In a testament to the brand's expanding worldwide prominence, Lexus pulled the wraps off its 2019 Lexus ES in a simultaneous unveiling staged in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and Beijing, China. The markets differ slightly in terms of engine offerings, so the emphasis here in the United States is on the 2019 Lexus ES 350 and the ES 300h hybrid.
2019 Lexus ES 350 First Look
Longer, Lower, Wider, and a New F Sport Version
The relatively young Lexus ES line dates back to 1989, the year the ES helped debut the Lexus brand itself as one of two founding models. The V6 front-wheel-drive luxury sedan template that was forged then tended to appeal to a mature audience, but the 2019 Lexus ES 350 signals a clear intent to broaden the ES' appeal to younger buyers. This seventh-generation ES offering aims to do that through a combination of sleeker styling, a wider stance, a more capable chassis, and the first-ever ES 350 F Sport.
Compared to the car it replaces, the new ES is undoubtedly a bigger car. It's over 2.5 inches longer and nearly 2 inches wider while standing fractionally lower. It rides on a wheelbase that has been stretched precisely 2 inches as well. But it hides it quite well, with sleeker styling that's less slab-sided. Part of that effect stems from its wider stance and a sleeker roofline that blends gracefully into the trunk. And it's hard to ignore the gaping front end, with sharply squinting headlights and styling highlights that all converge on the Lexus badge in the middle.
The wheels and tires have been moved farther apart, so they do a good job of filling out the fenders. The effect is particularly pronounced in the rear, where a new multilink rear suspension has been fitted. Lexus claims that this new ES will be more willing and able in the handling department than those that came before, and this new suspension gives us reason to think that's more than just talk. The emergence of the F Sport model is another encouraging sign.
The ES 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6, same as last year. But this is no carryover special. Significant upgrades to its fuel delivery system have upped power and torque to the tune of 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet — some 34 hp and 19 lb-ft more than last year. It comes mated to an eight-speed automatic instead of last year's six-speed. Fuel economy figures have not yet been released, but the same engine and transmission changes yielded a 2-mpg increase when they were applied to the 2018 Toyota Camry and the recently revealed 2019 Toyota Avalon. Look for the new ES to be similarly more efficient than last year despite the extra grunt.
Inside, the all-new dash is dominated by a deeply hooded instrument cluster, alongside of which is a broad 12.3-inch display screen laid on its side. Below that there's a strategically selected grouping of buttons and knobs for the most oft-used radio and HVAC functions, with personalization settings and less common adjustments available via the Remote Touch interface trackpad down by the shifter.
We've never been fully on board with the Lexus Enform system for smartphone integration, and it seems we were not alone in this feeling. So we're happy to see that the new ES finally supports Apple CarPlay integration, though Android Auto is conspicuously absent. Amazon Alexa interaction and natural language commands are also supported.
The ES 350 V6 will be joined by an ES 300h hybrid. As before, the hybrid powertrain is composed of a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. A significantly upgraded version of this layout was introduced in last year's 2018 Toyota Camry hybrid, and now it has made its way under the hood of the 2019 Lexus ES 300h. Official fuel economy figures have not been announced, but the 2018 Lexus ES 300h was rated at 40 mpg combined and the automaker expects the 2019 edition to come in at 44 mpg.
This was only a look, so we can't yet tell you what it's like to drive the new 2019 ES 350 and ES 300h. But the basic ingredients to support a more engaging and compelling ES are indeed here. Will it all pan out? Is the idea of an ES 350 F Sport a good one? You won't have to wait long to learn our answer because our first chance to drive the 2019 Lexus ES is little more than a month away. Check back in June to see what we thought, and you might also want to mark your calendar for September because that's when you can expect to find one at your local dealer.