NewsArts & Culture / November 23, 2018

Sporty Lexus ES350, Designer Toyota Avalon All New For 2019

Auto correspondent Casey Williams test drives the Lexus ES350 and Toyota Avalon.2018-11-23T00:00:00-05:00
Sporty Lexus ES350, Designer Toyota Avalon All New For 2019

I almost died in a 2002 Lexus ES when a landscaping post bounced off of a passing trailer and into its grille, but that’s probably the most emotional experience I’ve ever had in the front-drive luxury sedan.  The car was beautiful, comfortable, and equipped with the latest tech, but wasn’t very emotional – nor have most ES models since.  That changes with the completely redesigned 2019 Lexus ES350 F Sport.

Art-worthy Style

Designers took many cues from the sumptuous LS flagship sedan and the art-worthy LC coupe like Lexus’ trademark gargantuan black mesh “spindle grill” flanked by LED headlamps, detailed body sculpting, and wide LED taillamps.  F Sports are further sharpened with unique bumpers, rear spoiler, and 19-inch dark alloy wheels.  It’s especially fetching in blue paint.

Interior comfort has always been an ES strength, but the F Sport also adds some sporting touches like bolstered leather seats, thick three-spoke steering wheel, shift knob with perforated leather, analog clock, and aluminum pedals.  Those seats are heated and ventilated; the steering wheel is heated.  Echoing the LC, there’s a wide glassy expanse that includes the clock and 12.3-inch infotainment display.  Aluminum-look and textured black trim adorns the dash, console, and doors.

It’s all quite beautiful, but I could live without Lexus’ touchpad controller.  Simple touchscreens, knobs, and buttons work just fine.  Fortunately, it commands dual zone automatic climate control, navigation, and 10-speaker Pioneer audio system.  Lexus’ Entune infotainment system connects with Alexa to ease all of your endeavors.  While this is an improvement over earlier systems, it may take one more generation to get it right.

Hearkening back to my own emotional experience, it’s nice to know the ES enjoys a full suite of safety systems that include adaptive radar cruise control, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, and forward auto brake with pedestrian detection.

Quiet Acceleration

Planted behind the angry grille is a 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 302 horsepower to the front wheels through a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.  Active noise control insures drivers will barely hear the engine.  Fully stomped, the big sedan runs naught to sixty in 6.6 seconds.  Fuel economy is pretty impressive for a sporty non-hybrid at 22/33-MPG city/highway.

Driving the ES is about more than a moderately peppy powertrain.  A knob on the side of the instrument binnacle adjusts the suspension and powertrain from Eco through Custom, Normal, Sport and Sport +.  Eco offers the least sensitive throttle while Sport + gets busy quickly.  Put it in Normal and it rides as comfortably as any ES before, but in Sport mode, it becomes a close approximation of a legitimate sport sedan.

Is the ES350 F Sport a sports car?  Um, no.  It’s an emotionally kissed luxury car with the basic bones of the venerable Toyota Camry.  That’s a pretty powerful combination for those wanting a durable car that’s a joy to drive.  A base price of $39,500, or $44,035 as tested, puts the ES350 F Sport against the Buick Regal GS, Lincoln MKZ, Acura TLX A-Spec, and Chrysler 300 S.

 

2019 Toyota Avalon Is A Lexus In Blue Jeans

Take a look underneath the skin of many popular full-size sedans and you realize they are essentially stretched versions of their mid-size siblings.  And, look beneath the skin of the redesigned Toyota Avalon and you’ll see much in common with the also-new Lexus ES350.  So, think of the 2019 Avalon as a Lexus in blue jeans.

Sporting Luxury

It’s especially ravishing in sporty Touring trim, which brings 19-inch wheels, LED headlamps with adaptive cornering, and piano black finish for the mirror caps, mesh grille inserts, and rear spoiler.  Quad chrome exhaust tips clear the smog.  The angular wide-mouth grille, long bodylines, and chiseled rear lamps work well together.  It’s a big luxury car, but one that looks ready to carry four very comfortably into the left lane.

The Avalon’s restyled interior is the realization of 1980s future-tech with luxury overtones.  The dash is plush and flowing except for the center section that’s dominated by a tall square infotainment console with touchscreen above automatic climate controls.  Use it to conjure the JBL audio system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  Proper volume and tuning knobs add convenience – as do the widescreen head-up display, power moonroof, and wireless phone charging.  Stay cozy with heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a big thick heated leather-wrapped steering wheel.  Take all the luggage you want.

As Toyota’s flagship sedan, the Avalon is available with a full suite of crash avoidance systems:  Lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward auto brake with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection.  Adaptive radar cruise control monitors traffic ahead and slows as needed to keep a safe distance.  All that plus a stiff body structure should provide peace of mind for owners.

Assured Performance

Behind the black wall of mesh is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that routes 301 horsepower through an eight-speed automatic transmission (same as the Lexus).  Step hard and the V6 sings to the rafters as it squirches the front tires and sets a bead down the road.  Those who want to hear more of the engine can enhance the sound, which pipes through the speakers.  Fuel economy is a respectable 22/31-MPG city/highway.

If you like the sporty tinge off this Avalon, wait.  Toyota just announced an even sportier TRD version of the Avalon (and Camry) for 2020.   It gains no horsepower, but is tricked out with a stiffer body structure, reduced ride height, firmer shocks, and matte black alloy wheels.  Larger brakes provide better feedback.  You’ll know it by its body kit with front splitter, side aero skirts, spoiler, and rear diffuser. 

So, what are you going to pay for this Lexus in blue jeans?  For a base car, that sticker is $35,500.  You won’t get all of the sporty attire, but you get the same engine and standard safety gear that includes radar cruise and forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection.  It’s still a very nice car, but step up to our loaded Touring model for $44,913.  Compare with the Buick LaCrosse, Kia Cadenza, Chrysler 300, and Chevy Impala.

Storm Forward!

Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.

2019 Lexus ES350 F Sport

  • Five-passenger, FWD Sedan
  • Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6, 8-spd auto trans
  • Output:  302hp/267 lb.-ft. torque
  • Suspension f/r: elect Ind/Ind
  • Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
  • Brakes f/r: disc/disc
  • Must-have features: Style, MPGs
  • Fuel economy: 22/33 mpg city/hwy
  • Assembly: Georgetown, KY
  • Base/As-tested price: $39,500/$44,035

 

2019 Toyota Avalon Touring

  • Five-passenger, FWD Sedan
  • Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6, 8-spd auto
  • Output:  301hp/267 lb.-ft. torque
  • Suspension f/r: elect Ind/Ind
  • Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
  • Brakes f/r: disc/disc
  • Must-have features: Safety, Space
  • Fuel economy: 22/31 mpg city/hwy
  • Assembly: Georgetown, KY
  • Base/As-tested price: $35,500/$44,913 

 

 

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