The Lexus ES is the cornerstone of the luxury brand’s sedan lineup, and in its latest form, can appeal to the heart almost as much as the head.
New for 2021: The ES adds a new all-wheel drive model for 2021. Like its platform-mates the Toyota Camry and Avalon, it features a smaller, 2.5-liter four-cylinder sending power to all four corners. The result is a little over 200 hp, and better fuel economy than the normal gas V6. The hybrid also trades its old-style nickel-metal hydride battery for a newer lithium-ion unit.
The ES entered its seventh generation for 2019, riding atop the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). It’s longer, lower and wider than before, adopting more expressive styling in line with the rest of the Lexus lineup.
It might look more aggressive—especially in F Sport trim—but the ES remains a smooth sailor, majoring on comfort and quality. It’s been the ES’ mission statement since 1989, and it continues to bring the brand success here: the ES accounted for over half of Lexus’ car sales in 2019.
The ES 350 sticks to a 3.5-liter V6. It gained more power for 2019, with the engine now producing 302 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is the sole drivetrain option here, though the transmission now swaps through eight speeds versus the previous generation’s six. Meanwhile the 300h has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine working in tandem with an electric motor. This runs off a 29.1 kWh battery pack found under the rear seats. All in the 300h produces a combined 215 hp, but also achieves a combined 44 mpg fuel economy rating.
Both ES 350 and 300h come in three trims: Standard, Luxury and Ultra Luxury. The gas-powered ES also offers the afore-mentioned F Sport, which packs in unique 19-inch wheels, a special grille, Active Noise Control, a rear spoiler, Hadori aluminum interior trim, and adaptive dampers.
2020 ES pricing ranges between $40,925 and $46,685 before options, including $1025 in destination.
Pros/ Comfortable ride / Premium cabin / Stable handling
Cons/ Doesn’t feel 302-horsepower fast / A confused gearbox / F Sport model adds little
Bottom Line/ A luxury sedan for those that prioritize smooth cruising over corner carving, the ES is all about travelling in comfort.
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2020 Lexus ES 300h Review
By Kyle Patrick
No other model in the Lexus lineup best exemplifies the luxury brand’s founding principles than the current ES sedan.
Sure, you could say the LS: the original LS 400 is the car that put Lexus on the map, after all. Those two letters might be the answer for the engine-swapping community, but the LS limo is a niche offering in a niche class. Meanwhile the ES is doing the heavy lifting for the Lexus car lineup: of the 80,975 L-badged non-truck vehicles sold in the US in 2019, 51,336 were an ES.
Now in its seventh generation, the ES sticks to the same script as it has for three decades, one all about wafting in comfort. Its particular flavor of luxury majors on engineering precision, ease of use, and that reputation for reliability. With an added dash of dynamism this generation, can it broaden its appeal in a still-important segment?
Lexus ES Powertrain
The current Lexus ES comes with two propulsion options: the tried-and-true 3.5-liter V6 engine or a 2.5-liter four-cylinder shacked up with a hybrid drive system. The V6 is the more powerful option, delivering 302 hp and 267 lb-ft—though it doesn’t quite feel as fast as those numbers would suggest. Lexus quotes a combined pony count of 215 hp for the hybrid model, but the electric motor’s extra oomph just off idle helps level the playing field at low speeds.
Hybrid models do need more time to make passes on the highway, exacerbated by the CVT’s high revving. Gas-powered models stick to an eight-speed automatic.
Lexus ES Features and Pricing
ES 350: Starts at $40,925 (300h + $1,910)
Getting into the hush-hush doors of the Lexus ES requires at least $40,925, including $1,025 in destination charges. Factor in an additional $1,910 for the hybrid. Standard features include LED lights front and back, 17-inch wheels, faux-leather seating, power moon roof, 10-way adjustable power seats, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, and an 8.0-inch infotainment screen.
Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 is standard across all models. The tech suite includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane trace assist, lane departure alert, road sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and auto high beams.
A 10-speaker audio system with the three As (Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Alexa integration) is also standard. Options include heated front seats, panoramic glass roof, blind-spot monitoring and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo.
ES 350 Luxury: $43,780 (300h + $1,910)
The Luxury trim adds in the heated front seats as standard equipment, and drapes the interior in leather. The driver seat gains additional adjustments (now 14-way), while wood trim dots the interior.
ES 350 Ultra Luxury: $44,775 (300h + $1,910)
Go the whole hog and the interior gains perforated semi-aniline leather, with a power rear sunshade alongside standard rear-door shades. Ultra Luxury models feature a powered trunk with kick sensor. Performance dampers further isolate the cabin from road-level harshness.
ES 350 F Sport: $45,660
The F Sport is new this generation, and only available with the gas engine. It gets a sportier look, with standard 19-inch wheels, unique suspension tuning, F Sport front bumper and grille, and a standard rear spoiler. Inside are more bolstered front seats, an F Sport-branded shift knob and steering wheel, and unique aluminum trim.
Lexus ES Recommended Trim
Lexus has a history of fitting in plenty of goodies even in standard form, and the ES still works with that playbook. In base trim you get a lot of car for your money, one passengers will enjoy being shuttled around in. Nonetheless, if it were our money, we’d want to max out the luxury in this here luxury sedan. The Ultra Luxury trim is a relative bargain, as it packs in a lot of the Luxury’s optional tech and features plus a smoother ride. We’d skip the rear spoiler, head-up display and panoramic roof, as the ES’ standard moonroof lets in a healthy amount of light as is.
As for the question of straight gasoline versus a mixture of it and electrons? We’d probably put up with the hybrid’s occasional poor manners for the sake of its vastly better mileage ratings.
Lexus ES Fuel Economy
The ES 350 is a reasonably efficient vehicle considering its size and 302 hp. The EPA rates it at 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and a combined 26 mpg. Not bad at all.
On the other hand, the ES 300h bumps those numbers up dramatically, to the tune of 43/44/44. That’s practically double if you’re driving in the city.
During our hands-on review of the 300h it struggled to match those superlative figures, instead averaging 32 mpg. That was during a cold January snow storm however.
According to the EPA, with an average 15,000-mile yearly usage, the 300h can be expected to save a little over $600 a year at the pumps. That translates to a break-even point for its $1,910 higher asking price of just over three years.
Lexus ES vs Acura TLX
The Acura TLX undercuts many of its rivals, starting at only $34,025 (including $1,025 in destination). That low, low price of entry can be chalked up to the weedy standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It offers fractional fuel mileage advantages over the V6-powered ES 350 (1 mpg across the board): go for the six-pot TLX and it still comes in at $37,225, a helpful savings of almost $3,000.
The TLX leans ever so slightly more towards the sporty side of the luxury midsize class, especially in A-Spec trim. The V6 is slightly thirstier than the Lexus’, but has the advantage of an available all-wheel drive system.
Lexus ES vs Infiniti Q50
The Infiniti Q50 may feature a softer, curvier design than the origami Lexus, but it hides a more sporting mechanicals underneath. Prices start at $37,425 (inc. $1025 destination), which includes a powerful, turbocharged 300 hp engine. Every trim is also available with all-wheel drive, even the top-shelf Red Sport, which turns the wick up to 400 hp. That’ll cost you of course, both at the dealer ($55,275) and at the pumps (20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway).
It’s a very different proposition to the ES then, the Infiniti Q50. It’s the hot rod of the Japanese midsize luxury scene, so don’t expect as much room nor as much comfort.
Lexus ES vs Lincoln MKZ
Closing in on the end of its lifecycle, the Lincoln MKZ is an underrated rival that’s close to the ES in many ways; Like the Lexus, it’s also based on humble origins (the Ford Fusion, in this case), offers larger exterior dimensions than most competitors and focuses more on a quite and comfy ride than on dynamic thrills. The MKZ offers lots of interior options, powerful engine choices, optional all-wheel drive and an inexpensive base price.
|Price Range (USD) /||$40,925 – $46,685|
|Engine /||3.5L V6 / 2.5L I4 hybrid|
|Horsepower (hp) /||302 / 215 (combined)|
|Torque (lb-ft) /||267 / 163|
|Fuel Economy (mpg) /||22/32/26 (V6) / 43/44/44 (Hybrid)|
|Drivetrain /||8AT/CVT, FWD|
Our Final Verdict
The Lexus ES is the latest iteration of a proven formula. It’s refined and easy to live with, capable of transporting five people and their stuff huge distances without worry. We have some reservations about the hybrid in colder climes, namely its lack of manners in an otherwise library-quiet package, but it’s hard to argue with the enormous fuel economy benefits it provides.3.8
|Space and Comfort||8.0|