The Lexus ES debuted in 1989 for the 1990 model year as the ES 250, which was little more than a badge-swapped Toyota Camry. Lexus quickly regrouped for the 1992 model year with the release of the ES 300, but it wasn’t until the 2002 model year that Lexus began separating the ES from the Camry it was based upon. The ES went through another change with the release of the ES 330 for the 2004 model year, and then Lexus released the ES 350 for the 2007 model year. For the 2013 model year, the ES 350 received a full overhaul, and now with its third birthday on the horizon, Lexus released a refreshed version of the luxury sedan.

The new Lexus ES, which arrived in time for the 2016 model year, debuted at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show. As with most facelifts, visual updates are mild while the drivetrain was carried over from last year’s model. Will this revision help or hinder the best-selling sedan in the midsize luxury segment?

Updated 07/10/2015: Lexus offered details on the North American version of the new ES. As expected, the model will be offered in two version: ES 350 and ES300 h. Both models will be put on sale later in the fall.

Continue reading my review of the 2016 Lexus ES to find out.

  • 2016 Lexus ES
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V6(Est.)
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    270 (Est.)
  • Torque @ RPM:
    250 (Est.)
  • Displacement:
    3.5 L (Est.)
  • 0-60 time:
    6.5 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    130 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    38000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Exterior
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Even though the overall shape and size of the ES remained unchanged, the revision brought Lexus’ new "spindle grille" to the sedan’s front fascia. Now a bolder, one-piece unit, the new grille is framed by satin chrome trim and flanked by revised LED headlamps that are slimmer.

The revision brought Lexus' new "spindle grille" to the sedan's front fascia.

Down below is a reshaped bumper with chrome surrounds for the foglamps. Around back, Lexus replaced the old taillights with new units featuring L-shaped clusters; rectangular exhaust outlets (not available on 300h model), revised chrome trim, and a new trunk lid spoiler.

Other changes include new optional 17-inch alloy wheels and four new exterior colors: Autumn Shimmer, Nightfall Mica, Caviar, and Eminent White Pearl.

All told, the 2016 ES is more of a refresh than a compete overhaul, through which the sedan was updated to Lexus’ new corporate look. The one-piece grille and revised headlamps make it significantly more aggressive than the previous model, while the added chrome in the front fascia makes it a bit more stylish, two features that luxury sedan customers are likely to appreciate.

Interior

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Interior
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2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Interior
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2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Interior
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The cabin of the 2015 Lexus ES is a decent place to spend time, but some upgrades here and there were needed to keep the sedan fresh. Though it didn’t meddle with the design, Lexus did add some new features and finishes, including Linear Dark Mocha wood, Illustrious Piano Black wood (replaces the previous Piano Black), and Bamboo with a matt instead of a gloss finish. There’s also a Flaxen interior that combines light brown upholstery with a black dashboard and two-tone door panels.

Moving over to tech, both the ES 350 and ES 300h received new connectivity with Lexus Enform Remote and Lexus Safety System+, combining a Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Also, the Mark Levinson premium sound system and the panoramic roof are now available with all option packages.

Drivetrain

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Drivetrain
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As expected, the refresh left the ES’ drivetrain unaltered, meaning both the ES 350 and the ES 300h continue with last year’s engines and transmissions.

The ES 350 carries on with Toyota's venerable 3.5-liter V-6 generating 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque.

Specifically, the ES 350 carries on with Toyota’s venerable 3.5-liter V-6 generating 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The unit features the same VVT-i variable valve timing system and mates to the same six-speed automatic transmission. That being said, expect EPA ratings to remain at 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined.

As for the ES 300h, it continues with the same hybrid combo delivering 200 horsepower. Power comes from a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine (156 horses) and an electric motor, and travels to the wheels through an electronically controlled CVT. There are three modes to choose from, including an EV mode that allows short-distance drives using only battery power.

Combined EPA fuel economy remains identical to last year’s figure at 40 mpg. As you might have already guessed, performance remained unchanged too. The ES 300h will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds and hit a top speed of 112 mph.

Prices

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Exterior
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In 2015, the ES 350 started out at $37,700 and the ES 300h based from $40,580. I look for these prices to increase slightly as we head into the new model year. Expect to see the ES 350 crest the $38,000 mark and the ES 300h to run slightly higher than $41,000.

Competition

2014 Infiniti Q50

2014 Infiniti Q50 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The Infiniti Q50 is more performance-oriented than the Lexus ES, but it is also very well equipped. It comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and fog lights, dual-zone climate control, leatherette seating, eight-way power front seats, and the Infiniti InTouch infotainment system.

The Q50’s 35.1 inches of legroom does fall short when compared to the Lexus’ 40 inches. The Q50 also falls short in terms of total cabin room at just 101.9 cubic feet to the ES’ 112.2 cubes.

Where the Infiniti pulls away is in performance, as its base 3.7-liter V-6 cranks out 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, This allows the Q50 to accelerate to 60 mph about one second quicker than the Lexus, but it does sacrifice fuel economy. Buyers also have the option of adding all-wheel drive, something the Lexus doesn’t offer.

The Q50h hybrid is even more powerful, pushing 360 horsepower from its 3.7-liter V-6 and electric motor, and it is even quicker to 60 mph. However, its fuel economy isn’t great for a hybrid (31 mpg combined) and the extra heft that the hybrid system adds makes it harder to handle in the corners.

Click here to read our full review of the Infiniti Q50.

2015 Acura TLX

2015 - 2016 Acura TLX High Resolution Exterior
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The TLX is a tough new competitor in the luxury sedan realm, and it is set to give the ES fits. In terms of equipment, the TLX comes standard with many of the same goodies as the ES. These include 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, dual-zone auto climate control, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and leatherette seating.

Under its hood, the TLX has two options. The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 206 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque is no match for the V-6 power of the ES 350, and its 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway can’t touch the ES 300h’s fuel economy. The 3.5-liter V-6, on the other hand, produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, which easily bests the ES 350.

With the four-cylinder engine, the TLX starts from $31,445, while the V-6 engine jumps the base price to $35,320.

Read our full review of the Acura TLX here.

Conclusion

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Exterior
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Though Lexus just redesigned the ES for the 2013 model year, its looks are pretty flat already. Models like the Q50 and the TLX are pretty modern and sexy, so it was time for Lexus to do something to keep up. With this refresh, which brings a sportier appearance and more convenience features inside the cabin, the ES is poised to continue as the leader of the midsize luxury sedan segment.

  • Leave it
    • * Slightly underpowered relative to its competitors
    • * TLX undercuts its price

Updated History

Updated 04/20/2015: Lexus unveiled the new, 2016 ES luxury sedan at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show.

Press Release

As the best-selling sedan model in Lexus’ impressive stable, the ES has come to define the very essence of near luxury sedan. It’s evident that this trend will continue as Lexus unveiled the exciting new 2016 ES at the Shanghai International Motor Show today, alongside the RX 200t luxury utility vehicle which is also making its world premiere. The 2016 ES features an exciting, sportier attitude, highlighted by elegant yet progressive exterior styling, an enhanced luxurious interior and the new safety system, Lexus Safety System+.

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Exterior
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There’s a new 2.0L, direct-injection powerplant that will broaden the new ES’s global appeal (not available in U.S. market), while enhanced dynamics and upgraded technology packages will keep it on the forefront, giving both drivers and passengers the confidence to traverse any distance in safety and utmost comfort.

“Our development concept was ‘Take the ES to the next level of elegance and progressive luxury,’” said Toshio Asahi, ES Chief Engineer. “The Lexus ES is renowned for its innovative exterior and interior design. We wanted to build on that and make it more elegant, and tailor the car with the latest technology Lexus has to offer. We’re confident that the new Lexus ES will be a leader in its class and attract a lot of attention.”

An Elegant, Dynamic New Look
For 2016, Lexus designers have cast a daring new form with the refreshed ES. A commanding front fascia that features Lexus’s trademark spindle grille, framed in combination with accentuated brilliant satin chrome, gives this new ES a new sense of luxury and instantly distinguishes it from the crowd. Accompanying the grille is a pair of newly designed headlights, now equipped with LED projector technology, while iconic “L”-shaped arrowhead Daytime Running Lights (DRL) extend outside the headlight element for a distinctive look that links it with other Lexus models. Also, redesigned fog lamps areas have been relocated to the outer lower corners of the front fascia and amplify the vehicle’s wide stance.

A re-sculpted front fascia connects to the hood adding the sensation of motion even when the car is standing still. The sleek shape continues with the ES’ graceful roofline that flows effortlessly to the rear, where an improved, modern taillight design evokes the “L”-shaped theme furnishing an instantly recognizable nighttime glow. Spanning the rear is a re-stylized chrome license plate garnish that flows visually into the clear elements of the lamps to communicate the vehicle’s on-road stability. Adding a considerable amount of flair to the vehicle’s already sporty attitude are newly sculpted chrome-tipped rectangular exhaust ports.

To complement the impactful new form, two 17-inch wheels with directional spoke patterns have been developed. A branching dark gray metallic, multi-plane machined 20-spoke wheel is optional for non-hybrids, while hybrids are distinguished with a 10-spoke design with machine finish over medium gray.

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Exterior
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Four new exterior colors join the ES palette: Amber, Nightfall Mica, Caviar, and Eminent White Pearl. Like the six existing choices, each features Lexus’ innovative cutting-edge paint technology designed to allow the paint’s clear coat to heal itself even from light damage. Each of the 10 colors were carefully selected to reflect the ES’ dynamic surface and is brought to life by the renowned, multi-stage paint process that gives Lexus models their deep, jewel-like luster.

A Luxuriously Updated Cabin with New Levels of Sophistication
When it comes to luxury and refinement, Lexus has no equal. Engineered to provide driving confidence and the ultimate in comfort, the ES surrounds its occupants with a luxurious, contemporary cabin. From the sweeping dashboard reminiscent of modern architecture to highly intuitive ergonomics mated with the finest materials and surfaces, the ES cultivates a feeling of sheer quality with every touch.

The 2016 model takes luxury to the extreme with a collection of new interior color combinations, including exquisite multi-color themes that exemplify elegance. The seats are now offered in four different colors: Flaxen, Parchment, Stratus Gray and Black. Customers can choose from the three trim materials: semi-aniline leather, leather and Lexus NuLuxe.

In addition, four styles of interior trim have been carefully selected to harmonize with the color choice: Illustrious Piano Black, Linear Dark Mocha Wood, Espresso Bird’s Eye Maple with Shimamoku ornamentation, and new for 2016, Bamboo now has matte finish. First appearing in the GS and LS sedans, Shimamoku is a high-end finish of luxurious wood created through a multi-step manufacturing process by highly skilled craftsmen.

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Exterior
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Furthermore, an embossed pattern has been added to the comfortable-yet-supportive seats. Additional trim enhancements to cabin-facing door surfaces and the center console unite the interior in upscale feel and design cohesion. Color-matched upholstery appears along the center console as well, coupled with a new leather boot-enclosed gear selector.

A new, sporty steering wheel provides better driving engagement. A larger 4.2-inchThin Film Transistor (TFT) color multi-information display conveniently places vital vehicle and route information as well as multimedia information front and center. To further enhance Remote Touch Interface (RTI) control, the 2016 ES adds “Enter” buttons on either side of the interface controller.

Refinement Taken to a New Level and an Expanded Engine Lineup
Since its inception, Lexus has offered quiet and smooth driving vehicles. The 2016 ES upholds that tradition with a host of improvements to provide the driver with an exciting experience.

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Interior
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For the new 2016 ES, Lexus engineers applied structural reinforcements to foster stiffness in the vehicle’s unibody construction. Adapted from the Lexus IS sports sedan, this form of chassis tuning arms the ES with enhanced ride quality and handling. Moreover, this ES adds a sound-reducing layer behind the dashboard to better isolate engine noise from the cabin.

New for 2016 in specific markets is a 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine. Engineered to meet China’s fuel economy regulations, the D4 engine will be offered in China, Russia and Taiwan. In the U.S., the luxury sedan will continue with its exceptionally smooth 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a gasoline-electric hybrid powerplant, while other markets also have a 2.5-liter L4 version. The ES now offers a range of powertrain options prioritized for fuel efficiency and power delivery, with enhanced sensitivity to the environment.

On the Cutting Edge of Safety----Lexus Safety System +
The ES offers Lexus Safety System +, which combines key innovative safety technologies into a single, networked package. Among them are the Pre-Collision System (PCS), which can detect vehicles and pedestrians, in some circumstances, by a combination of millimeter-wave radar and front-facing camera. It dispatches a warning as Brake Assist (BA) and emergency braking are activated. The Lane Departure Alert (LDA) employs a camera to keep track of visible lane marking lines on the road. If the vehicle begins to unintentionally deviate from the lane, the LDA system will notify the driver with an audio-visual alert and vibration to the steering wheel. The Automatic High Beam (AHB) senses headlights from oncoming traffic and the taillight of the car in front, automatically adjusting hi-beam and low-beam illumination to help ensure optimal forward visibility during nighttime driving. The Radar Cruise Control uses millimeter-wave radar to detect the speed of the vehicle ahead in order to adjust the cruise control speed setting accordingly, helping to maintain a preset distance. This system also uses a combination of millimeter-wave radar and camera to detect a lane change by the vehicle in front for smooth acceleration and deceleration control.

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Interior
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“With improved performance, an expanded engine lineup and a quieter and thoroughly luxurious interior wrapped in a freshened chiseled body, the new ES builds efficiently on what has made it one of the most popular luxury sedans in the world, and we are confident that this latest version of the ES will build upon its past successes,” said Asahi.

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