The Lexus ES 350 is one of the nicest luxury sedans around, and starting in the 2019 model, some changes make it better. It’s longer, wider and the older odd-looking front grille is replaced with another odd-looking grille. An improved suspension provides better handling and smoother ride. The body structure is more rigid, and the navigation screen is larger.
Under the hood, this 3.5 liter V6 has been bumped to 302 horsepower, and the old six-speed automatic gearbox has been replaced with a modern eight-speed unit. Fuel economy has risen to a claimed 22/33 mpg. Cruising at 75 mph, we did get 31 mpg.
We do have two complaints. First, a car that starts at $43K and ends up at $53K after extras should have a remote start to cool off the cabin on a hot day, but it doesn’t. Secondly, the new seat headrests are slanted too far and uncomfortable. This can be fixed by the owner after purchase.
On the positive side, this car does everything well. It’s quick, smooth, quiet, comfortable, handles well and offers luxury both inside and out. The reliability is long proven. You can’t go wrong with the ES 350.
For Lexus fans who want a sedan with more sporty characteristics, the GS 350 F Sport might work. It costs a bit more than the ES at $52K, and with options, the total fee comes to $61K. The base GS without the F Sport pack is $47K, and it uses a 2.0 four cylinder with 241 horsepower. The F version has a 3.5-liter V6 cranking 311 horsepower. A high-performance 467 hp V8 model called the GS F is available for far more money.
Getting back to the F Sport, it has a control knob providing Eco, Normal, Custom, Sport and Sport+ drive modes. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow gears to be chosen manually if desired. A stick controls the infotainment system, which is better than the finger touch pad found on other Lexus models.
In daily commuting, this GS F is very comfortable. The ride is smooth, wind noise is low, and we got 27 mpg on freeway trips. But put the car in Sport or Sport+ mode, push the gas pedal and 60 mph comes in less than 6 seconds. Then the steering/suspension stiffen up for some great ability when taking tight corners on mountain roads. This is a real performance sedan. But if luxury is the only goal, that less expensive ES 350 will do.
Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.