2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport overview: Aiming youthful

If the grille will get any bigger, there will not be a bumper.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Sure reputations are exhausting to shake. Massive, comfortable and meant to coddle, Lexus‘ autos are sometimes seen as vehicles for the older kind — the orthotic inserts of the posh automotive trade, if you’ll. With a sharper underlying chassis and a brand new F Sport trim, the midsize Lexus ES does a great job displaying that Toyota’s fancier sibling is transferring in a youthful course, nevertheless it nonetheless has work left to do.


  • Improved styling
  • Comfortable or sharp when desired
  • Prime-notch construct high quality

Do not Like

  • F Sport trim is just a little gimmicky
  • Infotainment stays terrible

For the youths

Reinventing your self sometimes requires beginning once more from the bottom up, and that is what Lexus did with the ES. For this new technology, which landed within the 2019 mannequin 12 months, the ES rides on Toyota’s TNGA platform, a do-it-all modular chassis underpinning new Toyota autos giant and small. Loaded with high-strength steels and fashionable engineering know-how, TNGA has given a large swath of Toyota autos new life via improved dealing with and composure.

You may undoubtedly really feel this improve with out making an attempt very exhausting. Even a fast drive to the shop within the Lexus ES 350 F Sport and you will discover way more cohesion in how the automobile strikes, eschewing among the loosey-goosey dealing with current in its forebear. In F Sport guise, my tester rocks the optionally available adaptive variable suspension, which stiffens the automobile up in sportier modes, accessed by a sort-of-oddly-placed mode knob jutting out from the dashboard atop the gauge cluster.

Surprisingly (to me, at the least), it is spectacular how dramatically the ES 350’s character adjustments on this new technology. Flipping that mode dial produces precise, tangible variation within the automobile. In Sport, the suspension beneficial properties stiffness, giving me sufficient confidence to truly chuck the factor round. Sport S+ mode takes issues even additional, including extra weight to the variable (however nonetheless numb) steering whereas additional tightening the dampers and even piping in some “sound enhancement.” I would not go as far as to say it transforms right into a sports activities automobile, because it’s nonetheless a large sedan with front-wheel drive, however this automobile does present some youthful attraction in a manner that no different Lexus ES ever has.

Youthful patrons additionally recognize a little bit of flash, and don’t fret, Lexus has come via there, albeit in additional conventional Lexus vogue. The ES 350 F Sport carries a couple of distinctive exterior touches to assist differentiate it from extra pedestrian trims, like a blacked-out grille, darker taillights, a trunk-lid spoiler and angrier decrease fasciae, and all of it appears fairly good. The inside picked it up, although; the ES not appears stodgy and dated, because of a vastly improved design inside that makes higher use of attention-grabbing angles. My tester takes issues a step additional with dramatic crimson leather-based on the middle console, door panels and seats. It is a daring technique — and a good bolder shade alternative in a sometimes conservative automobile — so credit score the place it is due for taking just a little threat. One a part of its roots that Lexus did not abandon, although, is its adherence to construct high quality, which stays top-notch.

what else younger patrons like? The newest in-car tech. Wish to know the place the ES 350 partially fails in its mission? You guessed it, and like each different Lexus of late, the blame is positioned solely on the infotainment system. An 8-inch display screen is normal, until you go for manufacturing unit navigation, which boosts the display screen dimension to 12.Three inches. It doesn’t matter what, the underlying tech stinks. The touchpad has by no means been intuitive or participating to make use of, snapping to every menu merchandise awkwardly as you drag a finger aimlessly within the hopes that you will possibly discover the setting you need within the morass of poorly organized menus. It is distracting. That stated, a Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay are normal (Android Auto is, too, on vehicles constructed after October 2019), so there are some silver linings on this hulking, ever-present tech cloud. Simply slap a fancier pores and skin on Toyota’s vastly superior Entune {hardware} and name it a day already.

Lexus’ mish-mash method to switchgear and telematics would possibly frustrate some, as effectively. Take the local weather controls, for instance: Whereas practically each HVAC operate has a bodily button underneath the display screen for straightforward entry, one thing easy like syncing the local weather zones collectively requires a multistep dive via the menus utilizing that godawful touchpad. At the very least the heated-and-ventilated seat controls are nonetheless buttons.

Is all this sufficient to provide a dramatic shift in attraction, although? The ES 350 F Sport carries a price ticket aimed extra towards the younger at coronary heart than the really younger, with a beginning value just below $45,000 and my tester ringing in at $53,950 after vacation spot. There are a number of really sporty vehicles in that value vary, together with some SUVs, and lots of of them do not have years of geriatric-friendly baggage to eschew as a part of a reinvention. To me, it appears extra like a play to scoop up middle-management-type patrons who need to remind the world (and themselves) that they nonetheless have a enjoyable aspect, customers who would possibly in any other case gravitate to sharper vehicles just like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or Volvo S90.

The ES 350’s inside will not put you to sleep — nevertheless it’s not just like the leather-based is not comfy sufficient to help that.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

For the olds

Regardless of the ES 350’s thorough de-aging course of, this sedan stays comparatively old style, which implies there’s nonetheless loads of attraction to maintain patrons of prior ES fashions within the fold.

Though there are huge enhancements in the way in which the ES 350 handles, particularly in F Sport guise, it stays a comfortable, cozy cruiser at coronary heart. Maintain the automobile in Consolation mode, and it is going to be the identical predictable luxurious sedan because it at all times is, absorbing bumps and transferring little jostling to the cabin. The ES 350’s 3.5-liter, naturally-aspirated V6 now places out 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, and whereas it feels a smidge extra sprightly, the dearth of a turbocharger means torque takes time to build up because the rev counter rises, resulting in an underwhelming expertise — not an issue once you by no means intend to depress the accelerator greater than an inch or two.

At an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon metropolis and 31 mpg freeway, the ES 350 F Sport can also be fairly frugal, though it loses a pair mpg in its sportier go well with. This frugality is thanks partly to a brand new eight-speed automated transmission that likes to reside within the fuel-efficiency candy spot when left to its personal units. The gearbox’s shifts are unobtrusive, if a bit pokey, conserving smoothness on the forefront of the ES 350’s driving dynamics.

Solid this method into the ocean and be performed with it.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

One factor older patrons won’t like in regards to the ES 350 F Sport, although, is the noise. I am not speaking about engine noise — I am referring to wind and street noise, which crops up extra usually than I’ve come to anticipate from the eerily quiet interiors Lexus is used to constructing, one thing I am certain longtime Lexus patrons will discover.

Security will at all times be a key part in buying selections, and to that finish, the ES will completely delight house owners. Each Lexus ES comes normal with Lexus Security System+ 2.0, a cadre of energetic and passive security techniques together with automated emergency braking, full-speed adaptive cruise management, lane-keep help, lane-departure warning and automated excessive beams. Every thing’s content material to hang around within the background till wanted, and when it does pop into the forefront (like, say, once you drift too near the white line), the tech would not catch the motive force abruptly with any ham-fisted actions, as they’re sensible and predictable of their operation. If you’d like blind spot monitoring, although, it’s a must to shell out $1,065 for a package deal that features energetic parking help and rear cross-traffic alert.

Right down to brass tacks

The 2020 Lexus ES stays however one fish in a comparatively giant pool. It might have the worth benefit over equally sized luxurious rivals just like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Collection, however these vehicles are additionally a lot sharper when pushed, even with out bringing the AMG and M divisions into the combo. The Acura RLX will not exist for for much longer, and it by no means actually felt cohesive in the way in which the ES does. There’s, nevertheless, robust Japanese competitors from the Infiniti Q50, at the least within the dynamics division — Infiniti’s telematics state of affairs is about as unhappy as Lexus’. The Volvo S90 can also be a way more attention-grabbing alternative within the driving division, and it is just a little simpler on the eyes, despite the fact that its design is a couple of years outdated now. There’s additionally the Toyota Avalon, which is kind of the identical automobile, besides with a large grille and Toyota badges; I have not pushed it, however colleagues say it’s kind of extra participating than the Lexus.

Lexus has undoubtedly come a good distance with the 2020 ES 350 F Sport. It is extra attention-grabbing than ever, however within the means of making an attempt to reposition its attraction, it loses a little bit of what made it such a preferred alternative within the first place. It isn’t dramatic sufficient of a shift to alienate its core demographic totally, as the fundamental underlying thought of what constitutes a Lexus sedan continues to be there — and its gross sales numbers are nonetheless trouncing rivals — however I am left questioning whether or not or not Lexus did sufficient to really make a distinction in the long term.

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