Emma Jayne Williams

Lexus upgrades its long-running ES line for 2019 with new chassis, tech features

For 2019, the redesgned Lexus ES sedan line is more spacious and quieter, with a more-dynamic exterior design, sharper performance, advanced active safety technology, and exceptional craftsmanship.
For 2019, the redesgned Lexus ES sedan line is more spacious and quieter, with a more-dynamic exterior design, sharper performance, advanced active safety technology, and exceptional craftsmanship.

For 2019, the seventh-generation Lexus ES entry-level executive sedan has lots of changes and additions, including an all-new chassis and the first ES F Sport.

For nearly 30 years, the ES has been known for unrivaled comfort, refinement, and luxury appointments. This year, the ES is more spacious and quieter, with a more-dynamic exterior design, sharper performance, advanced active safety technology, and exceptional craftsmanship.

Thanks to the all-new Global Architecture-K architecture, ES is 2.6-inches longer, 0.2-inches lower, and 1.8-inches wider. The wheels are closer to the corners due to a 2-inch longer wheelbase and wider tracks – 0.4-inches in the front and 1.5-inches in the rear.

The new architecture brings an exceptionally rigid front-wheel drive chassis with high-strength steel and other measures to improve front-end stiffness. New performance capabilities are reflected in the stance and proportions, which also present a spectacular appearance.

It also allows for reduction of noise and vibration, with more sound-deadening insulation on the floor pan, and underbody covers and front fender liners to reduce road noise. Chassis-mounted performance dampers further reduce vibration on Ultra Luxury models (my tester).

Seven ES trims are available (four 350 and three 300 hybrid) priced from $39,600 for the base ES 350 to $45,060 for the high-end ES 300h Ultra Luxury. My ES 350 Ultra Luxury was $43,150 before options.

A 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine is standard for all ES 350s, delivering effortless acceleration with impressive efficiency. Horsepower is up by 34, along with fuel efficiency – 22 mpg city/33 highway/26 combined.

An all-new eight-speed direct-shift automatic transmission complements the updated V-6, with the feel of a dual-clutch design, for maximum drivability and mileage.

Drive Mode Select can alter the shift patterns to suit the driver’s preference with Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. Eco prioritizes fuel consumption by reducing throttle response and suppressing use of the climate control system. AI Shift Control constantly monitors speed and throttle and aligns the shift points with the driver’s objectives. Direct Connected Downshift can skip gears during heavy throttling, such as passing on the highway.

The suspension has been designed to deliver exceptional comfort and precise handling. Changes have been made in the front suspension to improve overall responsiveness, and newly developed Dynamic Control shocks respond to even the smallest movements.

My ES 350 Ultra Luxury was bright Matador Red Mica, one of 10 available eye-catching exterior colors with names like new Moonbeam Beige Metallic (“golden light reflected off snow”), Atomic Silver (medium), Caviar (off-black), Obsidian (deep black), Nightfall Mica (twilight blue), new Sunlit Green (“ocean water brightened by the sun”), and Ultrasonic Blue Mica (special request, brilliant royal blue).

The latest version of Lexus’ signature grille added cues unique to the ES, such as a vertical grille pattern and satin-plated trim, with that theme repeated at the corners of the bumper for a strong, stable look. Slim headlights with L-shaped signal lights have a single LED projector-beam design. My ES 350 had optional triple-beam headlights with three compact LED projector units ($1,515).

From the side, the ES’s fluid shape starts with a low hood line, with relaxed A-pillars to a low sleek roofline flowing to the sharply slanted C-pillars. The long, uninterrupted shoulder line from the top of the front wheel arch to the corner of the trunk forms a contrast to the smooth arc of the roofline.

The rear is as impressive as the front, sharply chiseled with wraparound taillights featuring a distinctive three-dimensional L-shaped design with eye-catching depth. The shoulder and bumper corner lines join at the inner edges of the taillights, while the lower valence is highlighted by chrome exhaust finishers at each corner.

My ES 350 replaced the standard 17-inch wheels with 18-inch multi spoke noise-reduction alloy wheels ($950) with a high-gloss finish.

Inside, the Flaxen semi-aniline leather with Linear Espresso wood-trimmed interior had subtle touches of dark chrome metallic. Six interior combinations are available, with three colors and three wood trims, including Dark Mocha, Linear Espresso, and Matte Bamboo. An illuminated Lexus-branded door sill ($379) lit the way.

The interior featured a driver-centric cockpit, with all controls within reach and the main information within line of sight. My ES 350 also had a Head-Up Display ($500) for key information such as speed, fuel level, and shift position on the largest viewable area in the luxury class at 10.2-inches. The HUD can also display speed limit signs, lane-keeping-assist warnings, and navigation directions.

The Lexus Multimedia System is positioned high on the dash to minimize distraction. My tester had a 12.3-inch screen with the Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio package ($3,000).

Lexus Enform Dynamic Navigation (three years complimentary), Lexus Enform Destination Assist (one year complimentary), dynamic voice command, Apple CarPlay, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink were included, along with the 800-watt, 17-speaker Mark Levinson PurePlay premium surround sound system.

The navigation system uses on-board information and cloud-based data. The updated Remote Touch Interface pad now has more usable surface area and vibration feedback.

My heated leather and wood-trimmed steering wheel had an ergonomically shaped rim and came in a package with windshield wiper deicers and fast-response interior heater for $480. Front seats were heated and ventilated with a new suction-type ventilation for improved cooling in hot weather.

Despite the sleek roofline, headroom in the rear has been increased through careful redesigning of the seats and headliner. Rear headroom is 37.8 inches, while front headroom is 37.6 inches. Legroom is equally generous with 39.2 inches in the rear and 42.4 inches in the front.

Interior storage includes door pockets capable of holding 20-ounce bottles or a 9.7-inch tablet. Cargo space has increased to 16.7 cubic feet in the trunk, with additional under-floor side pockets for small items. A power trunk lid makes access easy.

Alexa functionality allows drivers to control several functions using natural language commands, including car-to-home and home-to-car connecting in-home Alexa-enabled devices with the vehicle. Wi-Fi by Verizon in standard.

Lexus Enform Safety Connect provides access to response centers 24/7. Lexus Enform Service Connect sends alerts for recommended maintenance and can alert a preferred retailer. Lexus Enform Remote uses a mobile app to allow the driver to lock/unlock, start/stop the engine and climate control, find the vehicle, monitor a guest driver and more. Lexus Enform App Suite 2.0 connects a smartphone to the vehicle, allowing certain apps to be used via the infotainment screen.

For 2019, the standard Lexus Safety Plus 2.0 system adds new capabilities, such as daytime bicycle detection – part of an enhanced pre-collision system designed to detect preceding vehicles or pedestrians. The system is also enhanced to detect pedestrians in low-light situations.

Lane Departure Assist provides audible and haptic alerts and a certain amount of steering assist to keep the vehicle in the intended lane. Lane Trace, a new feature, also assists in keep the vehicle centered and is capable of following the car ahead in conjunction with the All-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system.

Enhanced DRCC is designed to provide smoother acceleration and braking in heavy traffic. Road Sign Assist, another new feature, reads certain signs and displays them on the multi-informational display or head-up display.

My ES 350 had a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert included in a package with Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking, Rear Pedestrian Detection and Panoramic view monitor ($1,900). Parking assist detects obstacles in the vehicle’s path, shows the distance on the infotainment screen, and sounds a warning. It’s capable of braking automatically, if needed.

The panoramic-view monitor almost magically provides a 360-degree view and an overhead view and has dynamic lines showing the path of travel.

A wireless charger was located under the center armrest in the console bin ($75). All weather floor liners and trunk tray ($248) were made of recyclable material and had a tub-style perimeter for added coverage.

Front mats had quarter-turn fasteners to hold them in place. A leather key glove with Lexus logo was an extra luxury touch for $20.

A power rear sunshade and manual rear-door sunshades (including the auxiliary window) protected rear passengers from the heat.

With $8,617 in options and $1,025 destination charge, my very comfortable, easy to drive, attractive ES 350 Ultra Luxury delivered for $53,742.

The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at emmajayne1948@gmail.com.