2019 marks the first model year that Lexus offers the ES in an F Sport trim. Lexus sent TFL a 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport, and we had the opportunity to test it on the twisting roads outside Boulder, Colorado. The first question to my mind: “Is it really that sporty?”
Well it Looks Sporty
The 2019 Lexus ES F Sport certainly looks a lot more sporty than the other trim levels. You get a black grille with a unique diamond pattern, 19-inch alloy wheels, black mirror caps and a spoiler for the trunk. The F Sport package typically involves more of an appearance upgrade than it does actual performance modifications.
The overall stance is low, long and wide and from a styling perspective, the 2019 Lexus ES F Sport certainly does look pretty sporty. Though, styling is always a personal choice.
If the honeycomb grille of the F Sport doesn’t strike your fancy, there are also the base ES 350, Luxury and Ultra Luxury trims to choose from.
Take a look under the hood of the 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport and there are relatively few changes. You get the same 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 that comes in the rest of the ES 350 lineup. It makes 302 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission. However, like all other ES models, the 2019 Lexus 350 ES F Sport is front-wheel drive. Regardless, the powertrain offers good motivation, and the 8-speed transmission is butter-smooth.
There is also a hybrid ES available. That uses a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder paired with an electric motor that combines for 215 horsepower. However, that powertrain is not available with the F Sport trim.
According to the EPA, the 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport gets 22 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway.
Ride & Handling
Contrary to the powertrain, the F Sport trim does affect ride and handling, slightly. Lexus gives this trim tuned MacPherson-strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension. The ride is remarkably stiffer than it is in other Lexus ES trims. Apart from the standard suspension on the F Sport, the model is also available with adaptive dampers. Those will cost you $750 and they are worth every penny. However, our tester did not have them.
It may be worth your investment, because the base suspension setup in the 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport doesn’t like to be pushed to the limit. It is stiffer, but under hard cornering there is a distinct lack of coherence between the front and rear axles. You can feel the weight transfer to the front axle thanks to that front-wheel drive platform, not to mention lots of body roll and understeer. It’s not dangerous, but handling with the standard suspension did not inspire my confidence on twisting roads. The optional adaptive dampers do help this problem.
The ES does do a commendable job of being a large, spacious sedan. Starting with the trunk, you get 16.9 cu-ft of trunk space, plenty for me to fit inside. The back seat is, likewise, rather spacious. My 6-foot-two self had no issues with headroom or legroom in the rear seat. Furthermore, the front seats are quite comfortable. There is plenty of passenger space regardless of what seat you are in.
The F Sport trim adds some fun pieces to the interior as well. You get some red leather seats, embossed with F Sport logos on the headrests. Red accent stitching on the dashboard and shift knob. Plus a fantastic gauge cluster. The quality of materials used is truly superb, with soft, supple leather on every surface you touch.
Then there is the infotainment system. That comprises a 12.3-inch screen that you operate with Lexus’ trackpad system, for better or worse. To me, the trackpad felt imprecise to use. If you are used to this system, you likely won’t mind it. However, I would have preferred a genuine touchscreen. The display itself is crisp, with high resolution graphics and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Android Auto is not currently supported.
The 2019 Lexus ES comes standard with Lexus Safety System 2.0, a variant of Toyota’s Safety Sense system. This gives you radar-adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, road sign detection, automatic emergency braking and adaptive high-beams.
The 2019 Lexus ES starts at a base price of $39,600. However, spring for the F Sport trim like we have and that base price jumps to $44,135. Ours had some options on top of that, for an as-tested price of $50,575. Certainly, the 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport is no cheap sedan. Though, for the luxury appointments and quality feel, the price doesn’t seem ridiculously expensive. Remember, this competes withe the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6, both of which start over $50,000.
Does the 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport feel all that sporty? Unfortunately, no. The V6 makes decent power, but this car’s handling characteristics do not reflect the rest of the lineup — particularly, there’s little reminiscence to Lexus’ F performance brand.
That said, it is a very comfortable, luxurious sedan. This is also, in my opinion, the best-looking version of the new ES, with its black grille and sporty accoutrements. Overall, a very solid package that you should be happy to have in your driveway.