The new generation Lexus ES four-door carries a familial weight: maintaining a 30-year tradition as the bread-and-butter model for luxury and sophistication while bridging the early years and today's top-of-market leading lineup.

Realizing that, the automaker developed the 2019 sedan with a "styling and size of its own," said David Yarborough, general manager of Hendrick Lexus Charleston.

Arriving in the waning days of summer, the retooled Lexus ES including its popular 350 edition has attracted broad interest. "You know, we've seen a lot of professionals. With real estate agents it's always been really popular," he said. "You see folks scaling down" from larger sedans or SUVs.

Yet the flagship sedan, touting 33 mpg fuel consumption on the highway (and 44 mpg for the hybrid F sport), reminds the general manager of a sportier upper end model that he knows well.

"It looks so much like an LS," Yarborough says, the brand's 206 inch long upper-end sedan priced one-third higher. He's aware that the new ES, just 10 inches shorter and boasting a beefier 3.5-liter V-6 engine generating 302 horsepower (a hybrid version counts 215 hp), will offer a value-priced entry to the luxury market. Showcasing an eight-speed automatic transmission, the model lists a starting price of $39,500 and available fully loaded at $51,000 or so.

The 2019 ES incorporates a host of gadgets within its multimedia center console including a sharp-image screen and well-marked buttons and knobs to adjust radio and satellite channels, jiggle with temperature and fan and line up views for route maps.

A flat square-shaped controller near the gear shifter can bring up a menu of settings and choices. "This is really nice. It moves like an iPad," says Lorin Drinko, certified technology specialist at the Savannah Highway dealership. An information display in front of the steering wheel calls up miles per gallon, trip setting numbers, average speed and safety alerts.

Drinko highlighted scores of technological perks, including:

  • Lane and steering assist, blind spot monitoring and pre-collision system in which electronic sensors adjust the wheel or brake to keep the car in line.
  • Real cross traffic alert to warn the driver of people or objects passing behind the car in reverse. "I love this," she says.
  • Voice activated commands, and Bluetooth hands-free phone that can be synced in a few minutes. It also accepts text messages, which will display on screen.
  • Auto adjust for the analog clock on the dashboard.
  • Heads up display — visible to the driver like it's floating above the hood — showing speed, speed limits and road directions.
  • A transmission knob next to the steering wheel that shifts the car into sport for a higher performance ride or eco to save of gas.
  • Leather seats with bamboo accents available.
  • Various charging and power plugs including 12 volt and USB.
  • Sunroof that opens over the front seats and can act like window for front and back.
  • Built-in garage door opener.

Lexus offers a number of services for free as an introductory option such as 90 days of satellite radio, Drinko says.

According to its brochure, the ES is available in nine interior colors and trim, including Hadori aluminum and linear expresso wood; and 10 exterior looks fron ultra white to sunlit green.

Yarborough said customers are just getting their bearings on the new ES. Their early assessment? "So far, so good," he said.

The luxury car manufacturer has rolled out a vehicle with loftier performance and sportier looks while maintaining its understated luxury, at least based on an afternoon with an eminent white exterior 2019 Lexus ES 350 with navigation package and blind spot monitor, LED lights and heads up display priced at $51,034.

Notably, the sedan was unusually comfortable and quite quiet, showcasing leather seats and lots of head and leg room. The instrument cluster was easy to reach and reasonably intuitive, offering redundant buttons to the tablet-like menu pad. The 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio package offered precise melodious notes even with the sound turned up. The heads-up display was not hard to see and provided a slew of information beyond mph.

From the driving aspect, the ES 350 ran assertively even in the economy mode and surged in sport gear. The driver also can move the gear handle into sport and use paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Brakes were responsive, and the sedan accelerated smoothly. The car's climate system, notably the air conditioning, was superb, and heated and cooled seats are a handy perk.

Cargo space was more than adequate with a large rear trunk possessing an attached net-like holder to carry groceries, for instance. The rear seats showed off a pull-down arm with built in cupholders.

From the future improvement side, the Lexus lacked adjustable heating and cooling knobs in the back seats, and the only way to turn on dual climate control was through the center console screen.

Yet the restyled ES should prove a strong seller, holding onto its 30 years of success while adding a little excitement to the body and ride.

For more information and photos, go to www.postandcourier.com/automotive.

Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.

SPECS

MODEL: 2019 Lexus ES 350

TYPE: Mid-sized sedan

PRICE: $39,500-mid $50,000s

ENGINE: 3.5-liter V-6

HORSEPOWER: 215 (hybrid) to 302

SEATING: Five passengers

TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed automatic

POWER TRAIN: Front-wheel drive

FUEL ECONOMY: 22 mpg city, 33 mpg highway

WHEELS: 17-19 inch spoke alloy