Looks like: It’s hard to make mid-size sedans interesting, but Lexus added plenty of sass to the ES for 2019 courtesy of a dramatic new grille.
Competes with: Audi A6, Buick LaCrosse, Genesis G80
Drivetrain: Gasoline versions use a 302-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Hybrid models use a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine paired with an electric motor for a combined 215 hp.
Hits dealerships: September
After weeks of teaser images, Lexus today unveiled its 2019 ES. The mid-size sedan gets more dramatic exterior styling and an updated multimedia system, and hybrid models get a new engine.
Gasoline and hybrid versions return for 2019, with a sport-tuned F Sport model joining the lineup this year — an ES first.
Lexus says the ES rides on an all-new platform that allows for a more dynamic design — and the new model is definitely more interesting.
The ES gets a bad rap for being boring and predictable, but its new face injects some excitement. The latest model gets an updated version of the brand’s hallmark spindle grille as well as a lower hood, slimmer headlights and more aggressive body side lines. In back, there are wraparound LED taillamps and a more-raked, coupelike roofline.
There are two different grille designs. On ES 350 and ES 300h models, the grille features vertical bars that radiate out from the center; F Sport models use a blacked-out pattern of L-shaped clusters. Other F-Sport-specific exterior cues include a rear spoiler, badging, a dark lower valance and specific 19-inch wheels.
Twelve exterior colors are available for 2019, including two new ones: Moonbeam Beige Metallic and Sunlit Green. F Sport models come clad in exclusive Ultra Sonic Blue Mica 2.0.
The switch to the new platform means the 2019 ES is longer and wider than its predecessor. Lexus says this translates to more passenger and cargo room for the 2019, but didn’t release full specs.
Inside, ES 350 and ES 300h will continue to offer materials like Matte Bamboo, Linear Dark Mocha and Linear Espresso wood. F Sport models go in a different direction, with a Japanese sword-inspired metal trim as the focal point. Lexus says the Hadori aluminum trim’s fluctuating wave patterns give it a three-dimensional appearance that varies depending on the viewing angle.
One major change — and one that finally brings Lexus almost up to date with nearly every other automaker — is the control system. The 2019 ES is the first Lexus to offer Apple CarPlay smartphone functionality, but shoppers looking for the Android Auto counterpart are still out of luck. The ES does, however, connect with Amazon Alexa for car-to-home and home-to-car functionality.
Models equipped with the optional navigation system get a 12.3-inch multimedia display with a built-in Verizon Wi-Fi hot spot, and the base system uses a smaller, 8-inch display without navigation or hot-spot capabilities. Both systems use the Lexus Remote Touch Interface trackpad — which will likely be as awful as it is in the brand’s other vehicles that use it, like the 2018 Lexus LS.
Under the Hood
ES 350 models use an updated version of the outgoing model’s 3.5-liter V-6; horsepower is up slightly this year to 302. The V-6 is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission.
ES 300h models use a new power plant, Toyota’s fourth-generation hybrid drive system. It pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor for 215 hp. Lexus says the ES 300h should be get around 44 mpg combined. The hybrid’s new nickel metal hydride battery is smaller, which Lexus says allows it to be mounted underneath the backseat so it doesn’t infringe on trunk space.
The F Sport uses the regular model’s V-6 but adds performance-oriented extras like an adaptive variable suspension system, a more aggressive Sport Plus drive setting and engine sound enhancement.
All ES models get the Lexus Safety System Plus 2.0 as standard equipment. The system includes features like automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. A new feature this year is daytime bicyclist detection, which is an update to the existing pedestrian and vehicle detection system.
The 2019 Lexus ES goes on sale in September.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on May 1, 2018.
Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.