When Lexus unveiled the 2019 Lexus ES at the Beijing Motor Show back in April, it stopped us in our tracks. While the ES has always been a best-selling model for the brand, they’ve always played it safe in the styling department, careful not to upset their… older clientele. And it’s worked, to the tune of 2.18 million cars sold since it’s launch nearly 20 years ago.
But as you can see, that’s no longer the case with the all-new 2019 Lexus ES, which ditches its vanilla styling for a decidedly sexier, sportier look to attract younger buyers (like myself) who otherwise wouldn’t give the ES a second thought. And there’s even an F Sport model – a first for the ES, for those enthusiasts who want to dial things up a notch.
Lexus recently brought us down to Nashville to drive all three of their offerings (Lexus ES 350, ES300h hybrid, and ES 350 F Sport), along with an 2018 Lexus ES 350 to compare it against, and we couldn’t wait to see if the car’s performance lived up to its looks.
Project Chief Designer Yasuo Kajino describes the look of the new ES as provocative elegance, and that’s a good way to describe it. The car still exudes that elegant luxury feel that the ES has always been known for, while adding some daring design elements that help it stand apart from the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Built on the all-new Global Architecture – K (GA-K) platform, the new ES is 2.6 inches longer, 1.8 inches wider, and 0.2 inches lower than the outgoing model, with the wheels pushed closer to the corners thanks to a two-inch longer wheelbase and wider tracks front and rear. A low front hood, fast roofline and sharply chiseled rear end complete the look.
Looks wise, I think Lexus was smart to do away with the “safe” styling of the outgoing model and giving the new ES some edginess, both literally and figuratively. I don’t know that my 85-year old aunt (who drives an ’18 ES 350) may feel the same way, but Lexus as a brand is trying to reach a broader audience, especially with the F Sport model.
Both the ES 350 and ES 350 F Sport are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, a healthy increase in power (+34 hp, +19 lb-ft) compared to the previous generation V6. In addition to the boost in power, the ES 350 also benefits from a new 8-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission, which has been tuned to deliver crisp, precisely timed shifts with quick responses.
The 2019 ES 350 serves up a 0-60 time of 6.6 seconds, which is half a second quicker than the outgoing model. Sure, it’s not going to win any drag races out there, but it feels suitable quick on the road, and we were never left wanting for more power. Paddle shifters let you shift on the fly, should you feel the need to get your Speed Racer on.
The ES300h hybrid model puts out a modest 215 horsepower, with a leisurely 0-60 time of 8.1 seconds. While it’s not that quick off the line, it feels fine around town, and it’s a respectable option for those willing to give up a bit of performance in return for better gas mileage (with an impressive 44 mpg combined).
Perhaps the biggest surprise about the 2019 ES though is just how well it handles, even in base trim. Winding through the twisties of Natchez Trace Parkway, it was remarkable how poised the ES felt, turning in sharply and eagerly, with no body roll or squealing tires. We then took a 2018 ES through the same route, and it was a more dramatic affair, with tons of understeer and the tires howling for mercy. The difference is night and day!
The ES has always been about quiet comfort, and the 2019 model doesn’t deviate far from that tradition. Despite the improved handling, the ES still offers a very compliant ride, soaking up bumps and other road imperfections with ease. And should the need arise, you can switch the Drive Mode Select dial to “Sport” for a bit more feedback from the road.
But for those drivers who want a more engaging ride, the F Sport model is just the ticket, with an available Adaptive Variable Suspension that really changes the driving dynamic of the car. Sport+ mode also gives the ES a bit more of an exhaust note without going overboard. Even in this mode, the car is still civilized, as this is a Lexus after all.
Regardless of which model you choose, the interior of the ES is a nice place to call home, with luxurious materials (leather, wood, aluminum) throughout. 10-way power front seats are heated and ventilated, and the steering wheel is borrowed directly from the LS, featuring an ergonomic shaped rim and optional wood trim and heating elements. The interior features three color schemes, four types of trim and three different material options for the seats.
Lexus knows that staying connected is important to their tech-savvy (ie. younger) buyers, so they made sure that the ES comes equipped with everything they could possibly want. The ES is the first Lexus model to offer Apple CarPlay (seriously, it’s about time), along with in-car Amazon Alexa integration (“Alexa, how much gas do I have left?”), on-board Wi-Fi powered by Verizon, and wireless charging.
If that’s not enough, there’s an optional 1,800-watt, 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system that is pretty incredible. We’ve long been fans of Mark Levinson systems, and this one is no exception. Audiophiles, prepare to be amazed!
And last but not least, lets talk about safety. All Lexus ES models come with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 standard, which includes unparalleled safety features like Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Road Sign Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, and more.
The all-new 2019 Lexus ES represents a dramatic shift from the previous ES’s, shattering their “old person’s car” image with its edgier styling and improved performance. The challenge they face (much like Buick) is trying to shake that preconceived notion, which is an uphill battle. But those who do give the ES a chance will be pleasantly surprised, as it’s a real game changer.
My only complaint lies with the Lexus Remote Touch Interface, which uses trackpad to control the infotainment system, since the screen is set so far back in the dash. It is REALLY hard to use while driving without taking your eyes off of the road, and I really wish Lexus would just bring back the touchscreen already.
The 2019 Lexus ES rolls into dealerships this September, with pricing expected to similar to the outgoing model, with a starting price just shy of $40,000. (Edit: Official pricing has been announced, with the Lexus ES 350 starting at $39,500, the Lexus ES 300h starting at $41,310, and the ES 350 F SPORT starting at $44,035).
Visit www.lexus.com for more information.
2018 BMW 640i Gran Turismo Blurs The Line Between Coupe And Wagon
BMW seems determined to change the definitions for automotive segments. All of their even-numbered X vehicles, for example, are “sport activity vehicles”–not quite crossovers and not quite coupes. The new BMW 640i Gran Turismo is along that same vein, being not quite a four-door coupe and not quite a station wagon. It’s something in between that.
The BMW 640i GT is, regardless of what segment it fits within, a beautiful car. For a week, we drove the Gran Turismo and were glad to see that it wasn’t the odd mashup the old 5 Series GT had been. This new GT is based on the 6 Series sedan, so it’s a bit larger and more powerful.
The 2018 BMW 640i Gran Turismo is powered by the same 3.0-liter turbocharged six that is in the 640i Gran Coupe. That engine produces 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Power runs to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive is standard. The GT needs that power, as it’s fairly bulky, weighing in at over 4,200 pounds at the curb. It’s size and weight are balanced by a long wheelbase of 121 inches, though, and the engine produces its power early in the RPM band, making for quick acceleration.
From zero to 60 mph, the BMW 640i GT sprints to speed in about five seconds. That’s a pretty fair shake in anyone’s book. Handling in the 2018 640i Gran Turismo is also good, thanks to that long wheelbase and bulk, which translate to predictable glides through turns and easy power delivery thanks to AWD. There are better, faster options for fast driving and cornering, of course, but given its size and versatility, the GT does very well for itself.
Where this new BMW really shines is in everyday driving. The 640i GT is really comfortable, confident, and easy to live with. It gives enough feedback on the road to remain engaging, but doesn’t insist on spirited driving at all times or that the driver and passengers feel every road bump and crevice. It’s smooth and well-balanced. Add on the Dynamic Handling package and it gets even better, with more road-hugging (still sans the jarring) and steering appeal.
There’s a single trim level for the 2018 BMW 640i Gran Turismo, but it’s very well-equipped in its base $70,000 price point. It includes things like LED lighting, 19-inch wheels, keyless everything, rear air suspension for load-leveling and road absorption, a panoramic sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, and infotainment. That tech is on a big 10.2-inch touchscreen with two USB ports and a wireless charging pad. Not to mention a 12-speaker stereo system. Forward collision warning, low-speed automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane departure warning are also standard.
In the upper crust, all-the-goodies model we drove, the price jumps to about $84,000, but adds the Dynamic Handling package, aluminum interior trim, power-adjustable rear seats, 360° parking sensors, automated park assist, seat massage, Harman Kardon/Bowers & Wilkins sound, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, and more.
The 2018 BMW 640i GT has a great feel on the road, is exceptionally comfortable inside, and has a bit more style and versatility than a standard sedan. It’s fastback look is unique and really cool, compared to the standard sedan or a larger hatchback. Cargo space stands at about 45 cubic feet with the rear seats up and about 60 cubes with them folded down.
Seating in the back is great for adults, if there aren’t more than two. Three across is a bit of a squeeze and the center seat doesn’t have much legroom either. Kids will be fine in the back of the BMW 640i GT.
The 2018 640i Gran Turismo is a great vehicle that’s a big step up from the 5 Series-based GT it replaces. It’s nicer to look at, more enjoyable to drive, and uniquely cool in its own right. We’ll take it.
The 2019 Acura NSX Receives Mild Facelift, Better Chassis, And Orange Paint
It has only been a few years since the Acura NSX was finally released, but not content to sit on their laurels, the company has introduced a handful of updates for the 2019 model to make the high-performance supercar even better than before!
Visually, you’ll be able to distinguish a 2019 Acura NSX model from it’s new body-color front grille (in place of the silver one) and high-gloss treatments for the front grille surround, front air intake mesh and rear bumper outlet mesh. High-gloss treatment is also applied to the available carbon fiber decklid spoiler and carbon fiber exterior package – including a front chin spoiler, side sill garnish and rear diffuser.
But that’s not all. The 2019 NSX is also available in a striking new color called Thermal Orange Pearl (shown above). Buyers can further accent the NSX with optional carbon ceramic metallic brakes with orange calipers. Standard brakes can now be fitted with red calipers.
Inside, the 2019 NSX can be optioned with an Indigo blue Semi-aniline leather and Alcantara theme. Buyers can also add a red color option for the semi-aniline (non-Alcantara) power sport seats, in addition to ebony. Additionally, a number of features (navigation, premium audio, front and rear proximity sensors, etc) are now standard options.
What we’re most excited about though is the improvements to the car’s performance, which build on an already impressive platform and turn it up to 11. While the powertrain remains the same (573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque) engineers modified chassis components, tires and software tuning to make NSX even more responsive to the will of the driver, elevating performance driving in all circumstances, from daily driving to the circuit.
Chassis enhancements include larger front and rear stabilizer bars (increasing stiffness by 26 percent in front, 19 percent at the rear) and 21 percent stiffer rear toe link bushings. Rear hub rigidity has increased 6 percent. Software calibrations to the NSX’s Sport Hybrid SH-AWD power unit, active magnetorheological dampers, electric power steering and VSA settings capitalize on this new hardware, as well as the grippier tire setup.
The 2019 NSX rides on new Continental SportContact 6 tires, developed exclusively for the NSX. The new tires feature a revised tread pattern, construction and rubber compound for improved handling performance in all conditions—including wet weather driving. The track-focused Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R remains an optional dealer-installed tire.
So how much will the new model set you back? The 2019 NSX starts at $157,500 (an increase of $1,500 over the 2018 model) with $4,700 in previously optional content now standard. So you’re actually saving money on the 2019 model.
The 2019 BMW Z4 Roadster Makes It’s World Debut At Pebble Beach
Now one year later, BMW returns to Pebble Beach to unveil the all-new 2019 BMW Z4 M40i First Edition, the latest chapter in the history of BMW Z Roadsters. And while it doesn’t look quite as dramatic as the concept, the production Z4 retains the athletic proportions and new emotional design language that takes the classic roadster concept into the world of tomorrow.
The open-top two-seater was designed with sporting intentions, with a central sitting position for the driver, a low center of gravity, and perfectly balanced 50:50 weight distribution.
Vertically stacked headlights, the BMW kidney grille sporting a mesh design, a long clamshell hood stretching over the front wheels, large air breathes on the front wheel arches and the distinctive spoiler integrated into the rear lid all contribute towards the characteristic look of the new BMW Z4.
The BMW Z4 M40i First Edition offers a number of unique accoutrements over a “regular” Z4, including a Frozen Orange Metallic paint job, a textile soft top in anthracite with silver effect, 19-inch alloy wheels in a two-tone design, and black mirror caps. The 2019 Z4 First Edition also includes a head-up display, adaptive LED headlights, two high-resolution digital displays, and a Harman Kardon surround sound system.
Powering the Z4 M40i First Edition Roadster is an updated version of BMW’s turbocharged 3.0 liter inline 6-cylinder engine. While BMW hasn’t finalized output numbers just yet, we expect something around 380HP and 370lb-ft of torque, good for an (estimated) 0-60 time of under 4.4 seconds. A BMW M tuned sports suspension with electronically controlled dampers, M Sport braking system and an electronically controlled M Sport rear differential should make for one fun and exciting ride in the twisties.
The BMW Z4 M40i will arrive in dealerships in the second quarter of 2019, and full details on the Z4 will be announced on September 18, 2018.
What do you think of the 2019 BMW Z4 Roadster?
Photo credit: BMW