Lexus ES 350 Ultra Luxury
The 7th generation
Lexus ES sits on a new platform, longer and wider, bringing more
comfort for passengers and more space for your stuff. Cool enough,
but what’s with the designation “Ultra Luxury” applied to the
What high-tech gizmos
and extraordinary niceties can warrant such a moniker? Does it have
hovercraft technology? Will it drive itself? Is there a wet bar in
the rear seat?
Alas, no, but the
redesigned top-shelf ES does come with an admirable suite of
luxuries. The Ultra has semi-aniline leather seats (softer and more
durable), with 14-way power with 4-way lumbar for the driver and
10-way for the passenger. There is a power rear sunshade and manual
rear-door sunshades to block glare and heat, a convenient
hands-free/power trunk lid, and even an upgraded suspension for
It gets even better
if you pull out the wallet and add options like a high-tech safety
package ($1,900) and navigation/Mark Levinson audio package with
1,800 watts and 17 speakers ($3,000). Another grand buys a panoramic
glass roof and heated wood and leather steering wheel.
The five-seat midsize
sedan has good shoulder, head- and leg room in both rows. The center
of the rear row, however, has a pretty big hump.
Cargo space is
generous, too, with a trunk that grows this year to 16.7 cubic feet,
among the largest in the midsize-luxury segment.
Lexus redesigned the
dash to accommodate an optional 12.3-inch infotainment screen on the
center stack. It has crisp graphics but still is bothersome to use
with the touchpad, which forces the driver to take his eyes off the
road. At least there are redundant buttons and knobs for climate and
Two displays keep the
driver well informed at a glance: an 8-inch reconfigurable screen in
the gauge cluster and a large head-up display offering directionals,
speed limits and fuel supply.
There are two oddly
placed knobs jutting out atop the instrument panel. One is for drive
modes (Eco, Normal and Sport), but the other is to shut off traction
control. Really? That’s a prominent spot for a low-priority knob
in a luxury car.
On the road, the
cabin is ultra-quiet (oops, there’s that ultra word again), thanks
to acoustic glass and improved sound-deadening materials. Seriously,
there is virtually no road or wind noise.
Power comes from the
same 3.5-liter naturally aspirated engine as last year, but it gets
a boost in horsepower and torque thanks to the addition of direct
and port injection. It now produces 302 hp, up from 268, and 267
pound-feet of torque.
ES has more giddy-up, too, with the new 8-speed transmission
replacing last year’s outdated 6-speed. Zero-to-60 mph can now be
done, quietly, in 6.6 seconds — a half-second better than last
year, Lexus says. Top speed is reported at 131 mph.
important in a Lexus, the ride quality is all luxury — smooth as
that hovercraft and maybe too floaty. Throttle is lazy in Eco mode
but picks up in Sport. EPA estimates 26 mpg combined city-highway.
Safety features are
bundled into the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, which includes adaptive
cruise control, pre-collision system (detects vehicles, pedestrians
and bicyclists in low-light conditions), lane departure alert and
lane-keep assist. Parking sensors with automatic braking and
360-degree camera are available — the latter a helpful option in
detecting small animals and objects.
The ES currently is
the best selling midsize-luxury sedan in the nation and sales this
year are already 20% better than last, dealers say. Call it Ultra
Luxury or don’t, but it unquestionably is Ultra Popular.
2019 Lexus ES 350
As tested: $53,742
(Navigation/Levinson audio package, $3,000; tech safety package,
$1,900; triple beam LED headlights, $1,515; panoramic glass roof,
$500; and 18-inch wheels, $950)
What’s all the
excitement about? Lexus redesigned ES 350 inside and out, added
space, luxuries and power
naturally aspirated V-6 engine mated to new 8-speed automatic
performance? Smooth and linear acceleration; 0-60 mph improved this
year to 6.6 seconds; extremely comfortable highway ride
Fuel economy: EPA
estimates say 22 mpg city, 33 highway; 26 mpg combined