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Lexus ES 350: Elegant sedan is all-new for 2019

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The all-new 2019 Lexus ES (for Elegant Sedan) not only brings a more dynamic exterior, it’s also the introduction of the first-ever ES F Sport.

Lexus has set an ambitious goal for the 2019 Lexus ES: attract new shoppers with sporty styling, as well as improved performance and driving dynamics, without alienating its loyal buyers who like the quiet, comfortable interior. Long known for its comfort, refinement, and luxury appointments, this seventh-generation ES builds on its strengths by offering sharpened performance, class-leading active safety technology, and a level of craftsmanship rarely found in this segment.

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 boasting bespoke cosmetic features and some hardware upgrades.

Outside, the front engine, front-wheel-drive compact sedan has a “provocative elegance” Lexus says reflects its newfound performance capabilities and give it the kind of eye-catching appearance. Its low hood offers a distinctive silhouette emphasized by an aggressive downward slant, while its slanted roofline highlights its lower stance and slippery aerodynamics.

Up front, the ES offers two dramatically different grille designs: The standard ES 350 and the ES 300h use elegant vertical bars that radiate out from the center, while the ES 350 F Sport model adopts a blacked-out pattern consisting of “L”-shaped clusters.

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 at launch with the larger 12.3-inch nav screen and 8.0-inch screen.

Under the hood of the ES 350 and ES 350 F Sport is a fuel-injected 3.5-liter V-6 designed to deliver commanding acceleration along with an invigorating sound. Boasting 302 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 267 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm, it’s paired with an eight-speed direct-shift automatic transmission, and promises 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.

The 8-speed transmission shifts smoothly on the way up, though some complain that it is sometimes slow to downshift during enthusiastic driving. Switching between drive modes changes throttle responses, adjusts the transmission shift program, and alters the steering assist for added control, allowing the driver to choose his or her preferred driving feel and response. This elegant sedan cruises nicely at highway speeds, and offers ample torque for passing; steering feel and feedback are improved over the previous ES.

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.