|Positives: No longer looks like transportation to the bingo hall, much-improved interior, sporty handling and steering belies the model, excellent seats, impressive build quality, improved infotainment system.|
|Negatives: Front wheels lose grip under hard acceleration, infotainment controls still need improvement.|
|Bottom Line: The ES 350 F Sport is a truly excellent sport luxury sedan that's been redone in a very big way. It strikes the right balance of power, comfort, and driver engagement, and it finally looks truly attractive.|
The difference between the last ES and this one is palpable. Whereas the old car felt like riding on a mushy pillow, the new ES feels put together, composed, and quite engaging for a front-wheel drive Japanese luxury sedan. The sportiness shines through in ways the old car never could manage to do.
Ride Quality: Shock absorption is excellent, but it doesn't feel lost in the process. There's an element of composed firmness that's also present.
Acceleration: The ES 350 F Sport moves with alacrity, and the 302 horses is just about the right amount for this front-wheel drive car. It pulls strong and smooth.
Braking: The ES's brake pedal exhibits some mushiness, but they're good at bringing the car to a stop.
Steering: The ES 350's electric power steering is very good, a class above the outgoing car. Though the feedback isn't great, the precision and effort are better than we expected.
Handling: The new GA-K front-wheel-drive chassis architecture that's shared with the Toyota Avalon and Camry keeps the ES planted and balanced. The ES gets better rigidity than both Toyota sedans, and it shows in the minimal body roll and control exhibited in turns. The adaptive variable suspension in the F Sport is excellent, too. This is very good for a front wheel drive car.
Aside from the driving dynamics and looks, the ES 350's tech had the most to improve. Lexus Enform has never been easy to use, but the new car gets improvements in control and looks.
Infotainment System: The huge 12.3-inch screen is excellent when it comes to legibility. Menus are easier, and graphics are also much better.
Controls: The touchpad for the infotainment system exhibits vagueness but not nearly as bad as previous generations. Steering wheel controls that were once very good are excellent in terms of ergonomics and response.
Put this car next to the old ES, and you'd never guess they are related in any way. The new ES borrows some styling elements from the sexy LC coupe and LS sedan, and the payoff is huge. Whereas nobody noticed the old car, this one is a head-turner. More than a few people remarked at how good it looked.
Front: The spindle grille looks far better on this car because it ties in better with the entire car's styling. For a dramatic fascia, it's not overdone.
Rear: The ES's taillights are a blend of the LS and LC and look great. The built-in decklid spoiler is just the right touch of sportiness.
Profile: We like the restraint exercised here with the tasteful chrome trim and wraparound lights. We especially like the low slung nose. It's all very well proportioned.
Cabin: Gone is the rather odd interior of the last ES. This one is more focused, better outfitted, and far more ergonomic. We wish the RC coupe's interior would take on the same look and feel.
The new ES ups the comfort ante inside thanks to some of the best seats in the industry, and now the rear seats get improved, as well. Ergonomics are also far better than before since Lexus focused much more on access to controls and better instrumentation visibility.
Front Seats: The F Sport seats are supportive, very well bolstered, and even quite good to look at.
Rear Seats: Though the roofline is more sloped than the old car, the rear seats provide more headroom because they're positioned lower. Good legroom, as well.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The car is just the right amount of quiet. Engineers apparently had to allow more sound back in because it was almost too quiet.
Visibility: For such a rakish greenhouse, rearward visibility is actually pretty good thanks to a good parcel shelf. The low hoodline gives excellent placement in turns and parking lots.
Climate: Lexus climate systems are typically excellent, and the new ES is no exception. Cooled and heated seats work very well, and we love the new toggles on the thermostat controls.
Though the new ES has yet to be crash tested, we have it a high score since both the Camry and Avalon that share the same architecture and similar safety features garnered top scores.
IIHS Rating: Not tested.
NHTSA Rating: Not tested.
Standard Tech: Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 is standard and comes with the gamut: all-speed radar cruise control, lane tracing assist, steering assist when the car leaves the lane; road sign assist, and cross-traffic alert. There are also panoramic and birds-eye cameras, a huge help.
Optional Tech: Our tester came with Lexus Parking Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert with automatic braking, which worked like a charm.
There's a lot of room in this mid-size luxury sport sedan, and even the cabin shows improvements in the form of very accessible cubbies and compartments. The trunk gets bigger, too.
Storage Space: There's a great deep open binnacle in the center console, as well as cupholders with a retractable door. The armrest is pretty capacious, as well.
Cargo Room: Space in the trunk jumps from 15.2 cubic feet to 16.7, and the trunk opening is wide, and the load floor is flat. It held five big bankers boxes of stuff. Very impressive.
The engine has plenty of power, and with the F Sports enthusiast leanings, it's hard not to push this car. That being said, it was more than respectable in terms of fuel economy.
Observed: 24.8 mpg.
Distance Driven: 183 miles.
Driving Factors: We drove primarily in Sport and Sport+ modes the entire time with a blend of local and highway driving.
Our stock Pioneer system wasn't nearly as good as Mark Levinson systems we've experienced in other Lexus models, but it's still quite good. Bass is strong, and the volume and clarity are also very good. Not many people will find the system lacking at all.