Lexus ES First Look: Catching Up

A 302-hp V-6 powers all ES 350 models

The 2019 Lexus ES sits on the new GA-K platform that uses high-tensile steel to reduce weight.

While it's the first to enter Europe, this ES is actually the seventh-generation model, with its forebears having focused on the U.S. market.

The restyled ES enters a USA segment that is holding its own despite the overall market's shift toward CUVs, with sales up 1.2% through the first quarter.

Based on the same platform as the new Toyota Camry and most emerging new Toyota vehicles, the ES is longer (+65mm), lower (-5mm) and wider (+45mm) than the vehicle it replaces, with wheels that have been pushed closer to the corners thanks to a 50mm longer wheelbase and wider tracks front (+10mm) and rear (+37mm).

The ES cockpit is more driver-oriented than the outgoing vehicle, with its center, more horizontal screen and controls angled toward the driver, and the dash design sweeping away from the passenger side.

One of the big developments for the next-gen Lexus sedan is the debut of a first-ever F-Sport version. Lexus says the standard automatic uses an ultra-thin torque converter and multi-plate lock-up clutch to more efficiently transfer power to the front wheels. It can adjust all four dampers individually to enhance handling and traction. And switching to Sport+ activates a new Engine Sound Enhancement system. The wild uncle of the lineup is the new ES 350 F Sport, which actually pipes in more engine noise and features adaptive dampers for what Lexus says will be a sportier personality-something the ES has never had in the model's almost three decades on the market. But this time around, it delivers 302 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, up from 268 hp and 248 lb-ft. The V6 is mated to a standard eight-speed automatic transmission.

The new hybrid system produces a combined 215 horsepower from its gas engine and electric hybrid system. The new ES will be available with three engine choices - a V6, an in-line four and a self-charging hybrid. "In Australia, hybrid accounts for 30 percent of Lexus sales, so offering the latest generation ES exclusively with an advanced self-charging hybrid system represents another significant milestone towards greater electrification of our line-up", Thompson said. The screen will house support for Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration. Driver assist features include a pre-collision detection system that can spot cyclists and pedestrians, as well as a two-stage high-beam system with 24 LEDs that can automatically switch beams off to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers. Part of the taillights are also covered by a wide trim piece that plays host to the car's reverse camera, and there's a small spoiler on the boot lid, with the Lexus logo positioned below it.

Being an important product to both the company and dealers worldwide, the new Lexus ES will be available on sale in US this September and other markets to follow later. Along with an updated instrument cluster, there is also an available head-up display that displays key information on the windshield in front of the driver.

Whether the seventh-generation model will be able to hang on in a world rapidly migrating to SUVs remains to be seen, but Lexus is clearly not about to give up without a fight.

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