The Lexus ES350 has been completely redesigned for 2019, and now wears attractive body panels over a 2.0-inch longer wheelbase and 0.5 and 1.4-inch wider front and rear tracks. I think it looks great and the love it or hate it grille is definitely a talking point. Based on the somewhat boring Toyota Avalon, Lexus has infused much more emotion into this car than ever and it still ranks as their biggest selling sedan with over 48,000 moved in 2018. It’s also hard to believe that this is the seventh-generation model.
My 2019 Lexus ES350 tester came in what Lexus calls Ultra Lux trim meaning every possible option is included for the price of $53,095. The good news is you don’t need to spend close to that much since the ES350 starts at under $40K. I must admit I was really looking forward to driving this car after spending the previous week shifting manually in the very noisy Challenger Scat Pack, so this was a welcome relief. Good though it is the Lexus ES350 isn’t free from demerits, a major one I will mention later, but this doesn’t deflect from being a very nice car overall.
Power comes from a deliciously smooth 3.5-liter V6 engine with 302 horsepower and 267 lb-ft, mated to a very slick 8-speed automatic, enough to get a pretty good move on when you need it.
Smoothly does it
Driving the ES350 certainly doesn’t set your pants on fire and if it did the automatic seat coolers would surely put it out. Wafting along on a pillow like cushion of marshmallow is what this car does best, but that’s not to say it’s slow. Push the right pedal from a standstill and we got it from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds not bad at all but show it some twisty bits and it’s not particularly enthusiastic about cornering or braking.
On the limit it’s going to under-steer, it’s front wheel drive after all, and you feel the car just doesn’t want to drive at 10/tenths and there’s no reason too. What this car does best is make quick progress wherever you are without fuss or excitement and it does it as silent as any car I have tested, thanks to acoustic glass all round.
The Ultra Lux package includes performance adaptive dampers front and rear minimize body pitch and roll. I spent all of the time in Sport mode changes the back lighting in the drivers display and holds the revs a little for more rapid progress. This V6 is a gem, it likes to rev but has sufficient torque that prevents it bogging down when you really need the speed.
It’s built to under steer on the limit and that’s exactly what it does, drive a few fast turns and the Lexus holds its own, up to a point when it doesn’t and things get a little ragged. Hustle along a back road at 8 tenths and it behaves well, with some body roll and even though the brakes are excellent the front does dive under harsh braking.
Around town the steering is light and reasonably communicative, it’s an electrically assisted rack-and-pinion system that Lexus engineers say they electronically tuned to reduce effort and feel, which they deem to be more appropriate for luxury customers. If you opt for the F-sport version you get a slightly different system with more feel and accuracy.
Inside the ES350 it exudes an air of luxury with soft touch high-quality materials and great build quality. The heated and ventilated front seats provide fantastic support and even the rear bench, normally a half-baked effort, is very nice to spend time in. Passenger space is generous front and rear and the large low opening trunk will carry enough luggage for four people.
Luxury abounds in the cabin with high quality materials, wood trim and amenities such as super soft semi-aniline leather and a powered rear window sunshade. The ES features list includes an TFT instrument cluster, a head-up display, a touchpad-controlled central infotainment screen atop the dash (measuring 8.0 inches standard, with a 12.3-inch screen optional) that’s easy to read with minimal eye redirection but extremely frustrating to use; my only real gripe with the car. The system setup is slow to respond to inputs and it’s a real chore to navigate through the various displays.
Add to that you get Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay compatibility, Siri Eyes Free and Amazon Alexa integration, a superb Mark Levinson premium audio system which sounds fantastic. Lexus includes a large list of passive-safety features including Blind Spot Monitor, Park Assist and Pedestrian Detection to name a few.
I have to say the powered front seats are some of the best I have tried and I never experience any discomfort when I had been behind the wheel for a couple of hours. It was a joy to commute with this car for the week I had it, wafting along in silence and now I’m sad because they came to collect it the other day.
The 2019 Lexus ES350 is hard fault except for the fiddly and frustrating infotainment system. It’s the one thing that Lexus needs to fix on an otherwise great sedan. My thoughts are is that Lexus won’t change it until they launch a voice activated system in the future. Until then this really is a great place to spend your time, whether commuting or on a long road trip, that sound of silence is exactly what you need.
2019 Lexus ES350 Ultra Lux Numbers
BASE PRICE: $43,150
PRICE AS TESTED: $53,095
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
ENGINE: DOHC 24-valve Atkinson-capable 3.5-liter V-6
POWER: 302 hp
TORQUE: 267 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
0-60 MPH: 5.9 seconds
CURB WEIGHT: 3,649 lbs
CARGO SPACE: 16.7 ft³
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON: 22/33/26 mpg
OUR OBSERVED: 24 mpg
PROS: Super smooth ride, beautifully crafted cabin, economical
CONS: Usual fiddly infotainment system