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First Drive: 2019 Lexus ES 350

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2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport in Heat Blue

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.

2019 Lexus ES 300 Hybrid in Mica Red

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.

2019 Lexus ES 300 Hybrid in Deep Blue Mica

Performance:

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!

2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport in White Nova

Comfort:

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.

2019 Lexus ES 300 Hybrid in Graphite Black

Technology:

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.

2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport interior in Flare Red Hadori

The Verdict:

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.

2019 Lexus ES 300 Hybrid in Sonic Titanium

Visit www.lexus.com for more information.

Sujeet Patel is the founder of Guys Gab, and one of the biggest automotive enthusiast you'll ever meet. He's been fortunate enough to turn his passion for cars into a full-time job. Like they say, "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life."

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The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Gets A Substantial Power Boost, Higher Redline

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2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata

When we drove the current-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata, it didn’t take long for us to fall for it, as it offers one of the purest driving experiences out there. In fact, we described the ND as “the most fun you can have for under $30K”. And that’s a statement I’ll stand by today.

If you’re looking for a car that will deliver maximum smiles per hour as you go flat out through the twisties, it honestly doesn’t get much better than this. Seriously, if I lived in an area with fun roads (and less snow), there’d be a Miata parked in my garage right now.

Still.. a little extra power would be nice, as the Miata only has 155 horsepower on tap, which is less than the Fiat 124 Spider, even though they’re essentially the same cars!

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata

But that’s about to change. The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata gets a substantial bump in power, with 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, with a richer torque curve throughout the car’s entire rev range. And the redline has increased from 6,800 rpm to 7,500 rpm.

While an additional 26 HP might not sound like much, it’s all about the power-to-weight ratio. The Miata is a lightweight car in it’s own right, weighing in at 2,300 pounds and change, which is 1,000 less than most “regular” cars. Coupled with the better torque curve, it’s going to make a HUGE difference in the way the car drives. Zoom-Zoom!

Mazda says the new MX-5 is quicker, more responsive and aims to be more engaging to drive, adhering to Mazda’s unique Jinba Ittai — “horse and rider as one” — engineering philosophy.

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Beyond the engine improvements, the 2019 MX-5 introduces an available brown canvas soft top, new black metallic 17-inch wheels, a newly telescoping steering wheel (30mm of travel), easier-to-open doors and revised door stops and revised cupholders and seat levers. There are also some additional safety features.

The 2019 Mazda MX-5 will be available in the U.S. this fall, with pricing, packaging and full specifications to be announced closer to on-sale timing.

Of course, the age old question.. Go with a new 2019 Miata, or get a left-over ’18 model for a big discount? Decisions, decisions..

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The 2019 BMW 8 Series Is The Luxury Super Coupe We’ve Been Waiting For

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2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe

When BMW unveiled the Concept 8 Series last year, it caused quite a stir for obvious reasons. After all, it had been nearly 20 years since the last 8 Series rolled off the production line back in 1999, and we had long given up on BMW ever bringing back the storied nameplate.

But was the Bavarian car company just teasing us with another sexy concept that wouldn’t see the light of day, as is so often the case?

Today, we got our answer, with the introduction of the all-new 2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe, a luxury sports coupe that is ready to take on the competition with outstanding performance, beautiful design and state of the art technology.

2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe

The directive for the all-new BMW 8 Series Coupe’s design was to provide a thrilling driving experience. Body, powertrain and suspension were honed to achieve the agility, precision and poise expected of a top-class luxury sports coupe.

Styling wise, the production model stays fairly true to the concept, exuding “a very modern form of sporting appeal beautifully blended with an air of exclusiveness and sensual allure.” The 8 Series is the first model to show off BMW’s new design language that is focusing on modernity and emotional engagement.

2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe

The car’s low-slung design, an elongated silhouette with a slim window pillars, a roofline with a distinctive “double-bubble” contouring, a long wheelbase and wide track are the defining elements of the all-new BMW 8 Series Coupe’s proportions.

The first variant to launch, the BMW M850i xDrive, is powered by a new twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 that puts out a healthy 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, launching the car from 0-60 mph in just 3.6 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. And it will serve up an enthralling soundtrack along the way.

2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe interior

As the name suggests, the BMW M850i is equipped with xDrive rear-biased intelligent all-wheel drive, and it’s mated to an eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission that has been updated with wider ratios and sportier gear shifts. Shift paddles on the steering wheel are included as standard for manual gear selection, while a Launch Control function allows for accelerating from a standing start with maximum available traction.

Being BMW’s flagship vehicle, the car will come loaded with luxury features and technology, more than there’s space for here to go on about. But rest assured, you’ll be rolling around in the lap of luxury, and the envy of all of your neighbors.

Pricing for the BMW 8 Series Coupe will be released closer to its launch date this Fall.

What do you guys think about the 2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe?

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New 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350 Would Get Carroll’s Stamp Of Approval

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2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

When the 2018 Ford Mustang launched last Fall, there were a number of models for buyers to choose from (EcoBoost, GT, Performance Pack 1, Performance Pack 2, Bullitt). But one model that was noticeably absent from the list was the track-ready Shelby GT350.

Like many others, I figured that Ford Performance was focused on the upcoming 2020 Shelby GT500, and that the Shelby GT350 would ultimately get phased out. But Ford surprised us the other day when they unveiled a new 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350 at a media event at M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan.

As you can see from these photos, the Shelby GT350 doesn’t adopt the 2018 Mustang’s styling updates, continues on with the same exterior design as before. Nor does it receive any changes under the hood, sticking with the glorious 5.2-liter flat-plane-crank V8 that puts out 526HP at 8,250 rpm and 429 lb-ft. Because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

So what is new? Ford Performance engineers and designers incorporated the latest advances in tire, aerodynamics and chassis technology into the 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350.

Working exclusively with Michelin, the team also engineered new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires with a Shelby GT350-specific tread pattern and different compound to deliver more grip for significantly improved acceleration and lateral acceleration, as well as braking. These tires are wrapped around new 19-inch aluminum wheels.

An all-new rear spoiler with optional Gurney flap and optimized grille closeout was designed and tuned with experience gained from wind tunnel development of the Ford Performance Mustang road course racing cars and upcoming Shelby GT500 model. Together, they deliver significant rear greater aerodynamic efficiency when equipped with the new optional Gurney flap on the rear spoiler, which will be available after launch.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

Upgrades to Shelby GT350’s standard MagneRide active suspension complement the aero and tire enhancements with recalibrated springs and revised damping to take full advantage of the improvements.

Stopping power is provided by six-piston front and four-piston rear caliper Brembo brakes. For added control and improved driver feedback, Shelby GT350’s electric power-assist steering and three-mode electronic stability control settings feature enhancements taken from Ford Performance’s hundreds of hours of competitive track testing.

The result of all of these tweaks and adjustments? A more balanced, higher-performing car on the straightaways and especially in the corners.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

“The new Shelby GT350 is our ultimate track Mustang. We’ve stuck to Carroll Shelby’s original formula for winning championships and made our Shelby GT350 even better with the latest in race-proven aerodynamics, tire and chassis technology,” said Hermann Salenbauch, global director for Ford Performance vehicle programs.

Honestly, I didn’t think the Shelby GT350 could get any better than it already was, but clearly I was wrong. The new model will be the benchmark for the competition, and I can’t wait to get some seat time with it.. hopefully on a race track!

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