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2018 Lexus ES: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Lexus ES, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Lexus ES Review

Amid the madness of modern life, the 2018 Lexus ES is a calming influence. Owners prefer to enjoy the cabin’s appointments than the next challenging corner. And that’s perfectly fine. The ES is an entry-level luxury sedan that’s slightly larger than midsize. It’s most definitely not an on-the-limit driver’s machine or an over-the-top status symbol.

Available with a conventional drivetrain or a hybrid setup, the ES provides generous space for back-seat passengers as well as plenty of room for occupants up front. Front-wheel drive gives the chassis a secure, stable and predictable feel. This is a car with an understated sense of classiness, plus comfort, safety and serenity — all without attracting any unwanted attention.

What’s New for 2018?

A new Premier options bundle is introduced for the ES 350. Lexus Enform Safety Connect (featuring automatic collision notification, stolen-vehicle location, emergency assistance button and roadside assistance) is now free for the first 10 years (it was previously complimentary for one year). See the 2018 Lexus ES models for sale near you

What We Like

Spacious, quiet and comfortable; excellent hybrid fuel economy; perfect crash-test scores; Lexus build quality

What We Don’t

As exciting as a nap on the couch; blind spot monitoring should be standard in a luxury vehicle like this

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The ES 350 uses a 3.5-liter V6 that develops 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the sole transmission; no problem there, it’s smooth and dependable. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), consumption is 21 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined.

The ES 300h features a hybrid gas/electric power system consisting of a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, electric motor, battery pack and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Total energy is 200 hp (Lexus does not quote torque), and the EPA rates the ES 300h at 40 mpg city/39 mpg hwy/40 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Lexus ES is available in two forms: the ES 350 with the conventional V6 and the hybrid-powered ES 300h.

The ES 350 ($39,945) comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/start, three selectable driving modes (Normal, Eco and Sport), a sunroof, heated side mirrors with puddle lamps, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera and LED low beams/running lights/fog lights/taillights. The cabin sports synthetic, perforated leather upholstery (NuLuxe), piano-black trim, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and a self-dimming rearview mirror. Metallic, pearl and mica exterior paint colors have a scratch-resistant clear coat on the lower body panels at no extra cost.

Tech toys include Lexus Enform Remote smartphone app compatibility, 3.5-in color driver information display, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free iPhone voice control, 7-in touchscreen, 8-speaker sound system with iPod/USB connectivity, 6-CD changer, satellite radio and a universal garage door opener.

The ES 300h ($42,815) has 17-in alloys of a different design, a concealed exhaust outlet and hybrid-specific gauges, information displays and badging.

Individual options include bi-LED head lamps, heated/ventilated seats, heated wood/leather steering wheel, bamboo trim, powered trunk lid, parking sensors, powered rear sunshade, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and 18-in wheels.

The Navigation package includes voice recognition, a hard-drive-based navigation system, an 8-in central display and the mouselike Remote Touch controller. This package can be bundled with the Mark Levinson audio system — an 835-watt surround-sound setup with 15 speakers and DVD audio/video. The Levinson system is also available by itself.

The new-for-2018 Premier package for the ES 350 brings driver’s-seat memory settings, heated/ventilated seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors front and rear, and wood trim. The Luxury package adds leather upholstery. The Ultra Luxury package throws in a panoramic sunroof, powered rear sunshade/manual door sunshades, ambient lighting, powered trunk lid, driver’s-seat cushion extender, front passenger-seat memory settings and higher-grade leather trim.

The Premium package for the ES 300h has driver’s-seat memory settings, a power-adjustable steering wheel and choices of wood trim. The hybrid’s Luxury package adds leather upholstery and heated/ventilated front seats.

Trunk space in the ES 350 is 15.2 cu ft., dropping to 12.1 cu ft. in the ES 300h because of its battery pack.


The Lexus ES comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, 10 airbags, lane-departure alert and collision mitigation with adaptive cruise control.

The ES scored a perfect five stars across the board in government crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gave the ES its highest "Good" rating in all categories.

Behind the Wheel

The dashboard features high-tech instrumentation set among modern lines that also come across as classy. Material quality is excellent, and some surfaces even have exposed stitching. The optional Remote Touch interface takes some getting used to, but software refinements and the "Enter" and "Back" buttons help a lot.

The front seats provide adequate support and rear-passenger space is exemplary, particularly in regard to legroom. The standard NuLuxe imitation-leather upholstery looks pleasant and durable enough to consider skipping the optional real stuff.

The ES 350’s V6 has been a Toyota/Lexus mainstay. It’s still a fantastic engine, ready to emit a subdued growl when revved hard. Not typical ES driver behavior, of course, but it’s good to know the performance is there. The ES 300h’s hybrid system is shared by the Toyota Camry, but 40 mpg is still remarkable for this "slightly larger-than-midsize premium sedan" segment, and there’s adequate thrust for situations such as merging onto a freeway.

The ES remains a traditional luxury car with a creamy, tranquil ride. Which is just how buyers like it. And for good reason. With virtually every other manufacturer pushing the "fun to drive" phrase toward meaninglessness, it’s refreshing to get into a car that’s all about making its occupants feel as comfortable as possible.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Nissan Maxima — Generous with space, but leans toward the sportier end of the driving-experience spectrum.

2018 Toyota Avalon — Priced lower than the ES, the roomy, stylish Avalon offers the same powertrains and many of the same features.

 2018 Hyundai Azera — With all the bells and whistles, the Azera stacks up well against the ES 350 and costs less.

2018 Kia Cadenza — Lots of standard equipment and passenger space. Not as sophisticated as a Lexus.

Used Lexus LS — An LS with low miles could be bought for the price of a new ES. It will probably be a few years old, but the rear- or all-wheel-drive V8-powered LS is swifter and even smoother than its smaller sibling.

Autotrader’s Advice

The hybrid doesn’t cost much more than the regular version, but it will still take some time and some miles to recoup the difference in fuel savings. Both models come with a lot of standard equipment before delving into the options, but make sure blind spot monitoring is included. An updated ES is anticipated in the next year or two.

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