Looking good. The all-new 2019 Lexus ES sheds the last vestige of blandness from the nameplate, from the defining spindle grille to the asymmetric dash.
Outside, the roofline trails lower, with big shoulder lines drawing attention to the shapely LED taillights. Inside, Lexus signals this is no ordinary sedan with an eclectic mixing of twisty traction/drive mode controls, a dash with a lack of symmetry, and spectacular fit and finish. The seats up front encourage long-distance cruising, with equally comfortable seating in back for three and enough room for six-footers to sit behind six-footers.
Our only gripe is the annoyingly distracting, console-mounted, touchpad infotainment controller – although standard Apple CarPlay capability (Android Auto is still missing in action) alleviates a number of related issues.
Multiple personalities. For 2019, the 3.5-liter V6 found in gasoline-only models receives an additional 34 horsepower (to 302) and 19 pound-feet of torque (to 267). It feeds power to the front wheels through a velvety smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.
The first-for-ES F Sport model adds adaptive dampers, a Sport Plus mode with quicker steering and improved throttle response, along with a pleasant exhaust bark played through the speakers.
If the gasoline-only version's EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway, and 26 combined doesn't thrill your tree-hugging heart, the equally sybaritic Lexus ES 300h is the most impressive fuel-sipper in the class, with an EPA-estimated 43/45/44 mpg (city/highway/combined).
Top Safety Pick. The IIHS adds a "Plus" to that moniker when the ES is equipped with optional adaptive headlights that add to a comprehensive list of standard safety systems. These include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beams.
Final thoughts. Along with a stunning new design that tosses tradition aside, the 2019 Lexus ES offers a wide range of advanced safety features, a new F Sport model with an adaptive suspension that takes advantage of the additional power, and a class-topping hybrid version.
We would've been pleased with just the new design and added performance, but Lexus’ spacious and comfortable premium-to-luxury interior cabin completes the package. If they could fix the complicated infotainment system and offer an all-wheel-drive option for those of us who live up north, the close-to-perfect ES would be … perfect, that is.
In terms of the competition, the Kia Cadenza and Chrysler 300 offer more spacious interiors. The Chrysler, along with the Acura TLX, Audi A4, Cadillac ATS, Genesis G70, INFINITI Q50, and Lincoln MKZ offer an AWD option, while optional engines offer more power under the hoods of the Cadillac, Chrysler, Genesis, INFINITI, Lincoln, Kia Stinger, and Volvo S60.