2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport review: Aiming younger

If the grille gets any larger, there won’t be a bumper.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Specified reputations are difficult to shake. Huge, soft and intended to coddle, Lexus’ autos are frequently witnessed as vehicles for the more mature type — the orthotic inserts of the luxury automotive marketplace, if you will. With a sharper underlying chassis and a new F Sport trim, the midsize Lexus ES does a great work showing that Toyota’s fancier sibling is relocating in a youthful course, but it nonetheless has get the job done still left to do.


  • Improved styling
  • Soft or sharp when desired
  • Leading-notch construct high quality

Don’t Like

  • F Sport trim is a tiny gimmicky
  • Infotainment remains awful

For the youths

Reinventing yourself sometimes necessitates starting once again from the floor up, and that is what Lexus did with the ES. For this new era, which landed in the 2019 product year, the ES rides on Toyota’s TNGA system, a do-it-all modular chassis underpinning new Toyota autos huge and tiny. Loaded with high-power steels and fashionable engineering know-how, TNGA has provided a vast swath of Toyota autos new daily life via enhanced managing and composure.

You can unquestionably sense this upgrade without seeking pretty difficult. Even a swift generate to the store in the Lexus ES 350 F Sport and you can expect to detect a lot extra cohesion in how the vehicle moves, eschewing some of the loosey-goosey managing present in its forebear. In F Sport guise, my tester rocks the optional adaptive variable suspension, which stiffens the vehicle up in sportier modes, accessed by a type-of-oddly-placed mode knob jutting out from the dashboard atop the gauge cluster.

Astonishingly (to me, at least), it is really extraordinary how substantially the ES 350’s character variations in this new era. Flipping that mode dial creates true, tangible variation in the vehicle. In Sport, the suspension gains stiffness, offering me ample confidence to truly chuck the matter about. Sport S+ mode usually takes items even further more, adding extra body weight to the variable (but nonetheless numb) steering even though further more tightening the dampers and even piping in some “seem improvement.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say it transforms into a athletics vehicle, considering that it is really nonetheless a substantial sedan with entrance-wheel generate, but this vehicle does give some youthful attraction in a way that no other Lexus ES ever has.

Young customers also respect a little bit of flash, and you should not fear, Lexus has occur via there, albeit in extra standard Lexus trend. The ES 350 F Sport carries a handful of one of a kind exterior touches to aid differentiate it from extra pedestrian trims, like a blacked-out grille, darker taillights, a trunk-lid spoiler and angrier lessen fasciae, and it all appears to be like fairly great. The inside picked it up, even though the ES no for a longer time appears to be like stodgy and dated, many thanks to a vastly enhanced style inside that will make far better use of interesting angles. My tester usually takes items a step further more with remarkable pink leather on the middle console, doorway panels and seats. It truly is a daring tactic — and an even bolder colour preference in a generally conservative vehicle — so credit rating where it is really due for having a tiny hazard. Just one component of its roots that Lexus didn’t abandon, even though, is its adherence to construct high quality, which remains top rated-notch.

You know what else youthful customers like? The latest in-vehicle tech. Want to know where the ES 350 partially fails in its mission? You guessed it, and like just about every other Lexus of late, the blame is placed solely on the infotainment procedure. An 8-inch display is standard, except if you choose for factory navigation, which boosts the display measurement to twelve.3 inches. No matter what, the underlying tech stinks. The touchpad has under no circumstances been intuitive or participating to use, snapping to every menu merchandise awkwardly as you drag a finger aimlessly in the hopes that you can expect to maybe come across the placing you want in the morass of badly organized menus. It truly is distracting. That claimed, a Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay are standard (Android Auto is, way too, on vehicles built soon after October 2019), so there are some silver linings on this hulking, ever-present tech cloud. Just slap a fancier pores and skin on Toyota’s vastly excellent Entune hardware and simply call it a working day by now.

Lexus’ mish-mash approach to switchgear and telematics could possibly frustrate some, as nicely. Choose the climate controls, for example: Although practically just about every HVAC purpose has a bodily button beneath the display for easy accessibility, some thing basic like syncing the climate zones alongside one another necessitates a multistep dive via the menus utilizing that godawful touchpad. At least the heated-and-ventilated seat controls are nonetheless buttons.

Is all this ample to create a remarkable change in attraction, even though? The ES 350 F Sport carries a rate tag aimed extra towards the youthful at coronary heart than the truly youthful, with a starting rate just beneath $45,000 and my tester ringing in at $53,950 soon after spot. There are a ton of truly sporty vehicles in that rate assortment, including some SUVs, and quite a few of them you should not have yrs of geriatric-friendly baggage to eschew as component of a reinvention. To me, it seems extra like a engage in to scoop up center-management-form customers who want to remind the earth (and them selves) that they nonetheless have a enjoyment aspect, buyers who could possibly normally gravitate to sharper vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz E-Course or Volvo S90.

The ES 350’s inside will no for a longer time put you to slumber — but it is really not like the leather isn’t really relaxed ample to aid that.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

For the olds

Regardless of the ES 350’s comprehensive de-growing old system, this sedan remains rather previous-fashioned, which usually means you will find nonetheless lots of attraction to maintain customers of prior ES types in the fold.

Even even though there are wide enhancements in the way the ES 350 handles, specifically in F Sport guise, it remains a soft, cozy cruiser at coronary heart. Preserve the vehicle in Consolation mode, and it is really heading to be the same predictable luxury sedan as it generally is, soaking up bumps and transferring tiny jostling to the cabin. The ES 350’s 3.5-liter, in a natural way-aspirated V6 now places out 302 horsepower and 267 pound-ft of torque, and even though it feels a smidge extra sprightly, the lack of a turbocharger usually means torque usually takes time to accumulate as the rev counter rises, top to an underwhelming experience — not a difficulty when you under no circumstances intend to depress the accelerator extra than an inch or two.

At an EPA-approximated 22 miles for each gallon town and 31 mpg highway, the ES 350 F Sport is also fairly frugal, though it loses a couple mpg in its sportier suit. This frugality is many thanks in component to a new 8-pace automatic transmission that likes to are living in the gasoline-effectiveness sweet spot when still left to its very own gadgets. The gearbox’s shifts are unobtrusive, if a little bit pokey, retaining smoothness at the forefront of the ES 350’s driving dynamics.

Cast this procedure into the sea and be accomplished with it.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Just one matter more mature customers could possibly not like about the ES 350 F Sport, even though, is the noise. I am not chatting about motor noise — I am referring to wind and street noise, which crops up extra frequently than I have occur to anticipate from the eerily quiet interiors Lexus is utilized to developing, some thing I am sure longtime Lexus customers will detect.

Basic safety will generally be a critical component in purchasing choices, and to that conclusion, the ES will unquestionably delight owners. Each Lexus ES will come standard with Lexus Basic safety Technique+ two., a cadre of lively and passive basic safety methods including automatic crisis braking, complete-pace adaptive cruise manage, lane-maintain aid, lane-departure warning and automatic high beams. Everything’s written content to hang out in the background till necessary, and when it does pop into the forefront (like, say, when you drift way too close to the white line), the tech won’t catch the driver by shock with any ham-fisted actions, as they are wise and predictable in their procedure. If you want blind spot checking, even though, you have to shell out $one,065 for a deal that contains lively parking aid and rear cross-targeted visitors alert.

Down to brass tacks

The 2020 Lexus ES remains but 1 fish in a rather huge pool. It may well have the rate benefit in excess of equally sized luxury rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Course and BMW 5 Collection, but those people vehicles are also a lot sharper when pushed, even without bringing the AMG and M divisions into the combine. The Acura RLX won’t exist for a lot for a longer time, and it under no circumstances definitely felt cohesive in the way the ES does. There is, however, powerful Japanese competition from the Infiniti Q50, at least in the dynamics section — Infiniti’s telematics scenario is about as unhappy as Lexus’. The Volvo S90 is also a a lot extra interesting preference in the driving section, and it is really a tiny simpler on the eyes, even even though its style is a handful of yrs previous now. There’s also the Toyota Avalon, which is extra or less the same vehicle, apart from with a substantial grille and Toyota badges I have not pushed it, but colleagues say it is really a little bit extra participating than the Lexus.

Lexus has unquestionably occur a lengthy way with the 2020 ES 350 F Sport. It truly is extra interesting than ever, but in the system of seeking to reposition its attraction, it loses a little bit of what designed it these a common preference in the 1st spot. It truly is not remarkable ample of a change to alienate its main demographic entirely, as the primary underlying thought of what constitutes a Lexus sedan is nonetheless there — and its sales figures are nonetheless trouncing rivals — but I am still left thinking no matter if or not Lexus did ample to truly make a change in the lengthy operate.

Maria J. Danford

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