Lexus’ ES model has always been a bland, nondescript four-door, front-wheel-drive sedan. Kind of Lexus’ Buick, if you will. It always performed properly over the road but wasn’t a car with either looks or performance to go ga-ga over. It was the Lexus for mature owners… yet now Lexus has finally decided it wants to attract younger buyers to the ES fold.
The 2019 Lexus ES350 F Sport, this sedan’s first F Sport variant hopes to bring younger buyers to the company’s mid-size front-wheel-drive fold. Handsome from snout to tail, the Lexus ES350 F Sport has a chrome-surrounded matte black egg-crate front grille that shows its virility, clean sides that lead to an upswept rear deck with spoiler. Twinned five-spoke graphite and chrome 19-inch alloy rims rest on Michelin 235-40R tires, while twin tail pipes are condensed into the rear fascia.
A 3.5-liter V-6 engine, with both port and direct injection, produces an enviable and usable 302 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4,700. Redline occurs at 6,750 rpm. All this athleticism its propelled by an eight-speed automatic transmission, stirred by paddle shifts or manually at the tunnel. Suspension is all F-sport tuned and adaptive, with MacPherson struts in the front and multilinks with trailing arms at the rear.
Brakes are excellent, steering feels taut – even though it’s electrically powered – and this vehicle defies its 3,649-pound weight delightfully with its agile, engaging personality. It’s especially good at evasive maneuvers and handles exceptionally well in nasty weather, which we experienced in December. There are several drive modes: Eco, Custom, Normal, Sport S and Sport S +. With snow on the ground and cold weather, this Lexus stayed in either normal or eco modes, the latter when traveling between Chicago and Indianapolis, where the Performance Racing Industry show was taking place.
The beautiful ultrasonic blue mica exterior of the 2019 Lexus ES350 F Sport is complemented by black NuLuxe leather with Hadori aluminum trim. Because this particular vehicle is a pre-production car, no federal sticker was provided and it’s all guesstimates as to which options are on the car. Lexus did provide a fact sheet, which states features both luxurious and safety-oriented and said the MSRP for this vehicle is $48,480.
This particular car has Lexus’ safety system with pre-collision and oncoming vehicle detection, pedestrian and bicyclist warnings, dynamic radar cruise control (that did allow fairly close following), lane tracking, automatic high beams (nice to have in the countryside), fab adaptive front-lighting system, Lexus parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist, blind spot monitoring, LED cornering among its safety attributes.
On the luxury side, a 12.3-inch LCD display is prominent in the cabin with an excellent navigation system, which remembers the route last taken. There’s a wide, full-color head-up display, while the lovely leather-wrapped F Sport steering wheel features car info/phone/audio volume on the left and cruise on the right side. A beautiful but small moonroof is fitted and there are three memory buttons for separate drivers. Both driver and front-seat passenger have power seat settings and those seats are supportive and comfortable for longer drives.
Lexus fits a touchpad at the tunnel for access to all infotainment items. It took a while to figure it wanted swipes, not jabs and it was difficult to figure out how to sync the phone (should be easy peasy). Once accomplished, all other facets became easier to use. The navigation maps do give speed limits for all roads traveled, which can come in handy when signs are absent.
This car’s split personality, wanting to be a businesslike express but also a heroic performer is evident in its possession of a digital speedometer and analog tachometer. There were both digital and analog clocks, as well. Lexus definitely wants to appeal to both young and older drivers with the ES350 F Sport. There are seat heaters/coolers and a heated steering wheel, all with auto settings. Rear occupants have plenty of space, together with separate air flow controls, a 12-volt and 2 USB plugs.
The beautifully appointed power trunk holds 16.7 cubic feet of cargo, handy when we showed up at our destination with plenty of goodies for our host and hostess. Expect 22/33/26mpg from the 15.9-gallon tank; mileage was around 35mpg over the road traveling between Chicago and Indianapolis, but the average for this visit was closer to the expected 26 mpg.
While we only had five days together, most of that time was spent walking a convention center, not driving a fabulous sedan. Still, it’s easy to see why Lexus is offering the F Sport option for its 2019 ES350 sedan. The sportiness inherent in F Sport vehicles gives the ES350 more personality and certainly more athleticism. It’s definitely worth a look.
By Anne Proffit