Bitter cold lay in wait for our late-winter visit to Wisconsin.
The thermometer flirted with zero, humidity rose and the Lake Michigan wind sliced through multiple layers of clothing.
Conditions like those deepen one’s appreciation of cars that put creature comforts first. Cars that wraps you up like a cocoon and shelter you from harsh reality.
In other words, conditions were ripe for our test of the hybrid version of Lexus’s 2019 ES luxury sedan ($39,600).
The fully made-over, seventh-generation ES grows roomier, quieter and more luxurious. Bold styling, inside and out, speaks to the younger cohort Lexus covets.
New platform, revised suspension
Based on a new platform, the ’19 ES is more dynamic than its predecessor. Even so, its revised suspension produces a smoother and more composed ride. On the arrow-straight roads of Southern Wisconsin, our 300h hybrid tester ($41,410) was impressively quiet and surefooted.
Its front-wheel-drive architecture puts the ES at a performance disadvantage against its mostly Germanic competition. Still, the 300h negotiated quick lane changes and other transitions without drama.
All ESs have a Drive Mode Select system that allows the driver to tailor the car’s settings to varying road conditions.
The new platform locates the engine lower in the chassis, bringing down the center of gravity and the design of a long, low and sculpted hood that draws one’s eyes to Lexus’s distinctive spindle grille.
ED headlights are standard; triple-beam projector lamps are available.
Rear-set legroom grows
The ES wheelbase grows 2 inches, boosting rear-seat legroom by a like amount. The power-adjustable front seats embrace occupants and provide exceptional longterm support.
Standard features include LED headlights with automatic high-beam assist, keyless entry and ignition, a sunroof, simulated leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver's seat and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The standard 8-inch infotainment display brings with it smartphone-based navigation, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hotspot, three USB ports (one front, two rear) and a 10-speaker sound system with CD player and satellite radio.
Models ordered with native navigation fetch a 12.3-inch unit.
Tiered and flowing dashboard
A tiered and flowing dash nests the control panel in a bed of stitched-leather surfaces and elegant wood and matte-finish metal trim.
The layout is a busy, if busy, and the infotainment system’s menu structure can be confusing. Lexus wisely replaces the old joystick-type infotainment controller with a more easily mastered touchpad.
The ES is the first Lexus to offer Apple CarPlay connectivity and Amazon Alexa voice controls.
A powerful Mark Levinson audio system is available, though we found it nearly impossible to properly adjust the front-to-rear balance.
Standard safety gear includes forward collision mitigation, dynamic cruise control, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning, automatic high-beam assist and parking sensors.
Blind spot warning is available.
Two iterations, one new trim
There are two iterations of the ES. The ES 350 is powered by a 302-horsepower (34 more than last year) V-6 mated with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel efficiency rises to an EPA-estimated 26 combined/22 city/33 highway, and the ES 350 sprints from 0-60 in a segment-appropriate 6.6 seconds.
The hybrid ES 300h ($41,820) pairs a 2.5-liter four with an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission. Total system output is 215 hp. It runs the 0-60 sprint in 7.8 seconds and earns an EPA-estimated 44 mpg combined.
For 2019, an F Sport trim ($44,035) makes its ES debut. Cosmetic details include a mesh grille, rear spoiler and aluminum interior trim. There are sport front seats, special gauges, an analog clock, active noise control and 19-inch wheels.
The package also replaces the standard shock absorbers with an adaptive suspension that adjust its settings on the fly. Chassis dampers reduce vibrations set up by aggressive cornering.
In Wisconsin, our 300h Ultra Luxury tester brought front seats and a steering wheel that automatically turn themselves on in cold weather and adjust the heat level depending on the ambient temperature.
I don’t recommend Wisconsin for your next mid-winter vacation. But if it must be so, I enthusiastically endorse the ES as a worthy mode of transportation.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2019 Lexus ES 300h Ultra Luxury
Vehicle base price: $39,600
Trim level base price: $44,960
As tested: $52,890 (includes destination and handling)
Options included blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert and intuitive park assist with automatic braking and rear pedestrian detection; wireless charger; 18-inch 5-spoke noise-reduction wheels; navigation/Mark Levinson audio package; heated wood-and-leather-trimmed steering wheel; windshield wiper deicer; fast-response interior heater.
EPA rating: 44 combined/43 city/45 highway.
Regular unleaded gasoline specified