In a 2019 update, Lexus took the opportunity to instill some true driving character into what are now the 2020 Lexus ES 350 and the ES 350h hybrid. Although the ES shares DNA with the Toyota Avalon, it’s a much more luxurious interpretation of a large sedan. Even in its regular guise, the ES displays some performance chops, particularly around acceleration. Stepping up to the F Sport and picking up the optional adaptive suspension delivers a real sport-sedan driving experience. In any trim, the ES 350/350h is worthy of the Lexus badge.
What’s New for 2020?
Because Lexus totally redesigned the ES for 2019, there is very little in the way of change for 2020. See the 2020 Lexus ES models for sale near you
What We Like
- Huge back seat
- Standard safety tech
- Surprisingly sharp driving manners
- Powerful engine for the money
- Thrifty hybrid model
What We Don’t
- Frustrating Remote Touch interface
- All-wheel drive is unavailable
- Cabin feels somewhat confining
The 2020 Lexus ES 350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine good for a robust 302 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic and FWD are standard. The estimated fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg in combined driving. This lowers to 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined with the F Sport.
The ES 300h hybrid features an electric motor, a nickel metal hydride battery pack located under the back seat and a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. The total system output is 215 hp. The vehicle’s estimated fuel economy is 43 mpg city/45 mpg hwy/44 mpg combined. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you’d save $650 per year on average by going with the hybrid rather than the V6.
Standard Features & Options
Both the Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h are available in base, Luxury and Ultra Luxury trim levels. The ES 350 is also available as the F Sport. Prices reflect the $1,025 factory delivery charge.
Standard equipment on the base ES 350 ($40,925) and ES 300h ($42,785) includes 17-in wheels, bi-LED headlights, automatic highbeams, a sunroof, proximity entry and push-button start, forward collision warning with pedestrian/bicycle detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, 8-way power front seats (with 2-way power lumbar), NuLuxe simulated leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, four USB ports, the Remote Touch infotainment system (an 8-in display, touchpad controller), 4G Wi-Fi, Lexus Enform emergency communications, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa connectivity and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and HD and satellite radios.
The Premium package adds automatic wipers, heated and ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, power folding outboard mirrors and driver memory settings. This package is included in all of the below packages as well.
The Luxury (ES 350 $43,780; ES 300h $46,635) includes the Premium package plus leather upholstery, heated mirrors, acoustic side glass, a wood trim and ambient interior lighting.
The Ultra Luxury (ES 350 $44,775; ES 300h $45,060) adds all of the above plus an upgraded suspension, a hands-free power trunk, upgraded leather upholstery, manual rear side sunshades and a power rear sunshade.
Finally, the ES 350 F Sport ($45,660) includes the Premium package plus a unique styling and interior trim, 19-in wheels, the Ultra Luxury’s upgraded suspension, enhanced engine noise, a digital gauge cluster (shared with the LC and other F Sport Lexus models) and sport seats. Exclusive options include an adaptive suspension and a sport steering wheel available with or without heating.
There are a multitude of stand-alone items available, but their availability depends on the region in which you live. Some may also only be available in conjunction with other options or packages. These options include 18-in wheels, parking sensors, enhanced parking sensors with pedestrian detection and a surround-view parking camera system, a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, the hands-free power trunk, a panoramic sunroof, upgraded "Triple Beam" adaptive LED headlights, a head-up display, the power rear sunshade, wireless smartphone charging, a Mark Levinson audio system upgrade and a navigation system that brings with it a 12.3-in display for the Remote Touch system.
Every ES comes with an impressive list of safety features beyond the typical stability control, antilock brakes and 10 airbags. Standard accident avoidance tech includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian/bicycle detection and automatic emergency braking, an advanced lane-keeping assist system and a parking automatic braking system. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is optional.
The 2020 Lexus ES was an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 2019 Top Safety Pick+ and was awarded the agency’s top score of ‘Good’ in all its crash tests. In government crash tests, the ES received a top score of 5 Stars for its overall rating.
Behind the Wheel
Key changes to the suspension and steering designs have yielded a luxury sedan that’s far more responsive and communicative. Yes it’s a big sedan, but in the F Sport at least, it manages to shrink around you. The 2020 ES feels fundamentally different behind the wheel compared to past versions, with a feel that’s consistent with its pricier LS and LC siblings. The ES is still front-wheel drive, though, which results in some pulling from the steering wheel during aggressively sampling of the 302-hp V6 — a sensation known as torque steer. AWD would correct this, but it’s not available. Most competitors offer this, and it would improve the driving experience in snowier climates and handling overall.
In terms of the ride, we only tested the F Sport with the adaptive suspension option, and although we found it perfectly comfortable and well damped, you definitely do feel road imperfections more than in previous ES models. Without driving a standard model, we just don’t know if the latest ES will continue to offer the degree of comfort repeat customers have come to expect.
It will, however, offer the same impeccable cabin construction. The various new buttons, knobs and switches may not be made out of the same high-end glossy materials as those in the LS and the LC, but they move with the same rich fluidity. We also like the functionality of the deep center armrest bin, clever cupholders, available smartphone charging pad and separate smartphone holder.
However, we do not like the Remote Touch interface that is standard on every ES. Its touchpad controls constantly frustrate, and although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are thankfully now standard, the marriage between these systems is hardly happy, with certain functions, such as selecting a Playlist, being nearly impossible to accomplish. If there’s one reason to seriously think twice about the ES, it’s Remote Touch.
In terms of space, the power driver seat offers an abundance of travel, the back seat is enormous and the 16.7 cu-ft. trunk is one of the biggest at this luxury price point. Better still, the ES 300h now has the same-sized trunk. The cabin can feel a little confining, though, due to its raked pillars and a high beltline.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Toyota Avalon – Also all-new for 2019 and mechanically related to the ES 350, the Avalon won’t offer the style, brand recognition or driving experience of its Lexus sibling, but it will save you money.
2020 Buick LaCrosse – If the new ES 350 has become a little too sporty and less comfort-focused for your liking, the Buick LaCrosse is a handsome, well-made large sedan that can seriously be considered as an ES alternative.
Used Lexus GS – If you’re looking for a used Lexus sedan with a little more driving verve, we’d suggest skipping a used ES and considering the GS instead. It’s a bit bigger, more luxurious and more engaging to drive.
If you don’t care about performance, seriously consider the hybrid. You should save enough on gas to earn back the 300h’s modest price premium within three years — and make far fewer trips to the gas station. If you do care about performance, get the F Sport. It makes the ES feel like a junior LS, which is a very good thing. Find a Lexus ES for sale