This is the 2019 Lexus ES350 F Sport. [credit: Jonathan Gitlin ]
Last year, I may have been a little unkind when I reviewed the Toyota Camry. I still wonder if that was because the car we drove was a fully loaded version; the Camry is a utilitarian car, and something about one with a bright red leather interior just didn't sit right. After all, if you want a fancy Toyota, there's an entire brand called Lexus who's raison d'être is just that. Which brings us to today's car, the $43,135 2019 Lexus ES350 F Sport. It is, in essence, a fancy Camry. And while it doesn't quite live up to the "F Sport" moniker, the end result is really quite good.
All-new architecture, you say?
The new ES is in fact the seventh generation of vehicle to wear the nameplate—that's not bad going, considering the first ES only turned a wheel in 1989. Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising given that the related Camry is now in its eighth iteration, though. And related they are; the Camry and ES both share the same modular Toyota New Global Architecture-K (or GA-K) as starting point, which also provides the building blocks for the Toyota Avalon and RAV4. The layout sticks to the tried-and-tested approach of a transverse engine and front- or all-wheel drive.
It's a bigger car than the one it replaces, being both 2.6 inches (66mm) longer and 1.8 inches (46mm) wider now (L: 195.5 inches/4,966mm, W: 73.4 inches/1,864mm, H: 56.9 inches/1,445mm), and with the wheels closer to the corners, that translates into a roomier interior. (The wheelbase is 2 inches/51mm longer at 113 inches/2,870mm.) According to the designer, Yasuo Kajino, the ES' look is "provocative elegance." Insert my usual disclaimer about the subjectivity of car design here, but to my eyes it wears its shape well—better than the Camry, which still evokes a late 1950s, Flash Gordon and fins thing to me. Lexus' current hourglass/cheese grater front grille will still challenge some, though. (If you pick the regular ES (starting at $39,600), or the hybrid (from $41,410), the interlocking Ls are replaced with plain old vertical bars, but neither was available on the press fleet yet, so we were sent this one.)