share engines and some structure.

Though the ES350 F Sport has sporting pretensions, it’s still a front-drive cruiser at heart. The 350 badge refers to a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, healthy upgrades of 34 hp and 19 lb-ft over the 2018 model. An 8-speed automatic shuttles power forward. It corners smoothly and with a newfound assertiveness; as an F-Sport, it adds adaptive dampers and a Sport+ mode that tightens up its steering and improves throttle response.

The ES300h features a 2.5-liter inline-4 paired to an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery tucked under the rear seat, good for 215 combined horsepower. The more important figure here is 44 mpg combined, as in fuel economy, as in stellar ratings for a big sedan.

The 2019 ES, regardless of outlook on life, is a couple of inches longer than its predecessor at nearly 196 inches from bumper-to-bumper. Interior space is excellent and the F Sport’s seats strike an excellent compromise between firm and supple. It rides on a version of the 2018 Camry’s front-wheel-drive platform, although the Lexus’ wheelbase is almost an inch longer and its overall length stretches about three inches compared to the Toyota.

The ES has racked up impressive safety scores. All models have Apple CarPlay compatibility—but not Android Auto—and an 8.0-inch display, with an upsized 12.3-inch screen on navigation-equipped cars. A laptop-like track pad sits next to the gear lever to control the infotainment software, and it’s difficult to use. It’s easy to forget, though, with the ES’ available Mark Levinson sound, with its supple leather upholstery, its vast back seat, and the knowledge that the Lexus badge has started to take on meanings other than reliability.


2019 Lexus ES


From its spindle grille to its asymmetric dash, the 2019 ES tosses tradition in the trash.

Before it drew its latest LC coupe and LS sedan, Lexus styling landed somewhere in excitement between pro golf and echinacea supplements. The 2017 sea-change has scrubbed the boring off many of its vehicles, and the 2019 ES is the best sedan result yet.  We think it’s a 7, with extra points for sheet metal and cockpit themes. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Less a scaled-down LS than a spindle-grilled 5-Series, the ES spills all Lexus’ visual tricks at once. The grille stands tall and proud and pinched at its waist, the roofline trails lower and in a more daring fashion, and brightwork glints off the rear doors at the roof pillar. Big shoulder lines draw attention back toward the trunk’s shapely LED taillights.

What works for our eyes may not for all, but the spindle grille instantly sets the ES aside as a Lexus, in a world filled with nondescript hexagonal grilles. The silver slats turn into jet-black mesh on the F Sport cars, which get other darkened trim and badging. That doesn’t diminish its effect: The grille now defines Lexus, in a positive way.

Inside, the sweeping lines that snip driver from front passenger echo some old-school Toyota cockpits we love, but there’s a measure of chaos to be endured, too. With the boomerang bend of the center stack, the right-side droop of the infotainment screen, the twisty traction controls that top the gauge binnacle, and the dots that comprise the dash’s audio controls, the ES cockpit drops any pretense of symmetry. We confess to admiring its chutzpah while getting a little frustrated in the first half-hour of driving. The latter dissipated, but the former didn’t.

Light colors trim the non-F ES; the bamboo option’s fetching as always. The surfaces yield to touch, the instruments sharp and legible, and the textures fine.

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2019 Lexus ES


The latest Lexus ES doesn’t mind a kink or two in the road.

With the 2019 ES350 and especially, the F Sport, Lexus puts solid effort into shifting its performance reputation a little closer to the sport-sedan bullseye. It’s still a luxury sedan with a long pedigree of comfort, and that’s its best, highest use.

We give it a 7 for performance, with extra points for its fuss-free ride and its capable drivetrains. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The ES350 is the lineup’s foundation garment. The front-wheel-drive sedan sports a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 302 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, numbers that have risen 34 hp and 19 pound-feet from the prior car. Lexus teams them with an 8-speed automatic with a manual shift mode. With a pleasant exhaust bark–some of it in F Sport cars is generated and played through the speakers–and a hearty leap from a stop, the 3,649-lb ES350 runs up to 60 mph in a Lexus-estimated 6.6 seconds, a half-second quicker than the 2018 model. Top speed reaches 131 mph, probably more in theory than it ever does in practice.

The 8-speed doesn’t give drivers as much control over gear changes as its manual mode and paddle shift controls would indicate. It’ll hold a lower gear when it’s dialed into a sport driving mode, but it upshifts near redline, and blocks downshifts that would spin the engine near that limit.

With its stock strut and link suspension, the ES no longer leans into corners with a total lack of interest. It still can cruise an interstate in near-silence while it shushes bumps with a good balance of suspension travel and damping. It steers with a light touch and doesn’t mind a mid-speed hustle, though a hardcore stretch of tightly knotted roads make its soft tires wail.

Lexus ES F Sport

Tighten up the suspension’s general state of tune, and add in adaptive dampers that can quickly react to changing road surfaces—and while you’re at it, throw in some sport seats and tough-looking trim—and you have the ES350 F Sport.

No real powertrain changes come with the F Sport, but the drive modes add a Sport+ mode that pulls down the dampers to their firmest setting. It’s here where the F Sport has put real distance between itself and the base car. With its more adventurous 19-inch wheels and tires, it’ll sing out from its treads as it responds to corners with an agile touch. Dips and crests and undulating road surfaces meet their match with the adaptive suspension; it’s still tuned well below the limits of an Audi S6 or a mid-line BMW or Benz, the sense of control doesn’t ruin the ride comfort, either. It’s a luxury sedan with a dollop of sport, not the other way around.

Lexus ES300h

It’s not our choice for that kind of driving, but for the driving most Lexus ES drivers seem to do, we’d steer them all into the ES300h.

Take the stock ES350, and drop out the V-6 for a 2.5-liter inline-4, a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, and an electronic continuously variable transmission. The result: the 3,704-lb ES300h, which shaves the ES350’s performance roughly by 10 percent while gas mileage soars, to 44 mpg combined. It’ll run to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, a top speed of 112 mph, deliver a creamy ride with just a bit more noise than other ES sedans. There’s less of a weight penalty in this new edition, and save for slower acceleration and more noise from its lower-friction tires, the road manners of the ES hybrid pass all the daily-driving hurdles we’d set.

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2019 Lexus ES

Comfort & Quality

Spread-out space and luxury fitments swank up the Lexus ES experience.

Lots of space greets passengers in the Lexus ES, and good cargo space, too. The premium-to-luxury feel swells with swell fit and finish.

We give the 2019 ES a 9 for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The latest Lexus ES rides on a 113.0-inch wheelbase, and sits 195.9 inches long. It’s either a very large mid-size sedan, or an actual EPA-classified Large car minus a tenth of a cubic foot of interior space. Your call.

We call it a long-distance cruiser of the first order. Front passengers in the ES350 and ES300h get the best two seats in the five-seat cabin. They’re covered in supple synthetic leather in base models, real leather in all others, and can be heated and cooled. Lexus has made huge strides in seat shapes, and in more than 700 miles of driving, our ES test sedan ranked with Lincoln and Volvo for touring comfort, for hours on end. F Sport seats get even more thickly bolstered seat backs and bottoms, if you’re on a coffee-spilling adventure.

That ES back seat, though. It’s spacious in every direction, suitable for three adults for reasonable journeys. Compared to the front seats’ 42.4 inches of leg room, the back bench gets 39.2 inches, enough for our six-footers to sit behind themselves in comfort.

Small-item storage is very good; wireless smartphone charging has forced designers to open up more console space and line it with rubber, and we approve. The ES trunk checks in at a useful 16.7 cubic feet for both the ES350 and the hybrid; a redesigned battery pack no longer shaves valuable luggage space from the trunk.

The ES cabin has its share of buttons and switches styled to fit unique spaces. It’s tough to find some of the studs that control audio at highway speeds (hint: try the ones on the steering wheel), and the Shrek-like controls over the gauge pod really reach for something the Lexus ES is not. But sit back and admire what the ES cabin does deliver: Tight fit and finish, some wood or aluminum trim, a good grade of leather (or better, for a price), well-muted sounds so long as you pay for acoustic glass. It’s one of the least expensive Lexus sedans and that’s difficult to tell, from the inside.

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2019 Lexus ES


The 2019 ES aims for perfect safety.

The 2019 Lexus ES has nearly run the table in our safety score, even though it’s missing half its crash-test data.

We give it a 9, with an up arrow and a promise to update this page when more information comes to light. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The IIHS says the 2019 ES sedan merits its Top Safety Pick+ award, when equipped with adaptive headlights. They’re rated “Good,” while the standard LED headlights are merely “Acceptable.”

The NHTSA hasn’t yet provided crash scores for the new sedan.

All ES sedans get full-speed automatic emergency braking, active lane control, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warnings. It’s a complete set of cutting-edge safety technology that many luxury car brands still insist should be options. Lexus and Toyota deserve kudos for making it standard.


2019 Lexus ES


The 2019 ES racks up points for all its features, but infotainment dulls the buzz.

Lexus stuffs its 2019 ES350 and ES300h sedans with luxury touches and has a long-standing rep for great service. It’s nearly perfect here but its infotainment system is so unsatisfying, we don’t just leave a point on the table—we take one away.

It’s an 8. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The $40,525 Lexus ES350 won’t leave many drivers dissatisfied. It has 17-inch wheels with all-season tires, LED headlights, a power moonroof, synthetic leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats, keyless ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, three USB ports, 10-speaker AM/FM/XM/HD/CD audio with Bluetooth streaming and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and an 8.0-inch infotainment display.

The $42,335 Hybrid comes equipped nearly identically. On both, options include a power tilt/telescope wheel, heated and cooled front seats, leather upholstery, wood trim, acoustic side glass, premium leather, and a hands-free trunk lid.

Only ES350s can be configured with the F Sport package. For $45,060 it gains aluminum interior trim, 19-inch all-season tires, sport seats, active noise control, F Sport gauges, dark exterior trim, and a rear spoiler.

Other stand-alone Lexus ES options include a heated wood steering wheel, an adaptive suspension, a panoramic roof, adaptive LED headlights, a head-up display, navigation with a 12.3-inch display, wireless smartphone charging, blind-spot monitors, parking sensors, 18-inch wheels and tires, and Mark Levinson audio that renders some of the best sound in its price class.

Were it all connected with a smart, easy-to-use interface, the ES would be hard to keep off any recommended list. But Lexus’ Remote Touch interface is still a mess. It uses a touch-sensitive pad to direct navigation, audio, climate, and other functions. Were it more precise like Honda’s new Android-based infotainment, it might come off better, but it’s slow to respond and easy to zip past needed icons.

Android Auto, by the way, still is not found on Lexus vehicles, but the ES does have integrated Amazon Alexa functionality, so binge-shopping on the highway via voice command has at last become the danger we always knew it would.

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2019 Lexus ES

Fuel Economy

Sky-high gas mileage makes the Lexus ES300h the best pick.

As a gas-powered sedan the Lexus ES fares just fine in fuel economy. As a hybrid, it’s stellar. We give it an 8 here, provided you get the gas-electric model.  (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The stock ES 350 four-door carries EPA ratings of 22 mpg city, 33 highway, 26 combined. With the F Sport’s bigger tires, the numbers fall to 22/31/25 mpg.

The hybrid’s the most impressive offering in its class. It’s scored at 43/45/44 mpg, and in our test drives, we’ve cleared 40 mpg combined.

If we rated the other models, the 2019 Lexus ES would be a 5.

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Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 9
Features 8
Fuel Economy 8
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