2019 Lexus ES wowsMay 18th, 2018
LOS ANGELES — In what Jennifer Barron, director of Lexus Canada, called a revolution rather than an evolution, the much anticipated 2019 Lexus ES, a mid-size sedan, was unveiled at the Terranea Oceanfront Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., this week.
The setting was no accident. At the same time as the seventh-generation ES was being introduced at the Beijing Motor Show (also known as Auto China 2018), Barron and Lexus vice-president of marketing, Cooper Erickson, were taking the wraps off the latest ES350 as well as the brand new ES F Sport at a hotel in the U.S. where the going rate for rooms, per night, is $2,300 (U.S.)
“This Terrenea Resort is one of 12 luxury Lexus partners that we have in the United States to really demonstrate the Lexus lifestyle,” Erickson said, adding that the automaker and the hotels work together to try to give clients once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
It was left to Barron to point out that for the first time since the ES was introduced 30 years ago, the car has been transformed from a luxury vehicle to one where power and performance are now equally as important.
The new car — particularly the F Sport — looks sleeker. It looks built for speed. And it looks that way because it is. By updating the fuel-injection system to increase horsepower, and by lowering the chassis (among other things) to improve the aerodynamics, the automaker has produced an attractive, elegant automobile that handles well when the power is unleashed.
“This is a distinct departure from what we’ve been presenting to our guests over the years,” Barron said. Added Erickson: “We are adding style, driving dynamics, and performance to the Lexus equation. This is a dramatic vehicle in many ways.”
The all-new chassis is lower by five millimetres and the curvature of the roofline emphasizes this. The chassis is longer by 65 mm and wider by 45, which helps to make the ES roomier. The wheelbase is 50 mm longer and there are wider tracks front (by 10 mm) and rear (37 mms), helping not only to increase the car’s performance potential but also its stability (it looks planted to the ground, Erickson says), thus making the car safer.
The marketing VP said that all ES 350s are powered by a new 3.5-litre V6 engine that not only performs well but sounds good. (Exclusive to the F Sport is a new Engine Sound Enhancement feature that can add an additional layer of engine noise when the car is in Sport+ driving mode.) With better fuel injection, the engine can now make 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Both of those numbers are up significantly (plus-34 hp; plus-19 lb-ft) compared with the previous generation V6.
The ES350 also has an eight-speed automatic transmission that delivers more power to the ground, which, in turn, improves driving dynamics, Erickson said. A release added that the new eight-speed is able to utilize high torque gears on the low end for quick starts and tall gearing on the high end for optimum efficiency.
Inside the car is where things get interesting. Lexus has gone to great lengths to try to keep the driver’s focus on the road by putting the display screen and instrument panel more in the driver’s sightline. This, then, opens up space for the front passenger. As every new car has one spectacular feature, I suggest this — along with a safety improvement I’ll tell you about in a moment — is Lexus’s.
Meantime, back-seat passengers don’t lose any headroom as a result of the tweaked roofline. They sit lower in the seat back there. Plus the longer wheelbase means they can stretch out their legs.
While the California unveiling featured the ES350 sedan and the ES F Sport, the hybrid model, the ES300h, was absent — but certainly not forgotten by Erickson.
“It’s got a 2.5-litre engine,” he said. As explained in a release, it’s a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder gas engine incorporating fast burn combustion technology that makes it one of the most thermally efficient engines ever offered in a Lexus. It works with a lighter, more compact electric motor and self-charging hybrid system to deliver a combined 215 horsepower and an estimated 5.3 L/100 km fuel consumption in combined driving. The result is more power without increasing emissions or fuel consumption.
Barron reminded everyone present that Lexus is still very much focused on safety and a new feature that I find fascinating is a bicycle detection system. It is part of Lexus’s comprehensive Pre-Collision System (PCS) that previously was designed to detect another vehicle or pedestrian. In addition to the bicycle detection, improvements have also been made in detecting pedestrians after dark.
“The goal,” said Barron, “is to reduce those traffic accidents (pedestrians, cyclists) and make our vehicles safer for everyone on the road, whether you are inside the vehicle or outside.”
Erickson made reference to a large number of exterior colour possibilities, and there are some interesting ones, indeed. Moonbeam Beige Metallic, for instance, was designed, Lexus said, to mimic light reflecting off fresh snow. (I heard this and I thought, do we really want to be reminded of this?).
Inside, the ES350 and ES300h will still feature materials like Linear Dark Mocha and Linear Espresso Wood that give the car a handcrafted look. But the company’s designers have come up with a metallic trim for the F Sport that features fluctuating wave patterns that are almost three-dimensional.
A rear spoiler will be available for the F Sport. And three different wheel designs are on offer (17- and 18-inch for the ES350 and ES300g, while the F Sport gets 19-inch wheels). And there are two different grille designs.
The Lexus ES lineup will go on sale in September. No Canadian pricing is yet available.