2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport 1 1 scaled

2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport Review: Fun to Drive During The Week & Twice on Sundays!

2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport 2
2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport
In Our Opinion:
The Lexus ES has been on the scene for 30 years but is still as youthful as ever for 2020, especially the F Sport configuration. On the one hand, the Lexus ES 350 F Sport is sleek and athletic; on the other, comfortable and quiet. Lexus faces stiff competition from players like Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Genesis, Mercedes-Benz, and others. However, we believe the 2020 ES 350 F Sport can hold its own in the battle royale of luxury cars.
Exterior Styling
93
Interior Layout
82
Driving Dynamics
90
Safety & Tech Features
86
Everyday Functionality
82
Pros
Fuel Economy
Stylish & Sleek
Driving Dynamics
Cons
Touchpad Interface
Backseats Don't Fold Down
87

The 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport is a sharp car. In so many ways, Lexus is on top of their game and have been since 1989. Author Bryce G. Hoffman recalls a scene in his book American Icon where incoming Ford CEO Alan Mulally was asked what he drove during an event at the automaker’s world headquarters. Mulally was new to the company but quickly responded by saying he owned a Lexus because it was the finest car in the world. 

That is the scene I kept replaying during our week-long drive with the 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport. However, just because the ES 350 is a beautiful car, doesn’t automatically make it the right car for you. Lexus is not alone in this space, considering Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz all have fine offerings. 

Here is how our week-long drive went with the 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport. Hopefully, it will help you determine whether or not it’s the right car for you. 

Lexus ES 350: What’s New For 2020?

The Lexus ES received a complete redesign in 2019, so there are only a few updates for 2020. That said, you might be able to shop for a gently used ES and save a little money. Should you go with a 2020 ES, you will have Android Auto compatibility and standard power-folding outside mirrors for most trim levels.    

The new ES rides on the Lexus Global Architecture – K platform. Lexus uses various grades of high-strength steel to increase torsional rigidity while simultaneously cutting weight from the chassis. At the same time, front MacPherson struts and a new multi-link rear suspension (trailing wishbone) facilitate better handling.

Our 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport press vehicle in front of the AMC Star Southfield 20 movie theater near Detroit.
Our 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport press vehicle in front of the AMC Star Southfield 20 movie theater near Detroit.

Our 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport Press Vehicle

Our Atomic Silver press vehicle came from the factory in Georgetown, Kentucky, with a 3.5-liter V6, steering wheel paddle shifters, and front-wheel drive. Standard was the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, 10 airbags, a backup camera, Bi-LED headlamps, and daytime running lights. 

Our press vehicle included a three-year trial of Enform Safety Connect and 10 years of Enform Service Connect, both of which add value to the ES. The Enform Remote feature (three-year trial included) is compatible with smartphones, watches, and things like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. There’s even Wi-Fi access inside the 2020 Lexus ES 350 (my first car had a tape player, so it’s incredible how far we have come!).   

Gone was the cassette player in our press vehicle in favor of an 1,800-watt Mark Levinson premium stereo with 17-speakers. The Mark Levinson package includes a crisp 12.3-inch multimedia display with navigation. 

Other F-Sport features included a 10.2-inch heads-up display, power rear sunshade, wireless charging, Hadori aluminum interior trim, heated and ventilated seats, and an Adaptive Variable Suspension with custom drive modes. 

Window sticker of our 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport press vehicle.
Window sticker of our 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport press vehicle.

What Does The 2020 Lexus ES 350 Cost?

The base price of our 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport was $44,635. With the F-Sport features, the total came to $52,925. Add in the delivery fee of $1,025, and the total MSRP for our press vehicle was $53,950. By comparison, the 2020 Lexus ES starts at $39,900.

Interior Highlights: Initial Impressions

Lexus uses a design concept for the ES called “Seat in Control,” meaning all of the controls and information a driver needs are readily accessible. We would agree Lexus has done a stellar job in creating a driver-centric cabin. The feel of the steering column, the positioning of the gear shifter, and the center console’s design make the 2020 ES feel like a driver-focused sports car.

It’s as if there are two sides to the 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport. For our passengers, it was a comfortable and pleasant week-long drive. They remarked on the soft red leather (both heated and ventilated) inside our F Sport press vehicle, the vastness of the rear seats, and how their tablet could tuck inside the center console. Similarly, the 2020 Lexus ES offers 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space to accommodate grocery runs, suitcases, and other weekend getaway gear.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport rear seat layout.
2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport rear seat layout.

Interior Highlights: Twice On Sunday

While our passengers stretched out and relaxed, as the driver for the week, I felt like I was piloting a futuristic sports car. Indeed the 2020 Lexus ES is one of the most comfortable and luxurious vehicles I have ever driven, and I share the same sentiments as our passengers, but it’s also one of the most fun. There is the “big stuff” that makes the ES a blast to drive (like the engine and sport modes), but it’s the little things that make it stand out.

For example, the LS lends its steering wheel to the 2020 ES, which gives it a commanding, yet composed feel. Combine this with the Hadori Aluminum trim and the Circuit Red seats of the F Sport model, and the 2020 ES can get you hooked.

Once you get the interior set up “just the way you want it,” the 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport is an addicting car to drive. We found ourselves volunteering to chauffeur friends and family if they needed to run errands, and we made an excuse to go for not one, but two Sunday drives.

2020 Lexus ES 350 touchpad interface.
Not all agree with Lexus on their use of the touchpad interface (to the right of the shifter), but it’s not terrible.

Interior Highlights: Elephants In The Room

Many of our colleagues and contemporaries don’t care for the touchpad controller Lexus uses. Admittedly, it makes sense as it’s not super intuitive, but I think most drivers will figure it out rather quickly. As you place your finger on the pad, it cycles through various functions on the 12.3-inch display on the dash. It works almost like the mouse touchpad on a typical laptop computer.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I like how Lexus relies on the touchpad design, but don’t exactly hate it either. Once I was used to it, I didn’t give it another thought. There are probably better ways for Lexus to set this up in future models, but for right now, it does the job.

The second elephant in the room is how the rear seats don’t fold down, as is typical with most sedans. This will limit your ability to transport longer items as there is no “pass-through” from the trunk to the rear seats. The special V-brace behind the back seat is the culprit.

This V-brace is a structural enhancement to the architecture that helps give the ES 350 its punchy yet composed driving dynamics. For some buyers, this is a benefit; for others, not so much. It will depend on your preferences, but if you often carry longer items, it will be tough to make the 2020 ES 350 work.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport interior layout.
2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport interior layout. Sound insulation covers over 90 percent of the floor for a more quiet ride.

2020 Lexus ES 350: Engine & Powertrain

Under the hood of the 2020 ES 350 (F Sport or otherwise) is a 3.5-liter V6 with an aluminum block and cylinder heads. The engine, complete with direct and port injection, produces 302 horsepower (6,600 rpm) and 267 lb-ft. of torque (4,700 rpm). The 2020 Lexus ES 350 hits 60 in 6.6 seconds and has an electronically-limited top speed of 131.

An eight-speed automatic with a final drive ratio of 2.561 helps relay power to the front wheels. The new eight-speed replaces the six-speed found in older ES models.

  • Related: An in-depth look at the Lexus warranty and why you might need more.

Is The 2020 Lexus ES 350 All-Wheel Drive?

All-wheel drive is not available for the 2020 Lexus ES 350.

2020 Lexus ES 350 Gas Mileage

EPA ratings come in at 22/31 city/highway and 25 combined for the F Sport. Otherwise, the 2020 ES 350 is rated at 22/32 city/highway and 26 combined. The fuel tank capacity is 15.9 gallons.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport fuel economy screenshot.
We logged about 278 miles with our ES 350 F Sport during our week-long drive for an average of 26.4 mpg.

How Does The 2020 Lexus ES 350 Drive?

The finest automobiles are the ones that pin down the fundamentals in terms of the chassis, architecture, and suspension. These are like a car’s skeletal structure, and the bones of the 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport are strong. When a car has good bones, it’s safer, more fuel-efficient, and more engaging to drive.

During the manufacturing process, 65 feet (or about 22 yards) worth of adhesives are used throughout the structure, more than double that of previous ES models. Laser screw welding and other stiffening efforts, like the strut tower brace, give the ES 350 a solid feel when in the driver’s seat. 

Likewise, the suspension of the 2020 ES 350 undergoes a few critical changes for the new model year. One of the most noticeable changes is the caster angle (plus two degrees) and caster trail (plus 0.3 inches). Having this more in harmony helps reduce understeer and oversteer while improving straight-line performance. 

Lexus uses what they call Dynamic Control Shocks with non-overlapping auxiliary values. This design allows the damper oil to flow in either direction before entering the main valve, which softens bumps and makes the ES 350 feel more responsive. 

Add to the already robust architecture the snappy V6 engine, plus the quiet interior of our press vehicle, and the 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport is the perfect companion for everyday driving.  

2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport on the open road.
2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport on the open road.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport: Fits Right In

During a Saturday night cruise up Woodward Avenue here in Detroit, we took the opportunity to show off our press vehicle. If you have never seen Woodward Avenue here in the Motor City on a typical summer Saturday night, it’s really something. As you get up near the Royal Oak and Birmingham areas, you are literally bumper-to-bumper with muscle and performance cars of nearly every kind, both classic and new.

Cruising through Birmingham on the way back to Detroit, we caught the eyes of two middle-aged couples, one in a Camaro ZL1 and the other in a GTO Judge. A younger gal and her friends in a BMW X5 M waved to us in our ES 350 F Sport, as did another guy in a McLaren 720S Spider. An older dude in a T-Bucket even gave us a thumbs up.

We shifted into Sport S+ mode and ran with the pack for a little bit, enjoying the evening air as it came through the sunroof. Sport S+ adjusts the throttle, transmission, steering, and adaptive dampers. While we were not nearly as fast (or loud!) as some of the other cars, our 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport garnered plenty of looks and stole the show.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport.
Our 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport press vehicle in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.

Should You Buy The 2020 Lexus ES 350?

If nothing else, it’s at least worth taking for a test drive. Cars in this class will have uniquely different features, personalities, and idiosyncrasies, so some of it may come down to which brand you most identify with. As for the 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport specifically, we have every reason to believe parking one in your driveway will put a smile on your face.

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport Gallery

Photos: Lexus.

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Exterior Styling
Interior Layout
Driving Dynamics
Safety & Tech Features
Everyday Functionality
Final Score

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