Stylish and sleek. Powerful engine. Lots of standard tech.
The Lexus ES 350 has been a typical luxury sedan up until now, but it all changes for the 2019 model year. For one, the ES just got a lot more fun for driving enthusiasts. There’s a new F Sport version for 2019, which is a first for the ES. It also gets other updates that increase the ES 350’s luxury and functionality. We experienced these firsthand this week, as we’ve been driving the newly-redesigned, 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport.
The Lexus ES 350 is fully redesigned for the seventh generation. It gets a more powerful V6 engine, upgraded technology and safety features, and an all-new F Sport trim. The front-wheel drive ES is built on Lexus’ Global Architecture–K (GA-K) platform. As a result, the 2019 ES is longer (+2.6 inches), lower (-0.2 inches), and wider (+1.8 inches) than the prior generation.
Available packages, along with the F Sport, include Premium, Luxury, and Ultra Luxury.
Features & Options: Connectivity & Safety
Standard features on the 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport ($44,035) include keyless entry and ignition, a sunroof, simulated leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and dual-zone automatic climate control. On the electronic front, you get an eight-inch central infotainment display, Bluetooth, navigation (Scout GPS Link), a Wi-Fi hotspot (Lexus Enform), three USB ports (one front, two rear), and satellite radio.
Standard safety features include forward collision mitigation, dynamic radar cruise control (with road sign assist), lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam assist, and parking sensors, among others.
The new-for-2019 F Sport comes with 19-inch wheels and chassis dampers from the Ultra Luxury package; a special grille and rear spoiler; aluminum interior trim pieces and sport front seats; special gauges, a unique analog clock, and active noise control. Navigation and a 17-speaker, Mark Levinson premium sound system ($1,920); blind spot and rear traffic alert ($1,065); and Triple Beam LED headlights ($1,515) were the only extra options on our tester.
Total MSRP including destination: 50,575. By comparison, the 2019 Lexus ES starts at $39,750, with the hybrid variant (ES 300h) starting at $41,560.
Interior Highlights: Inspired By History
Stepping inside the new Lexus ES 350 reveals a cabin with all the comfort you want in a luxury sedan. The leather upholstery is supple and the surfaces have the level of detail typical of Lexus models. The fit and finish is tight and Lexus made liberal use of soft-touch surfaces all throughout the cabin. From the driver’s seat, there is good all-around visibility for a sedan, and plenty of seat adjustments. In our test car, a power-adjustable steering column made it easy to set the perfect driving position.
The F Sport has an option for red seats and door panels for an even more sporty look. There’s also an all-new metallic trim that comes standard on the F Sport called Hadori Aluminum. Inspired by an ancient sword polishing process, Hadori Aluminum can appear three-dimensional, depending on how you look at it.
Technology abounds in the new ES 350. The 12-inch navigation and infotainment display is a highlight, as is the deep integration with voice commands. Verizon Wi-Fi is standard along with Lexus Enform Safety Connect for the first 10 years of ownership. The latter includes a stolen vehicle locator, emergency and roadside assistance, and automatic collision notification. As a bonus, Apple CarPlay is finally available.
What we don’t like is the hypersensitive touchpad interface Lexus uses. It’s not easy to operate, nor all that intuitive, especially when you are driving. Shutting off the A/C, for example, requires a visit to a menu screen using the touchpad located on the console. We did praise the volume knob, though. It feels like an old-school stereo receiver.
We used the ES 350 for commuting to Denver every day and arrived relaxed and ready for the day’s work. In the back, your passengers will have plenty of room and will be comfortable on longer trips. Rear legroom is even enough for six-foot passengers. The ES 350 would make a great car for realtors to haul clients in when house-hunting. The rear doors are wide and it’s easy to get in-and-out.
The ES offers up 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space with underfloor side pockets for smaller items.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
Powering every ES 350, including the new F Sport, is a 3.5-liter V6 producing 302 horsepower and 267 lb-ft. of torque (up 34 horsepower from last year). The V6 comes paired to a new Direct Shift eight-speed automatic that replaces the previous six-speed. Compared to the six-speed, this new Direct Shift transmission offers a wider range of ratios. For instance, first gear in the six-speed was 3.30:1, while the new eight-speed offers a 5.51 first gear. A taller final drive ratio (2.56) helps return an EPA-estimated 22/31 city/highway and 25 combined mpg.
Driving Dynamics: Making Quick Work of The Roads
Getting underway in the ES 350 revealed a V6 with a little more power than the outgoing model. When pushed hard, the luxury sedan’s power comes quick and smooth, no doubt thanks to the new transmission. It even sounds pretty good when you dig into it too, like when needing more power to pass slower traffic on the interstate.
The F Sport’s suspension is tuned for sport more than comfort, but it’s not too firm for the average family either. It has just enough firmness to make quick work of the tight mountains corners we encountered this week, but you won’t feel rattled on a long trip. The larger 19-inch alloy wheels also contribute to a firmer ride, especially on broken pavement, but won’t be an issue if the road is smooth.
On the F Sport model, an Adaptive Variable Suspension is available.
We made use of the manual paddle shifters in Sport S+ mode to extract a little more control over the car’s driving character. It’s no sport sedan, but you can have fun with it on the commute to work, or to play on the weekends. The F Sport trim also offers Eco, Normal, Sport S, and Custom modes to suit every driver in the family. If you are looking for safety, the ES 350 comes with plenty for peace of mind. For example, we unwittingly approached a parking barrier this week and the forward collision mitigation system stopped us before we hit the concrete.
Conclusion: F Sport or Otherwise
Altogether, the new updates increase the luxury and performance of the 2019 Lexus ES 350 over the outgoing model. We would recommend the F Sport if you want superior driving dynamics and want to have a bit more fun over the standard model. The F Sport offers a good blend of handling and performance, without sacrificing comfort. But the normal ES 350 sedan is still purposed for comfort, and offers isolation from the noisy world. It’s a car you won’t mind spending quality time in.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his firsthand reviews are archived on our test drives page. Follow Denis on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy