2019 Lexus ES 350 Ultra Luxury
(All images: Lexus)
One of the things that can be readily overlooked—and often is—regarding the launch of Lexus 30 years ago is that while the initial attention was focused on the LS 400 sedan—a car that, when it debuted at the 1989 North American International Auto Show (the first time that moniker for what had previously just been “The Detroit Show”) guys (and they were male) from Cadillac and Lincoln said was impossible at its MSRP—the Lexus ES 250, the more affordable of the two, took the lion’s share of the load of the then-new brand in terms of sales, and only the subsequent launch of the RX crossover changed that.
The 2019 model is the seventh generation of the entry-lux sedan.
Better and Better and . . .
As is widely known but perhaps not thought about much anymore—at least by those who aren’t working in the corporation or for one of its suppliers—a key tenant of the Toyota Production System is “continuous improvement.”
Now take that and add onto it the fact that Lexus is the premium brand. The result is that the 2019 ES 350 is nothing short of being a remarkable automobile.
It is longer and wider. And sexier.
(Here’s a fun fact: the ES is being manufactured at the Toyota complex in Georgetown, Kentucky. It’s been produced there starting in 2015. The company invested in excess of $360 million to build a facility for the ES. For the all-new seventh-gen ES more than 150,000 training hours were racked up by the team members responsible for the car’s production. This training isn’t just the sort of thing that you might find in a manual. Rather, there is extensive “sensory” training, as in sight, sound and touch. After all, people are going to be driving the car, so it is probably a good idea if people are trained to make the sort of assessments that an owner is likely to discern. One of the things that the ES line workers are trained to do is to discern gap differences as small as 0.3 millimeters, or the thickness of three sheets of paper. While it is generally true that “all cars today are well built,” this takes it to a whole new level, which makes something a Lexus and something else, well, something else.)
Numbers Add Up
Yes, there are fewer and fewer cars being sold with crossovers achieving more of the consumers’ purses. For example, through October, there were 41,766 ES models delivered this year while there were 85,441 RX models moved. The ES, however, handily outsold all other Lexus cars combined during the first 10 months of 2019. Another useful comparison would be to look at how the ES is doing compared with cars offered by the aforementioned Lincoln and Cadillac. As GM and Ford only provide quarterly sales numbers, this brings us back to sales through September 2019. There were 32,268 ES models sold in the first three quarters of 2019. Lincoln has two sedans on offer, the MKZ and the Continental, with the former having sales during this period of 13,645 units and the latter 4,741. As for Cadillac, it has three cars: the ATS, 1,051 units sold; the CT6, 5,675; and the CTS, 5,999. Yes, the ES has seemingly impossibly good numbers.
Yes, at last: Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto, too).
About the car
Visually, it is faster, edgier. Yes, there is the spindle grille. Interesting how that has become something far less obtrusive. The vehicle is lower (56.9 inches vs. the 2018’s 57.1), longer (wheelbase is 113 inches and the overall length is 195.9 inches vs. 111 and 193.3 inches), and wider 73.4 inches vs. 71.7 inches).
The car is powered by a 3.5-liter (the 350 in the name comes from that) V6 with an aluminum block and heads. It produces 302 hp at 6,600 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. It features both port and direct fuel injection, which contributes to performance and fuel economy (and while on the subject of fuel, it takes regular gas and the estimated fuel economy numbers are 22/33/26 city/highway/combined mpg). There is an eight-speed automatic transmission that you can shift should you feel so inclined (but why would you?).
The suspension setup is a MacPherson strut in the front and trailing arm multilink in the back. It has a rack-mounted electric rack and pinion steering system. And all that adds up to the kind of maneuverability that you’re not going to get in an SUV.
Yes, the seating is low. And comfortable. The instrument panel has a horizontal theme so even though one sits low, the visibility is still good.
Although there is a pad that you can use as an interface with the infotainment system, there is still a knob—clever a single knob that performs both the functions of volume and turning—and a series of buttons for things like HVAC.
The bottom line: An exceedingly well-executed sedan.
Although the term “continuous improvement” is generally associated with another company, Honda is certainly pursuing that approach, as is evidenced by the Accord, which is now in its ninth generation.
Hyundai's product onslaught continues with a new compact that's bigger, more stylish and more efficient than its predecessor. And its development cycle is faster than the competition.
A young(ish) guy that I’ve known for a number of years, a man who spent the better part of his career writing for auto buff books and who is a car racer on the side, mentioned to me that his wife has a used Lexus ES Hybrid.