The Updated and Restyled Lexus ES Is Even Better than Expected

 2019 Lexus ES. Photo courtesy of Lexus. 

2019 Lexus ES. Photo courtesy of Lexus. 

If you don't know Lexus, you might not know about the donation match up to $10,000 for each of their 200+ dealerships across the country. Or about their Eco Challenge, a nationwide STEM contest for students in grades 6-12. Or their devotion to quality materials and Takumi master certification. 

You might not know the vision of their design, based on Japanese iconic elements like a samurai sword, or a traditional tea whisk, or origami folds. Or that the engine designers might dream of the faces of every person who contributed to the process over a six-year time period. 

You would be surprised to discover how much of the Lexus process involves individual people doing very precise, challenging jobs that require perfection, like logo placement and ensuring the surface is absolutely smooth. 

When you sit inside the new restyled Lexus ES, the 7th generation of this vehicle, you may not think of these things. But you'll know it feels like luxury. And you might feel a little closer to the brand. It's about much more than the new paint colors or even the styling alone. It's all of the little touches together. 

Our interview with Lexus Vice President of Marketing Cooper Eriksen. 

 One of the elements of the interior design is based on the metal cross-patterns of a traditional samurai sword.  Photo: Thrills and Wheels. 

One of the elements of the interior design is based on the metal cross-patterns of a traditional samurai sword.  Photo: Thrills and Wheels. 

The knife's edge of luxury sedans: the F SPORT

The F SPORT model is geared toward buyers who are ten years younger than the typical buyer of the ES. Lexus shows off its sporty side with aluminum pedals on the F SPORT that make the driver feel like mashing them to the floor. (We didn't, but it was tempting.)  

Lexus continues to impress with their innovation in interior design. The ES model offers three choices of wood trim: Linear Dark Mocha, Linear Espresso, and Matte Bamboo. They now offer a metallic trim that is standard on the F SPORT model called Hadori Aluminum, which is inspired by the Samurai sword-polishing process. The Hadori Aluminum trim has a 3D appearance, and the effect is indicative of the level of detail and craftsmanship that Lexus seems to display at every turn.

 Apple Car Play will be available in the Lexus ES on October 1, 2018. Photo courtesy of Lexus. 

Apple Car Play will be available in the Lexus ES on October 1, 2018. Photo courtesy of Lexus. 

New Technology in the ES

The new ES is the first Lexus to offer in-car integration of Amazon Alexa, called Lexus Plus Alexa. Much like someone might use it at home, drivers may use voice commands to direct Alexa, including Alexa Home Automation, which guides tasks such as turning on lights, setting a thermostat in the house, and, of course, even ordering Amazon purchases.

The ES is the first Lexus to offer Apple CarPlay, which will be available October 1. At this juncture, Lexus does not offer Android Auto, which may be disappointing to some (we're iPhone people, so we're good to go).

For music fanatics, the 10-speaker Pioneer system can be upgraded to the 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. We had a chance to listen to the Mark Levinson system in Nashville, and the quality was unreal. Whether you go for hip-hop, rock, pop, or classical, it's going to sound fantastic in this vehicle. 

The Sounds of Silence

Chief Engineer Yasuhiro Sakakibara and his team were tasked with improving the performance of the ES.

According to Sakakibara-san, “We knew that this ES had to feel responsive and easy to drive, no matter what kind of road it was on and that can only be achieved with a solid foundation." 

Part of that foundation on the inside of the car is the extraordinary attention paid to noise. More accurately stated, the vast reduction of noise. 

The new ES features absorbing materials that covers 93% of the interior, and incorporates a silencer pad that muffles unwanted engine noise. Noise-reduction wheels on the available 18-inch version have hollow sections and a "resonator hole", which directs the air through the tire to helps to reduce road noise, too. And under the floor, performance dampers have been added improve handling stability and ride comfort. 

 The Lexus ES 300h.  Photo courtesy of Lexus. 

The Lexus ES 300h.  Photo courtesy of Lexus. 

Our pick: the 300h

Of the three trims available - the ES 350, ES 350 F SPORT, and the ES 300h - the 300h was our favorite. The zippy hybrid engine puts up an impressive 44 mpg, which is stunning. And the 2019 model adds 15 to the total horsepower, and it feels evident from the first acceleration. Built exclusively at the Kyushu plant in Japan, the 300h is something special; the rest of the ES trim levels for North America will be built in Georgetown, Kentucky.

FACTS: We've got 'em

  • The ES 300h is the most fuel-efficient luxury vehicle without a plug on the market

  • This is first Lexus to offer Apple CarPlay

  • Largest in class 10.2 inch head up display as an option

  • The new model offers increase of 34 horsepower and 0-60 MPH in half a second faster

  • Overall greater fuel efficiency then the previous model

  • Updated battery placement gives the vehicle an additional four and a half cubic feet of cargo storage area in the 300h

  • Plenty of new technology and features in all models to reduce road noise

 Photo: Thrills and Wheels.

Photo: Thrills and Wheels.

Kristin Shaw