When Lexus brought its first cars to America in 1989, the entire brand had only two vehicles. Those were the compact ES and full-size LS sedans. The cars were an immediate success because of Lexus' relentless focus on luxury and quality, and the brand soon became a gold standard for premium automobiles.
Fast forward more than 30 years to the present and Lexus still relies on the ES and LS models as the bread-and-butter passenger cars in their portfolio. The ES has grown a bit; it's now a midsize "executive car" but the qualities that made the Lexus ES line successful for 31 years are still there.
First, there's comfort. Our test Lexus carries the F Sport trim, which gives you well-bolstered sport seats and special performance suspension tuning with performance shock dampers. The F Sport package also includes 19-inch wheels and low-profile tires. The net effect is that the ES F Sport is a little more firm on the road and the seat is not as soft, but holds the driver in place very nicely. However, the seats are also heated and ventilated and there's even an Automatic function on the seat temperature, which will follow the overall climate control settings. The ES F Sport is also quiet inside, as you would expect from any Lexus.
On the dash, you'll find a wide 12.3-inch high resolution display with navigation. Our only real complaint with the ES is the interface. Lexus uses a clickable touchpad that we found difficult to use accurately. With practice, it would become easier to us, but we felt like we had to stop car to safely operate the infotainment system. We think a touchscreen or dial interface that's less subject to bumps in the road would be more immediately useful.
Under the hood, the ES comes with the very trustworthy 3.5-liter V6 engine. Toyota and Lexus have been using this engine for a long time and it's fully developed. In Lexus trim, the engine produces 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Paired with an 8-speed automatic driving the front wheels, the ES will make 60 MPH in just 6.6 seconds, which is pretty snappy for a midsize luxury sedan. There are paddle shifters if you want them, but the knob that's more interesting is up on the side of the driver's information pod. With that you can dial up a fuel-saving Eco mode, normal driving mode, or both Sport and Sport+ modes for a more dynamic performance experience.
Performance is a must-have quality in a luxury car, but the car must first function as transportation. The back seat of the ES is spacious and just as comfortable as the front seats. With a 6-foot tall driver, there's plenty of leg room for a similarly sized passenger behind the driver. Trunk space is also generous at 16.7 cubic feet.
On the road, the Lexus ES350 delivers punchy performance, with plenty of power on tap at all times. With the F Sport package, road noise is a little higher than on the basic ES350 because of the firmer suspension and the wheel and tire package, but overall, the experience is still very much Lexus quality.
If your dreams for the rest of 2020 include a new luxury sedan, the Lexus ES350 should absolutely be on your test-drive list. Especially considering the affordable base price, it's just not that hard to step up into a Lexus.
2020 Lexus ES350 F Sport
Base price: $44,635
Price as tested: $53,370
Type: Midsize sedan
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (302 hp, 267 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 22/31
Overall length: 196 inches
Curb weight: 3,649 pounds
Final assembly: Georgetown, Kentucky
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