Car of the Year Car Reviews

Lexus ES: 2019 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender

Available 5.3 L/100km and a big trunk can’t hide the ES' interior issues

Available 5.3 L/100km and a big trunk can’t hide the ES' interior issues

WE LIKE Rear-seat space, big trunk

WE DON’T LIKE Fussy controls, frustrating touchpad

Cabins this spacious simply don’t exist in sub-$50,000 USD German luxury sedans. But unfortunately for Lexus loyalists, the new ES’ interior remains as frustrating as other recent models from the brand.

Mark Rechtin described the interior design as “a weird mishmash of swoops and confusing angles,” and Frank Markus likened the control knobs poking out on either side of the instrument cluster to bullhorns.

The toggles for temperature adjustment aren’t as easy to use as knobs, and the deservedly maligned touchpad interface remains harder to control than competitive systems. One bright spot: Apple CarPlay finally appears in a Lexus, facilitating everyday in-car phone, navigation, and audio tasks.

At some point, you’ll stop fiddling with the interior and actually drive. Once you do, the ES 300h hybrid delivers an experience that Kim Reynolds called “a bit soft and fluffy.” The ES attempts to provide exactly what you’d expect from a luxury sedan as long as you don’t push it, though some found the ES’ ride too busy and floaty on poor surfaces. Last-gen ES hybrid owners will find improved end-of-travel brake feel and a cavernous trunk; its 16.7 cubic feet matches that of the V-6 model.

Even on the standard V-6’s new F Sport trim level, the ES never acts as sporty as it looks. When the similarly priced IS isn’t a good fit for those who need a more capacious interior, Lexus’ Avalon-based luxury sedan is ready to step in. Ultimately, however, a bigger trunk and the hybrid’s seriously impressive 44 mpg (5.3 L/100km) combined city/highway rating can’t overcome our issues with the interior and suspension.



2019 Lexus ES 300h
Base Price/As tested $42,405/$51,470
Power (SAE net) 176 hp @ 5,700 rpm (gas)/39 hp (elec)/215 hp (comb)
Torque (SAE net) 163 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm (gas)/149 lb-ft (elec)
Accel, 0-60 mph 7.8 sec
Quarter-mile 16.0 sec @ 90.6 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 140 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.78 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.4 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 43/45/44 mpg
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine/Transmission 2.5L Atkinson-cyle DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus elec motor/Cont variable auto
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 3,797 lb (57/43%)
Wheelbase 113.0 in
Length x Width x Height 195.9 x 73.4 x 56.9 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy 78/75 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.44 lb/mile