2019 LEXUS ES 300h Road Test, Review
LEXUS quietly let loose the brand new ES saloon with no fuss or fanfare.
Some say it is pretty, others say it is busy. I think the handsome coupe-like profile looks the business.
The smooth riding LEXUS comes only in a hybrid drivetrain with two trim levels, Luxury and Sports Luxury. It has been lavished with technology, comfort, and design.
Much of what you now experience has been borrowed from the LS Saloon and LC Coupe. Although they are rear wheel drive and ES is front wheel drive, the latest LEXUS is meant to be no less enjoyable from the driver’s seat than it is from any of the passenger seats.
Did LEXUS succeed in their aim?
The all-new ES is the Japanese car maker’s mid-size sedan. It continues a long line of ES models which many have termed “a fancy Camry.” Both use the same TNGA (GA-K) platform and share much of the same technology, but there it ends.
17” alloys are standard, with 18” on the top model. The roof is lower by 5mm. Width has been increased by 45mm, and the wheelbase is 50mm longer. For those wanting a big boot, you’re in luck. It is now a generous 454L. The boot gets auto opening on Sport Luxury.
A complex hourglass grille and headlights follows the signature look of the LS and LC coupe. It can be polarising, and some will not like it. ES is in-your-face, building on the group’s president, Akio Toyoda’s wish, not to “build boring cars any longer.”
As you move along the doors, you pass a coupe-like silhouette to a voluptuous rear end that squats over the wheels like a cat ready to pounce. Adaptive Matrix headlights are standard on the top model with both grades gaining LEDs on both beams. L shaped daytime running continue the corporate look. If you look hard, you’ll find “L” shapes all over every LEXUS model. That’s what LEXUS says, but I’m fairly sure you’ll find angles on most cars, it isn’t as if you could avoid it.
LED tail lights, like those in LS, have 3 distinct lines that trail “L” shapes across the rear end.
There are 10 colours to choose from, including two new colours. Glacial Ecru is designed to mimic light reflected off fresh snow, and Radiata Green is inspired by ocean water in sunlight.
LEXUS ES has the newer style of cabin design including the infotainment system. As in the LS, the centre console lid hinges on either side so either driver or passenger always has the lid opening their way.
Shiny interior surfaces have been kept to a minimum to reduce glare and reflection from sunlight. Chromed plastic can look cheap, so LEXUS has textured some of the plastic with an interest organic design and flecked colour palette.
An Asymmetric centre stack houses climate controls etc, but most settings are also located within the infotainment system.
Seating is comfortable where all readouts can easily be seen, and controls easily accessed. There is enough room for 4, with a 5th person in the rear middle able to use the armrest section. Although there is a seat belt for the middle, it isn’t comfortable for any distance over an airport run.
Some grades gain rear controls for climate settings in the rear armrest. Legroom is astounding. With the front seats set for a 190cm passenger and driver, those in the back can still stretch out. There was at least 16cms between my knees and the back of the front seat.
The design is reminiscent of the newest generation of Camry. Normally that might be considered an insult, but a lot has been done to up the quality. LEXUS takes that further with soft coverings over much of the interior.
Simulated metal finishes on the dash aren’t quite my thing. I’d prefer the real thing, or nothing. Ditto for the woodgrain.
Features and technology have major advancements over the old model.
There is a full list in the summary, but a few of the tastier traits are:
- High resolution 12.3” centre LCD
- 12” HUD in front of the driver
- reviewed infotainment system
- Mark Levinson sound with 17 speakers (Sport Luxury)
- 10 speaker Pioneer Sound system (Luxury).
- Auto lights and wipers
- Electric parking brake
The wipers stop when the doors are open to make sure hapless occupants are not splashed when they get out. That’s not only thoughtful, but handy too.
All grades have climate control (3 zone on sport luxury), auto wipers and lights, electric steering column adjustment, and DAB+ radio.
The foot operated parking brake has been replaced by electric activation. Previously, the driver had to try to find the foot lever deep in the bowels of the footwell by feel. Now it is a simple button on the centre console.
Sport Luxury adds auto boot opening, heated steering wheel, and heated, reclining rear seats, and a moonroof.
As in the LS, the centre console lid hinges on either side so either driver or passenger always has the lid opening their way.
Shiny interior surfaces have been kept to a minimum to reduce glare and reflection from sunlight. Chromed plastic can looks cheap, so LEXUS has textured some of the plastic with an interest organic design and flecked colour palette.
The infotainment system interface continues to be an issue.
There is no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and the large display has no touch input. You’re limited to voice or touch pad control. Both are very moody to use, and impossible to use once the car is on the go. Touch input requires intense concentration. The cursor tends to dart across the screen and you spend much of your time trying to find it.
It highlights choices but items such as “tone” are at the bottom of the menu out of sight. Unless you know it’s there, it will escape you attention. What’s more, it isn’t easily found in the user guide.
American ES models have CarPlay according to our American colleagues. LEXUS executives have told us they are trying to bring this feature to Australian models, but only time will tell. Other Japanese car makers have started rolling out CarPlay/Android Auto and in some case only a software upgrade was needed.
Voice control relies on very specific commands rather than the natural speech of internet based methods. It is hit and miss to say the least. With a little training, it is by far the best way to address addresses to navigation.
Although it will allow you to make calls, you’re better off stopping and using the track pad. It simply refuses to dial some names that are difficult to pronounce, many names that are easy to pronounce. If you value your sanity, use voice control sparingly.
LEXUS ENFORM has onboard WiFi, smart watch functionality, and concierge access. Luxury car makers are looking for ways connect the driver to the world. In the not to distant future, cars will talk to each. I’m not too sure I want other drivers knowing my every move, what about you?
Drive and Engine
If the looks and equipment didn’t convince you, the drive certainly will.
ES uses LEXUS’ new GA-K platform (aka TNGA= Toyota New Global Architecture). A platform is a base on which the vehicle is constructed. It has made new ES more rigid, and lighter too.
LEXUS ES uses the 4th generation Toyota Hybrid drive, once called, Synergy Drive.
A 2.5L Atkinson cycle 4 cylinder petrol engine works with the electric motor powered by batteries, as a single unit. It cycles between electric-only power, battery charging, pure petrol drive, regenerative charging without the passengers ever being aware of it. There is a graphic on the dashboard
The system has increased efficiency over previous model. Advances in the nickel metal hydride batteries and electric motor yield greater performance while being more compact.
The cabin is as quiet as a mouse, especially in EV mode. The loudest noises are your espadrilles ruffling the carpet. In fact, it was so quiet, I thought the system had shut down, were it not for the air gently wafting from the vents
Drive modes a-la LS/LC models give the driver several options.
Things in the normal setting are just fine by me. It is calm and smooth with gentle acceleration. ES feels regal as is wafts along in graceful splendour.
Give the knob above the steering wheel a gentle twist to enter Sport mode. This setting adds weight to the steering and increased throttle response. Saturation-type shock absorbers are newly developed. Improved valves and decreased stroke friction give the suspension greater control, so better ride and handling.
Eco mode makes ES come over all green. Everything is subdued to the point of coma. Power is reduced making the gentle throttle even more chill.
Power steering is electric with the motor mounted on the rack for more accurate control.
Sport Mode gives power a noticeable boost, but completely unnecessary. 0-100 is a leisurely 8.9 seconds but a combined fuel economy of 4.6L/100k assuages the embarrassment of being blown off by a hot hatch at the lights.
Like most hybrids, ES has a CVT driving through the front wheels. This is a type of automatic transmission without gears. There are no gear changes because there are no gears. There is just one smooth gradual increase in speed.
LEXUS ES has bags of room in the back.
Hire car operators will love the sumptuous ride and generous space. No doubt this is what LEXUS intended. ES doesn’t feel quite as luxurious when compared to European equivalents. but has a superior journey experience, especially for passengers.
Surprisingly, the ride hasn’t been sacrificed handling on the altar or practicality. The most we had on board was 2, but there was no change in ride or handling even in tight corners.
Driver aids like auto high beam and steering assist were non-intrusive.
LEXUS has improved steering assistance, which along with traffic, pedestrian, cyclist detection, act to mitigate accidents. Active cruise control creates a sense of serenity to a long drive too. I’ve used all the driver-assist features on a road trip in the LS. You might expect them to falter, but they do not.
ES is aimed at the buyer who might want a BMW 5 series, Audi A6, Mercedes E Class, or Jaguar XF, but wants something less well travelled. While some of those might handle a little better, the LEXUS feels nicer on the road.
I’m as surprised as you, but there it is.
The active safety features I’ve already mentioned are cocooned in a cosy cabin with 10 airbags.
Warning systems keep the driver aware, while the reversing camera uses various radars and sensors. It will even warn you when an object moves into your path, even if that object is moving at speed (in Sport Luxury models). Sport Luxury adds a panoramic view to the camera, as well as blind spot monitoring with warning lights in the side mirrors.
The top model also has automatic matrix LED headlights with 24 cells which switch on an off to keep the road ahead in full light without dazzling other motorists.
Menus on the infotainment interface become inactive whilst the car is on the go. That’s great if there is only one person on board, but very annoying if your passenger wants to make changes or input an address.
- Excellent equipment level
- Comfort and quietness
- Supremely smooth ride
Not So Good Bits
- Some plastics look cheap
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Complex infotainment interface hard to use on the go
ES now starts at under $60,000. That’s a price reduction for the base model and a $3,000 increase for the top grade.
Although the fuel tank is only 50L, you could expect over 1,000 on a road trip.
- Hybrid-only line-up with FWD offered in two grades (Luxury & Sports Luxury)
Adopts 2.5L 4-cylinder A25A-FXS engine with new, fourth-generation Lexus Hybrid Drive System
Rides on new GA-K platform and is 30 per cent stiffer than previous ES
Australian debut of next-generation safety via Lexus Safety System+ (includes Lexus-first safety technologies)
Lower bonnet, lower roof, longer wheelbase, longer body
It is 60mm longer, 45mm wider, 5mm lower, and its wheelbase is 50mm longer
The driving position has been moved 46mm closer to the centre
Bonnet and boot height have been reduced by 16mm and 5mm respectively
Rear legroom has increased from 1015.4mm to 1022mm
Co-efficient of drag has improved from 0.27 to 0.26
Upgrade from foot pedal brake to electronic park brake
New trailing arm type multi-link rear suspension
Steering column now power adjustable from Luxury grade (previously manual)
10cm more legroom than competitors
Nickel metal hydride battery now 10 per cent more compact, allowing it to sit lower and closer to the centre for optimum balance
Windscreen wipers stop if doors are open to reduce water splash and automatically reset when the ignition is off
Wireless phone charger is new to model and standard from Luxury
14-power driver seat is the best in the segment (Sports Luxury)
Head-up display new to model (and standard from Luxury) and largest in class
- Luxury model upgrades from previous generationPrice: $59,888 (was $63,750 – despite increase in spec)
New fourth-generation hybrid system with 160kW combined power (+9kW)
3-inch display screen (standard from Luxury; previously 8-inch)
Second generation of Lexus Safety System+ (Lexus first items include Lane Tracing Assist and Road Sign Alert
Pioneer 10-speaker system (previously 8-speaker system)
LED low and high headlamps (previously only low beam)
Parking Support Alert standard; includes camera that detects pedestriansSports Luxury model upgrades from previous generationPrice: $74,888 (was $71,910: new-generation car with upgraded specification)
New fourth-gen hybrid system with 160kW combined power (+9kW)
14-way power adjustable driver’s seat and 12-way passenger seat
Adaptive high-beam system
Panoramic view monitor
New 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system (was 15 speaker)
Power recline and adjust rear seat
18-inch alloy wheels (previously 17-inch); now with Helmholtz resonator that reduces tyre specific resonance
Front and rear performance rod
Hands-free power boot lid with kick sensor
Parking Support Alert system includes rear cross-traffic alert
Facts and Figures: 2019 LEXUS ES 300h Hybrid
- Engine: 2.5L four-cylinder hybrid producing 160kW
- Transmission: CVT
- Warranty: 4 years/ 100,000km
- Safety: Five stars (tested 2018)
- Origin: Japan
- Price: from $59,888
Author: Alan Zurvas