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Lexus ES 350: All-new sedan emerges for 2019

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Spending time reviewing a Lexus is typically a pretty good week for me. The 2019 Lexus ES sedan tester showed up with little fanfare, but the longer it sat in my driveway, the more the curiosity seekers stopped by. This turns out to be a pretty fair litmus test for this all-new sedan that is not only great looking, but delivers a stance and proportions that easily reflect the new aggressive drive capabilities.

The look

The all-new 2019 Lexus ES not only offers a more attractive and refined exterior for this base model, but it’s also the introduction of the first-ever ES F Sport trim level package. Well known for its comfort, refinement, and luxury appointments, the Gen-7 ES builds on its successful history with enhanced performance, class-leading active safety technology, and a level of craftsmanship that would impress in any segment.

The front-wheel-drive ES 350 compact sedan has a low hood and a great profile that plays up the aggressive sloping, while its slanted roofline highlights its lower stance and sleek aerodynamics.

Up front, the ES offers two different grille designs: The standard ES 350 features vertical bars extending out from the center, while the ES 350 F Sport model offers a blacked-out pattern consisting of “L”-shaped clusters.

The ES rear end features a chiseled look, with LED taillamps that wrap around the quarter panels to provide a continuous styling line from any angle, and chrome exhaust tips as a signature sign-off. The F Sport models add a rear spoiler, additional rear badging, and a dark lower valance to further refine the look.

Performance

Under the hood of the ES 350 and ES 350 F Sport is a fuel-injected 3.5-liter V6 offering 302 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 267 lb.-ft. of torque. Mated to an 8-speed direct-shift automatic transmission, this ES has acceleration from 0-to-60 mph in 6.6 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 131 mph.

Fuel economy is estimated at 22 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined for the ES 350 and 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined for the ES 350 F Sport.

Switching between drive modes changes throttle responses, adjusts the transmission shift program and alters the steering assist for added control. The 8-speed transmission shifts smoothly, though it was a little slow to downshift during aggressive driving. Moving at highway speeds is a pleasant experience with plenty of passing oomph on demand.

Cabin

Inside, the driver’s focus is kept on the road ahead by placing the center display screen, instrument panel, and available heads up display in a tight cluster in the driver’s field of view. Front passengers enjoy a more open and spacious environment that promotes relaxation; rear-seat passengers will appreciate a lower hip point and a carefully configured headliner that preserves headroom while the longer wheelbase delivers generous legroom.

The ES is the first Lexus to offer Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa is in place to accept voice commands. CarPlay is available with the larger 12.3-inch nav screen and 8.0-inch screen.

Safety

Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 is standard and includes such active safety equipment as all-speed radar cruise control that will bring the car to a complete stop; lane tracing assist that follows the car ahead when there are no lane markings to read; steering assist to prevent the car from leaving its lane; road sign assist, which reads traffic signs; a sonar system for parking assistance; and cross-traffic alert. Cameras provide a panoramic or bird’s-eye view of the car when parked or in reverse.

Pricing

The 2019 Lexus ES is available in base ES 350 (pricing expected to start about $39,000), a hybrid powered ES 350h (about $41,700) and an F Sport trim level.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication