Sometimes a car is just a vehicle that gets you from point A to B. Other times, it’s a plush, luxurious ride that you look forward to driving every time you get in the driver’s seat. The Lexus ES350 fits into the latter category. It does have some similarities to vehicles like the Toyota Camry or even the Mazda6, but there is one main difference: it’s an upscale luxury vehicle compared to the more economical build of the other two.
Now, imagine for moment if you will, you’re a working parent who not only has a busy work schedule, but hectic life at home with the kids. Your home life can be quite tumultuous, but when it comes time in the morning, you get the kids ready and whisk them off to school. You then get into your Lexus ES350 and shut the door with a nice solid, thud. At last, you get to enjoy that finely-tuned Lexus V6 on your mini vacation you call, your commute.
OK fine, you got me. I just described my time with the 2019 Lexus ES350 recently. Still, I can imagine that there are many out there who will have the same experience. Now don’t expect a vehicle that is going to ride on rails, that’s not what the ES350 is. It’s a luxury midsize sedan that feels bigger than its class. It’s suspension is moderately soft, comfortable, and has the performance to keep a big grin on your face as you accelerate though any straightaway that you encounter.
The seventh generation ES350 is built on Toyota’s Global Architecture K Platform. Aside from the efficiencies in the manufacturing process, there are a number of improvements such as improved fuel economy lower center of gravity for better handling, increased chassis stiffness, better steering response, and better ride quality.
The rear LED tail lamps feature a L-shaped layered design and look amazing both in the day light and night time. The bi-led headlights look really sharp too and it is easy to see that the 2019 ES350 has some aggressive styling in their design.
The 2019 model looks contrastingly different from billowing look of the previous 2018 model years. It uses some aggressive styling across different exterior components with extreme cut lines and angles. In my opinion, the sharp lines are bit too much for this type of vehicle. In some regards, the aggressive aesthetic looks amazing; other times, some of the components simply look a little overdone.
When you take a step back and look at the ES350 as a whole, you’ll appreciate how much of an improvement the vehicle looks than its ancestors. The most notable is the front end, which has the signature Lexus hourglass-shaped fascia. In the 2019 Lexus ES350, the grille is vertically-oriented grille, meanwhile the 2018 model was aligned in the horizontal-orientation. If you compare the two, the vertical-orientation contributes significantly to the improved looks of the car.
Now imagine you’re driving along in your car and you see this car coming up on you in your rear view mirror. I don’t know about you, but if I saw this coming up from behind, I’d get out of the way before it swallowed me and my car whole.
Performance-wise, the ES350 is no slouch; it rockets from 0-60 in 6.1 seconds. With a naturally aspirated motor running 302 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, it pulls freely with a very analog feel. Changing the mode over to the Sport mode instantly heightens the sensitivity of the throttle making it even more easy to push the car.
Power delivery is very smooth with consistent power to redline. The brakes are good, no complaints at all when stopping this car in normal everyday conditions, and even in more urgent braking situations. Handling is also good on this car for everyday driving. However, any sort of heavy acceleration from a stand-still or taking the car at significant speed around corners will show the limitations of a FWD car such as this one.
The new eight-speed transmission mates with the V6 quite well and provides a smooth gear selection. It usually doesn’t hunt for gears, it just moves deliberately into the necessary gear.
I’m not a fan of drive modes on vehicles, I would much prefer to just get into the car and drive. At least Lexus doesn’t go overboard as there are only three modes that you can choose from: Normal, Sport, and Eco. The modes all operate as you might expect, and changing it to Sport or Eco will change the background gauge lighting accordingly. The handlebar-looking knobs to operate the drive mode and traction control are the strangest looking instruments in the cabin.
Sport does improve throttle response, as expected. However, Eco doesn’t just reduce throttle input; it takes away a lot. You really have to step down on the throttle all the way to get your power. I would probably never use this mode as it just takes all the fun away from driving the car. It really makes it unenjoyable to drive for that extra mpg.
The interior controls are very nice looking with obvious care taken towards its design features. Interesting textures and lines flow throughout the cabin from the door panels to the center dash. The harder textures are wrapped by soft materials and plush leather. If you look around the cabin, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any glossy materials. Most materials in the cabin are of a matte texture or brushed finish. This really makes it a calm and relaxing experience to sit in the vehicle for any considerable amount of time.
The biggest complaint that I have and share with many other folks is Lexus’ persistent deployment of the trackpad in its vehicles. It controls the optional 12.3 inch screen on this vehicle, the screen is not a touch screen. Because of that, the only way you can control anything on the screen is with the use of the trackpad.
The control of the trackpad does run more smoothly and is less distracting than previous generations. But, the Lexus infotainment system is still not an ideal system for drivers. It is still distracting with too much attention needing to be paid to the screen.
Fortunately, Lexus does allow for operation of some its climate controls and radio functions via physical buttons on the center dashboard. At the base of the center dash, there are additional physical buttons for seat heating and ventilation as well. The momentary rocker toggle operation and individual temperature reading displays of the dual-climate are a nice distinguishing touch.
With the downside of the infotainment, there is the upside of everything else in the cabin. When you sit back in the driver’s seat, you can truly appreciate how beautiful the cockpit looks.
The steering wheel is beautifully wrapped in leather with controls centrally placed; it is incredibly well-designed. The wheel doesn’t feel too skinny or thick, it feels just right in the hands. Steering is neither too light nor too heavy.
To supplement that delectable driving experience, is a standard 10-speaker system, or optional 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. Supplementing that sublime audio experience is a quiet cabin that brings out the sound.
The trunk features a large boxy area for cargo, however the rear seats don’t fold down. There is a small pass through for long, but skinny items. It’s not really useful for anyone who ever plans to ever carry anything remotely bulky.
The Lexus ES350 is smooth, and handles moderately well without too much lean around bends in the road. The supple ride quality is extremely comfortable and the cabin is very quiet. Even at speed, road noise is held to a minimum.
Some other features include an optional panoramic moonroof that really opens up the cabin to the outside, letting in plenty of sunlight. On the opposite spectrum, if you want more privacy, you can close the top, bring up the automatic window shade on the rear view window, and bring up the manual shades on the rear sides.
The rear seats are plenty comfortable and provides a good deal of leg room. Head room is decent too, but just aware of the sloping rear roof line that may affect taller passengers.
There are plenty of interesting features such as the multi-tier drink holder which can accommodate shorter or taller sized drinks. Another is the center console armrest, which flips open on both sides. This makes it convenient for either driver or passenger to grab something from the center storage.
After driving the 2019 Lexus ES350, I can see how one might find this car perfect for their needs. Personally, if I used this car for commuting and wanted to get the palatial treatment with an entry-level luxury sedan, I would definitely go for this. It’s not odd that every time I drive this car, I feel more and more like I’m on a relaxing mini-vacation.
And why wouldn’t it feel like a mini-vacation every time you are driving in the Lexus ES350? It’s incredibly quiet, operates smoothly, has plenty of power to thrust you back into your plush leather seats, and looks good inside and out. With the reasonable price point and bulletproof reliability of these vehicles, it’s a no brainer if you’re looking to venture into the luxury sedan market.
|2019 Lexus ES350 Specifications|
|Vehicle Type||Front-engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan|
|Engine||3.5 Liter DOHC 24V V6|
|Output||302 hp @ 6600 rpm, 267 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm|
|0-60 mph||6.1 sec. (Motor Trend)|
|1/4 mile||14.7 sec. (Motor Trend)|
|Curb Weight||3772 lb.|
|Turning Radius||38.8 ft.|
|Length x Width x Height||195.9 x 73.4 x 56.9 in|
|Fuel Economy (EPA City/Hwy)||22/33 mpg|
|Fuel Type||Gasoline: Unleaded Regular|
|Fuel Capacity||Fuel Tank: 15.9 gal.|