The Lexus ES has long been a favorite of CR members, and its automaker is laying on features, functionality, and sporty character to pump up its appeal to drivers. The question is: Are ES shoppers really asking for that?
Lexus took the wraps off its seventh-generation ES at the Beijing Auto Show. It revealed an all-new chassis and, for the first time, a performance-oriented F Sport version. The F Sport has an adaptive suspension that allows drivers to choose more “aggressive engine, transmission and suspension settings.” It will also let drivers add “an additional layer of engine noise that enhances the natural rhythms of the spirited driving.”
For some Lexus performance cars, such as the GS sports sedan, amping up the engine “exhaust note” makes sense. In the larger, historically more sedate ES, it will be an unusual turn of events, but it may be one that leads younger shoppers to consider it. (Toyota is trying a similar strategy with the 2019 Avalon.)
The new ES is said to be roomier inside and quieter to boot. It’s longer, slightly lower, and almost 2 inches wider than the outgoing ES, and it gets the “spindle” grille that has become the new face for Lexus models. Besides the F Sport trim, two other versions will be available: the standard ES 350 and the ES 300h hybrid.
The ES competes with the Buick LaCrosse and Lincoln MKZ, among other midsized luxury sedans.
What Drives It
The new ES keeps its front-wheel drive but gets more horsepower, up 34 to 302, from its 3.5-liter V6 engine. The next ES will reportedly have a more “invigorating sound,” breaking with the traditional Lexus approach of using near-silent engines. Torque also has been increased to 267 lb.-ft. (up 19). This V6 is hooked up to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which is being used in the related new Camry and Avalon sedans.
The hybrid model gets a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, delivering 215 horsepower, a 15 hp increase. The company estimates that the hybrid will return 44 mpg in combined driving. (CR’s last tested ES hybrid got 36 mpg, and the similar Camry Hybrid returned 47 mpg overall.)
Lexus reports that the hybrid has an all-new nickel metal hydride battery, smaller than the last one. It’s mounted under the backseat, meaning that it shouldn’t encroach on trunk space as much.
Lexus says the ES interior is “driver-centric.” We’re not sure what that means, but the company says the center display screen, instrument panel, and available head-up display will be in the driver’s field of vision, which should help keep his or her eyes on the road.
Safety & Driver-Assist Systems
Standard safety equipment includes the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, featuring forward-collision warning and automatic braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, and active cruise control. A blind-spot warning system is available.
The last ES that CR tested wasn’t very engaging to drive compared with many of its luxury car competitors, and it didn’t stand out for ride comfort or interior finish. The V6 version was especially quiet inside, and this model has a well-earned reputation for strong reliability. And we found that the hybrid returned impressive fuel economy with the hybrid model.