MSRP
$39,900
U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 Lexus ES Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.5

Comfort and refinement are the headline topics when it comes to the 2020 Lexus ES. These traits extend to its ride quality, handling ability, and powertrain. The V6 engine moves this car with ease and helps the ES get good gas mileage. Lexus does not offer any high-performance engine upgrades for the ES, though it does build the ES Hybrid, which we review separately. Spirited drivers may prefer the sharper tuning of F Sport models, but as a whole, this car is too relaxed to be a thrilling sports sedan.

  • "A 302-horsepower V6 propels the 2020 ES 350 and its F Sport variant with a refined eagerness. Progress can be respectably swift, but not to the detriment of comfort. The 8-speed automatic transmission is subtle in its shifting duties, while scrolling between the drive modes brings differences in feel." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "… 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 (2019)
  • "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 (2019)

Acceleration and Power

The ES is well-suited as a comfortable cruiser. Its V6 engine is powerful enough to quickly get you up to speed or overtake dawdling vehicles, and it won't disturb the peace with rough shifts or obtrusive engine noise. Gas mileage is also good for this class.

Powering the gas-only ES 350 is a 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The ES 350 F Sport also comes with this powertrain. According to the EPA, this car gets 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, which is slightly above average.

Lexus also offers the ES 300h, which has a hybrid powertrain. Read more about this car in our separate Lexus ES Hybrid review.

  • "The ES 350 has a refined 3.5-liter V6 that would impress Swiss watchmakers, linked to a similarly sophisticated 8-speed automatic transmission." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2019)
  • "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 (2019)

Handling and Braking

The 2020 ES 350 is a front-wheel-drive sedan. It unmistakably prioritizes comfort, and it has polished driving dynamics. The serene ride quality is relaxing without making you feel like you are drifting over waves. Lexus adds a few performance upgrades to the F Sport trim. These tighten up handling for a more athletic experience but don't result in a truly sporty ride.

  • The F Sport's adaptive suspension and sportier driving modes ramp up the interest levels even more. But since there's no hike in power, it could never be an alternative to a BMW M car or a Mercedes-AMG. Lexus just doesn't have those performance credentials." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • 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 (2019)
  • "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 (2019)
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2020 Lexus ES

MSRP: $39,900 - $44,635

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