Review Roundup: The 2019 Lexus ES 350 & ES 300hJun 13th, 2018
The first reviews of the seventh-generation 2019 Lexus ES sedan are popping up around the Internet — yesteday, I posted an extensive technical overview of the new model, but let’s see some more subjectiveopinions of the new model.
None of those metrics really tell you how the new ES feels while generating those numbers, however, but the answer is “pretty darn good.” Lexus makes a big deal about how much sportier this new XV70 generation is to drive than before, and indeed, it breeds driver confidence like no ES before it. That’s particularly true of the F Sport, which not only adds visual drama with a blacked-out mesh grille, unique lower fascias, model-specific wheels, rear spoiler and dark-finish taillights, it also nudges the dynamic quotient upward.
Chiefly, that’s because the ES 350 F Sport is available with Adaptive Variable Suspension derived from the system on the LC Coupe. Lexus says the system features no fewer than 650 individual levels of damping, which helps keep the car level, whether it’s being pitched hard into a corner or negotiating a suburban speed bump. However, the standard ES with its novel new “swing-valve” passive shocks works well, too.
More praise for the ES F SPORT from Tony Swan of Car & Driver:
Although its powertrain is the same as that of the standard ES350, the F Sport feels much more the athlete, thanks primarily to suspension tuning, highlighted by adaptive dampers. Developed by KYB, the new Adaptive Variable Suspension employs damping that responds rapidly to changing road-surface conditions based on multiple presets, and it’s most noticeable in the Sport and Sport+ driving modes. The action is an adaptation of conventional shock technology, with a new internal valving system.
The upshot is an ES sedan with level cornering attitudes, eager responses, and precise, tactile steering, all of which is augmented by 19-inch wheels fitted with available summer performance tires. It adds up to the first ES that can claim to be a sports sedan with somewhat of a straight face.
Will Kaufman of Edmunds is more critical of the ES F SPORT driving experience:
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. In fact, the F Sport doesn’t remind you it’s a front-wheel-drive car until you get on the gas.
Without a locking front differential, there’s some torque steer under acceleration, and the front tires struggle a bit for grip coming out of a corner. Further, the eight-speed automatic has not be sufficiently retuned from the regular car, and even in Sport+ it’s too quick to upshift. Lift off the gas pedal in a turn and the car has to downshift again when you’re ready for some acceleration.
Jake Lingeman from Autoweek prefers the ES 300h hybrid over the gas-powered models:
I jump in the hybrid next and, like the new Porsche Panamera, this might be the one to buy. Though it only has 215 hp, off-the-line speed is good with help from the electrics and on the road it’s library quiet. The engine kick-on is almost imperceptible, except when you’re flooring it, which means the 2.5-liter four revs near redline with the CVT adjusting the ratios. That sends a little snarl and vibration into the cabin. At cruising speed though, you could whisper to your passenger next you without a problem.
Alisa Priddle of Motor Trend calls the ES a “joy to drive”:
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. Maybe the marriage of ES comfort and F Sport does find a sweet spot.
The electric power steering, now mounted on the steering rack, was a joy to drive. It was responsive without being too heavy or flighty.