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2019 Lexus ES Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.1

Like the previous generation, the redesigned 2019 Lexus ES takes comfort seriously. But it also spices up the drive a bit, thanks to a more powerful engine, added gears for the transmission, and an improved suspension system. Select the all-new F Sport package for even more fun, but know that this is hardly an aggressive sports sedan.

  • "… the 2019 ES 350'[s] driving dynamics are greatly improved. The new seventh-gen ES … takes corners quickly and competently. And if you relax your hands and concentrate, you'll get some pretty decent feedback from the steering. On the downside, the steering feels heavy in more relaxed driving. On cars with driver-selectable shock valving, there's little discernable difference between the modes. Still, compared to the previous ES, which turned into a quivering puddle of understeer, it's a notable improvement." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "This level of detail extends to the redesigned suspension. You may not know or care about manufacturing techniques with incredibly fine tolerances, but you'll appreciate the improved ride control. On the winding roads around Nashville, the newest Lexus felt noticeably more refined than the outgoing generation." -- Edmunds
  • "There is no bad choice. All performed well at absorbing bumps, big and small, and the adjustable dampers kept the car steady even in harder cornering. We were pleased that the F Sport did not share the stiff and rigid ride we've experienced with some F Sports in the past." -- Motor Trend

Acceleration and Power

A 3.5-liter V6 engine still powers the ES, but horsepower has increased from 268 to 302 for the new generation. Lexus has also done away with the six-speed automatic transmission, bringing an all-new eight-speed automatic on board. The net result of these changes is brisker acceleration. The ES reaches 60 mph in a respectable (but not mind-blowing) 6.6 seconds.

The redesigned ES is expected to be more fuel-efficient than the previous model. An official rating from the EPA is still pending. In the interim, Lexus claims gas mileage at 22 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

  • "Power from the 3.5-liter V6 is good; it doesn't feel slow. The F Sport version adds engine sound through the speakers to add a little drama to accelerations, and shifts come reasonably quick, but again, if I'm looking for a four seater that's more sport than luxury, this is not it. The company's promise of dual-clutch-like action has not been delivered. It's a quiet, comfortable cruising sedan, and that's OK. Passing power is good and getting from 65 to 85 mph is no problem." -- Autoweek
  • "It's a more powerful and more responsive engine than before, and it easily moves the ES along city streets or into heavy highway traffic. The transmission enhances the ride with smooth, quiet shifts that don't intrude into the cabin so the driver and passengers simply enjoy the ride." -- Boston Globe
  • "Throughout my day's drive in the rolling countryside outside of Nashville, the Direct Shift transmission comported itself well, with the exception of being occasionally slow to downshift (regardless of drive mode) during more enthusiastic driving." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

The ES is a front-wheel-drive luxury sedan tuned mostly for comfort. Its new stock suspension system controls body motions better than the previous generation, yet it still ensures a smooth, comfortable ride. For a slightly more athletic setup, there's the F Sport package. Its adaptive variable suspension system gives the ES a sporty slant, though you still won't confuse this four-door with a BMW 5 Series.

  • "Unlike past iterations, the 2019 ES achieves its calm demeanor without resorting to the sort of overly soft suspension that ultimately yields messy handling when pressed. … Chiefly, that's because the ES 350 F Sport is available with Adaptive Variable Suspension derived from the system on the LC Coupe. … However, the standard ES with its novel new 'swing-valve' passive shocks works well, too. As on all 2019 ES models, the electric power steering module has migrated from the column to a new rack mount for improved responsiveness, and turn-in is noticeably keener, and it's less numb than the standard ES, even if road feel remains somewhat muted." -- CNET
  • 'Bland comfort' is far from an insult – it's a veritable ES trademark, and it continues to be available as standard equipment. To improve upon it, though, Lexus has given all versions of the new ES a revised rear suspension, additional suspension bracing, and a significant increase in the amount of high-strength steel used throughout the vehicle. … Cornering capability is good but not great, as the car's size and the coddle-first foundation of its overall suspension geometry limits its floor routine. And yet, much of that same platform strengthening and chassis improvement intended to sharpen the ES' reflexes is clearly evident in the car's calm and quiet cabin, which repeat buyers will no doubt appreciate." -- New York Daily News
  • "The most important change to the F Sport is the adaptive suspension system. This both improves ride quality even further over the standard models and brings the handling to a level you'd never expect from an ES. Lexus engineers spent a lot of time talking about how the ES 350 F Sport is meant to handle like a rear-wheel-drive car, and they've accomplished their goal ... to a point. Turn-in is sharp, and the car doesn't feel front-heavy when you pitch it into a turn. It grips impressively, cornering flat and giving the driver more confidence than seems proper in a Lexus ES." -- Edmunds
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