2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport review: Aiming younger

    If the grille will get any bigger, there will not be a bumper.
    Andrew Krok/Roadshow
    Certain reputations are exhausting to shake. Big, smooth and meant to coddle, Lexus’ automobiles are sometimes seen as automobiles for the older type — the orthotic inserts of the luxurious automotive trade, if you’ll. With a sharper underlying chassis and a brand new F Sport trim, the midsize Lexus ES does a very good job exhibiting that Toyota’s fancier sibling is shifting in a youthful course, nevertheless it nonetheless has work left to do.

    LikeImproved stylingSoft or sharp when desiredTop-notch construct high quality

    Don’t LikeF Sport trim is a little bit gimmickyInfotainment stays terrible

    For the youthsReinventing your self sometimes requires beginning once more from the bottom up, and that is what Lexus did with the ES. For this new technology, which landed within the 2019 mannequin yr, the ES rides on Toyota’s TNGA platform, a do-it-all modular chassis underpinning new Toyota automobiles massive and small. Loaded with high-strength steels and trendy engineering know-how, TNGA has given a large swath of Toyota automobiles new life via improved dealing with and composure.You can positively really feel this improve with out attempting very exhausting. Even a fast drive to the shop within the Lexus ES 350 F Sport and you will discover rather more cohesion in how the automotive strikes, eschewing a number of the loosey-goosey dealing with current in its forebear. In F Sport guise, my tester rocks the non-compulsory adaptive variable suspension, which stiffens the automotive up in sportier modes, accessed by a sort-of-oddly-placed mode knob jutting out from the dashboard atop the gauge cluster.

    Surprisingly (to me, at the very least), it is spectacular how dramatically the ES 350’s character adjustments on this new technology. Flipping that mode dial produces precise, tangible variation within the automotive. In Sport, the suspension good points stiffness, giving me sufficient confidence to really chuck the factor round. Sport S+ mode takes issues even additional, including extra weight to the variable (however nonetheless numb) steering whereas additional tightening the dampers and even piping in some “sound enhancement.” I would not go as far as to say it transforms right into a sports activities automotive, because it’s nonetheless a large sedan with front-wheel drive, however this automotive does present some youthful enchantment in a approach that no different Lexus ES ever has.Younger consumers additionally respect a little bit of flash, and don’t fret, Lexus has come via there, albeit in additional conventional Lexus vogue. The ES 350 F Sport carries a number of distinctive exterior touches to assist differentiate it from extra pedestrian trims, like a blacked-out grille, darker taillights, a trunk-lid spoiler and angrier decrease fasciae, and all of it seems fairly good. The inside picked it up, although; the ES now not seems stodgy and dated, due to a vastly improved design inside that makes higher use of fascinating angles. My tester takes issues a step additional with dramatic purple leather-based on the middle console, door panels and seats. It’s a daring technique — and a good bolder coloration selection in a sometimes conservative automotive — so credit score the place it is due for taking a little bit danger. One a part of its roots that Lexus did not abandon, although, is its adherence to construct high quality, which stays top-notch.

    You know what else younger consumers like? The newest in-car tech. Want to know the place the ES 350 partially fails in its mission? You guessed it, and like each different Lexus of late, the blame is positioned solely on the infotainment system. An 8-inch display screen is customary, except you go for manufacturing unit navigation, which boosts the display screen dimension to 12.3 inches. No matter what, the underlying tech stinks. The touchpad has by no means been intuitive or participating to make use of, snapping to every menu merchandise awkwardly as you drag a finger aimlessly within the hopes that you’re going to possibly discover the setting you need within the morass of poorly organized menus. It’s distracting. That stated, a Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay are customary (Android Auto is, too, on automobiles constructed after October 2019), so there are some silver linings on this hulking, ever-present tech cloud. Just slap a fancier pores and skin on Toyota’s vastly superior Entune {hardware} and name it a day already.

    Lexus’ mish-mash strategy to switchgear and telematics would possibly frustrate some, as nicely. Take the local weather controls, for instance: While almost each HVAC operate has a bodily button below the display screen for straightforward entry, one thing easy like syncing the local weather zones collectively requires a multistep dive via the menus utilizing that godawful touchpad. At least the heated-and-ventilated seat controls are nonetheless buttons.Is all this sufficient to provide a dramatic shift in enchantment, although? The ES 350 F Sport carries a price ticket aimed extra towards the younger at coronary heart than the truly younger, with a beginning worth slightly below $45,000 and my tester ringing in at $53,950 after vacation spot. There are quite a lot of truly sporty automobiles in that worth vary, together with some SUVs, and lots of of them do not have years of geriatric-friendly baggage to eschew as a part of a reinvention. To me, it appears extra like a play to scoop up middle-management-type consumers who need to remind the world (and themselves) that they nonetheless have a enjoyable facet, customers who would possibly in any other case gravitate to sharper automobiles just like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or Volvo S90.The ES 350’s inside will now not put you to sleep — nevertheless it’s not just like the leather-based is not snug sufficient to assist that.
    Andrew Krok/Roadshow
    For the oldsDespite the ES 350’s thorough de-aging course of, this sedan stays comparatively old school, which suggests there’s nonetheless loads of enchantment to maintain consumers of prior ES fashions within the fold.Even although there are huge enhancements in the best way the ES 350 handles, particularly in F Sport guise, it stays a smooth, cozy cruiser at coronary heart. Keep the automotive in Comfort mode, and it’ll be the identical predictable luxurious sedan because it all the time is, absorbing bumps and transferring little jostling to the cabin. The ES 350’s 3.5-liter, naturally-aspirated V6 now places out 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, and whereas it feels a smidge extra sprightly, the shortage of a turbocharger means torque takes time to build up because the rev counter rises, resulting in an underwhelming expertise — not an issue once you by no means intend to depress the accelerator greater than an inch or two.At an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon metropolis and 31 mpg freeway, the ES 350 F Sport can also be fairly frugal, though it loses a pair mpg in its sportier swimsuit. This frugality is thanks partially to a brand new eight-speed automated transmission that likes to stay within the fuel-efficiency candy spot when left to its personal gadgets. The gearbox’s shifts are unobtrusive, if a bit pokey, maintaining smoothness on the forefront of the ES 350’s driving dynamics.Cast this method into the ocean and be performed with it.
    Andrew Krok/Roadshow
    One factor older consumers won’t like concerning the ES 350 F Sport, although, is the noise. I’m not speaking about engine noise — I’m referring to wind and highway noise, which crops up extra typically than I’ve come to anticipate from the eerily quiet interiors Lexus is used to constructing, one thing I’m positive longtime Lexus consumers will discover.Safety will all the time be a key part in buying choices, and to that finish, the ES will completely delight house owners. Every Lexus ES comes customary with Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, a cadre of energetic and passive security techniques together with automated emergency braking, full-speed adaptive cruise management, lane-keep help, lane-departure warning and automated excessive beams. Everything’s content material to hang around within the background till wanted, and when it does pop into the forefront (like, say, once you drift too near the white line), the tech would not catch the motive force without warning with any ham-fisted actions, as they’re good and predictable of their operation. If you need blind spot monitoring, although, you need to shell out $1,065 for a bundle that features energetic parking help and rear cross-traffic alert.Down to brass tacksThe 2020 Lexus ES stays however one fish in a comparatively massive pool. It could have the worth benefit over equally sized luxurious rivals just like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series, however these automobiles are additionally a lot sharper when pushed, even with out bringing the AMG and M divisions into the combo. The Acura RLX will not exist for for much longer, and it by no means actually felt cohesive in the best way the ES does. There is, nevertheless, robust Japanese competitors from the Infiniti Q50, at the very least within the dynamics division — Infiniti’s telematics scenario is about as unhappy as Lexus’. The Volvo S90 can also be a way more fascinating selection within the driving division, and it is a little bit simpler on the eyes, though its design is a number of years outdated now. There’s additionally the Toyota Avalon, which is kind of the identical automotive, besides with a large grille and Toyota badges; I have never pushed it, however colleagues say it is a bit extra participating than the Lexus.Lexus has positively come a good distance with the 2020 ES 350 F Sport. It’s extra fascinating than ever, however within the strategy of attempting to reposition its enchantment, it loses a little bit of what made it such a well-liked selection within the first place. It’s not dramatic sufficient of a shift to alienate its core demographic solely, as the fundamental underlying thought of what constitutes a Lexus sedan continues to be there — and its gross sales numbers are nonetheless trouncing rivals — however I’m left questioning whether or not or not Lexus did sufficient to really make a distinction in the long term.

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