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Reviews First Drive: 2019 Lexus ES

18:59  12 june  2018
18:59  12 june  2018 Source:   autotrader.ca

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The 2019 Lexus ES is an unusual car for the Canadian beachhead of the Japanese luxury automaker. While the ES has traditionally done big business in the United States, to the north it’s enjoyed a more modest reception, trailing segment leaders in the premium segment. Still important to Lexus – and still seen as the four-door entry point to the brand for many first-time buyers – the ES has been redesigned for the upcoming model year in a bid to resonate more deeply with shoppers seeking a little extra on top of its traditional combination of reliability, comfort, and upscale features.

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F Sport, What?

I made my way down to Nashville, Tennessee, for a chance to drive the new Lexus ES 350 and 300h amidst the lush greenery and softly sculpted hills that surround the music capital of the south. My first encounter with the mid-sizer was indicative of the new philosophy guiding a significant part of the car’s revised personality, at least overtly: the ES 350 has gained an F Sport variant for the first time.

The more aggressively presented grille, rear trunk spoiler, and other visual cues indicate that Lexus intends at least some of its ES buyers to take the gloves off – or is that snap them on? – and get busy on roads other than the clogged arteries that point the way to work in the morning. It’s a bold statement to make, given the ES’ past reputation as a cruiser par excellence that prioritized occupant insulation from the outside world over driver engagement.

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Back in 1989, the Lexus ES launched the Lexus brand alongside the LS flagship. Unlike the LS or the GS and IS that launched later, the ES has always been a

The 2019 Lexus ES 350 is stylish inside and out, but despite inspiration from the sporty LC, it’s still a comfort-focused luxury sedan that’s happier on The 2019 ES adopts styling from the LS sedan, improves its interior quality immensely, and gets just a small dose of the LC flag ship's driving charm.

Of course, Lexus has been careful to give the revised sedan the tools it needs to at least take a stab at being fun-to-drive. These include adaptive shock absorbers and a thicker (solid) front sway bar for the ES 350 F Sport, a strut tower brace, numerous adjustments to suspension geometry, and a platform that is claimed to be more rigid than in years past due to the extensive use of high-strength steel as well as structural adhesive and laser welding.

2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport-06-BH.jpg© autoTRADER.ca (Benjamin Hunting) 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport

Direct Injection

Then there’s the engine compartment, which continues to be graced by a 3.5L V6 as standard equipment. The difference is in the details, however – the motor has been brought up to a similar standard seen on the platform-sharing Toyota Camry sedan, which means 302 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque are now available at full throttle.

You can thank direct fuel injection and a revamped variable valve-timing system for that extra grunt compared to the departing model (34 extra ponies, if you’re counting), and for the extra efficiency that comes with it. Official numbers for the Canadian market are 10.6 L/100 km city, 2.3 highway, and 9.1 combined for the ES 350 – over half a litre less for that last measure as compared to 2018 – and 10.9 / 7.5 / 9.4 for the new F Sport variant. Of course, credit is also due to the move from a six-speed automatic to an eight-speed self-shifter, which has allowed Lexus to pile on the overdrive gears.

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Last week, Lexus flew me out to Nashville to experience its all-new, seventh-generation ES . I spent most of my driving time on the NTP, winding through giant, lush, green hallways of trees. The 2019 ES continues it, albeit with a front-wheel drive plot twist.

Still, the ultimate in frugality at the fuel pump when ordering the Lexus ES has always been the 300h hybrid trim, and this continues for 2019. Absent the taut muscles of the F Sport’s chassis, the ES 300h focuses on fuel sipping, delivering an official 5.5 L/100 km city,  5.2 highway, and 5.3 combined – an improvement that puts it on the same page as the first-generation (and much smaller) Toyota Prius.

Better, But Not Best

How does the 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport hold up when it’s time to flex? While competent in every respect, there’s not much to recommend the ES as a sport sedan. Acceleration from the V6 is good off the line, but above 80 km/h the transmission kick-down doesn’t so much surge the car forward as gradually build speed, eliminating the sensation of instantaneous response that is so prized in performance cars. This is true even in the Sport+ driving mode, which is unique to the F Sport.

Handling is also perfectly acceptable, without standing out in any particular area. Limited by its size, and forced to straddle the line between quick reflexes and coddling occupants, the ES F Sport doesn’t come across as immediate or direct as the similarly premium Nissan Maxima front-driver, for example. Fortunately, you’re not forced to get on the F Sport bandwagon if you’re not interested in the “enhanced” growl it plays through the car’s speakers under full throttle, as several more staid trim levels remain available with the ES.

Lexus shows the 2019 ES before Beijing debut

  Lexus shows the 2019 ES before Beijing debut After revealing the grille of the 2019 Lexus ES last week, Lexus posted a single photo of the whole shebang this morning. Only two sentences accompanied the image: "The all-new ES springs from a reimagined luxury equation. Engaging design, athletic performance, and renowned refinement transform Lexus's most popular sedan." We could be forced to wait until the Beijing Motor Show reveal on April 25 for substantial info on that transformation, but based on what we already suspect, the coming ES has big britches to fill.

On that last point, Lexus thinks so, so the automaker has added an F Sport variant for the first time as part of its 2019 ES lineup. That meant tweaking the front- drive ES ' steering so that on turn-in there's a moment when it almost feels like you're driving a rear- drive car.

Case in point: this 2019 Lexus ES . Can you believe you're looking at the seventh-generation model? 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

The 300h hybrid provides perhaps the best example of what the Lexus ES has always been good at. Its 2.5L hybrid four with 215 combined horsepower provides enough motivation to keep things moving with the flow of traffic while avoiding any comparisons to more precisely tuned four-doors. Lexus projects 20 percent of ES sales to be battery-assisted for 2019.

Middle of The Road

Ultimately, despite the push from Lexus for the 2019 model, the ES has never been and still isn’t about “the drive”. Rather, it’s a car that fills the gap for buyers who prize quiet (which the ES certainly is, as long as you keep the sunroof cover closed), space (with its big back seat there’s plenty of room to stretch out in the sedan), and features, offered at a reasonable price for the mid-size segment.

That last point – equipment level – is still a strong one for the ES, as the car can be had with a raft of active safety gear, ventilated and heated seats (now linked to the automatic climate control system), a heated steering wheel, an enormous head-up display, and numerous other comforts. The one exception to the Lexus tech love-in is the Remote Touch infotainment system. The touchpad that one is forced to use to interact with every on-screen menu and system is jumpy and imprecise to the point where I was no longer comfortable using it while the vehicle was in motion, as I found it far too distracting from the task of driving. It’s not a new complaint, but it’s one that the automaker has yet to address by a much-needed move away from Remote Touch.

On another point of controversy, Lexus has caught a lot of flack for the spindle grille styling that it’s foisted on every member of its lineup – including the ES. While it’s certainly not the conservative look of old, I’ve always felt it stood out from some of its more anonymous competitors on the road.

Whether ES buyers find it a toothy maw too far past the conservative impression made by past models is a question I can’t answer. The rest of the car – Remote Touch aside – should continue to appeal to past buyers, as long as they temper their expectations about F Sport, or instead aim for one of the several other, more familiar ES trim levels.

Lexus Prices All-New 2019 ES Sedan .
While the new base price is $1,050 more than last year's entry level tag, the hybrid ES 300h's new $47,000 starting point is $50 less than the outgoing gas-electric version .As before, the ES shares its underpinnings with the Toyota Camry. Some of that family sedan's more aggressive styling (introduced in 2018 redesign) has been carried over to this upscale variant, which Toyota is keen to highlight with the availability of two F Sport option packages that promise to add a dose of driving engagement.

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