Until recently, the Lexus ES sedan has been classically Toyota: Pretty boring, incredibly competent and refined, and … essentially a plus-size Camry wearing a luxury badge. This changed with the arrival of the current-generation ES, which featured sleek, attractive styling and perhaps one of the best integrations of the luxury brand’s current design language (and in-your-face hourglass-shaped grille design). As a bonus, the ES grew more athletic and engaging, without sacrificing the quiet comfort it’s always been known for. Fortunately, Lexus has done nothing to the 2022 ES sedan to change any of that.
For its mid-cycle refresh (the update automakers typically gift a vehicle halfway through its life cycle), the Lexus ES sees an expected smattering of minor styling changes, tech upgrades, and fresh equipment. As before, the lineup consists of the recently introduced ES250 (with a 203-hp four-cylinder gas engine and all-wheel drive), ES350 (302-hp V-6, front-wheel drive), and the ES300h hybrid (electrically assisted, gas four-cylinder).
You Can Reach Out and Touch the Improvements
Chief among these changes is a new touchscreen infotainment display, which replaces the infernal touchpad-controlled setup of the current ES. Once endemic to Lexus products, the touchpad system is rapidly being erased from the lineup; it involved a laptop-style touch-sensitive pad on the center console that users dragged their fingers across to manipulate an on-screen cursor, like on a computer, to highlight and click on-screen widgets. If reading that left you cross-eyed, well, now you get why the setup was less than successful.
Now, instead of changing radio stations, selecting navigation inputs, or scrolling your Bluetooth-paired phone contacts as though you were using a laptop computer while driving, you can simply punch the screen with your finger. To facilitate this newfound directness, Lexus shifted the infotainment display 4.3 inches closer to the face of the dashboard (and thus closer to the driver and front-seat passenger). An 8.0-inch screen is standard, while a massive 12.3-inch display is available. The touchpad remains on the center console, but you no longer need to use it.
The Grille Stays, but There Are F’n Changes
Visually the ES sedan gains a new mesh design for that big ol’ grille, with a series of overlapping “L” shapes emanating from the central Lexus badge. Subtly revised headlights flank the grille, and out back, every ES wears a fresh rear bumper design with some minor detail changes to the exhaust outlet-mimicking elements down low. Some new wheel designs and two new gray paint colors round out the cosmetic updates.
When the current ES debuted for 2019, it was big news that it added an F Sport styling option. For 2022, Lexus is expanding the F Sport treatment deeper into the ES lineup, offering it for the first time on the ES300h, in addition to the ES250 AWD and ES350 trims. The F Sport kit includes 19-inch wheels with a dark finish, as well as a darkened grille, a trunklid spoiler, and an F Sport-branded steering wheel, front seats, and gauge cluster.
The V-6-powered ES350 F Sport model gains a new Dynamic Handling package with an electronically adaptive suspension, an extra Sport+ drive mode (on top of Eco, Normal, and Sport), and a parking assistant. Yep, we aren’t sure why the parking widget is included, but, hey, not only does the package promise sharper handling, we suppose it helps handle, um, parking spaces.
Every 2022 ES sees its braking system retuned for more linear response to pedal inputs, with gas-powered models receiving tweaks to the brake master cylinder and hybrids gaining software changes for the electric motors’ braking effect (which is activated by the brake pedal when slowing, so that the electric motors act as generators to recoup lost energy and top off the battery). If “foot stability and confidence” were issues for ES drivers before, then they’ll be happy to know Lexus fits the ES with a larger brake pedal. Likewise, Lexus added a cross brace to the rear suspension for a tighter feel and better torsional rigidity.
Safe Is as Safe Does
As before, the 2022 Lexus ES comes standard with the Lexus Safety System+ suite of active safety features. Only now the ES upgrades to the latest version of the system, LSS+ 2.5, which can detect forward collisions with other vehicles, objects, and pedestrians and bicyclists from further away. It also offers an Intersection Turning Assist system to help drivers avoid turning left in front of oncoming traffic (the system also will keep an eye out for pedestrians through right turns). A new Emergency Steering Assist feature is intended to help keep the car stable and help it avoid inadvertent lane departures during “an emergency evasive steering maneuver.”
Finally, the adaptive cruise control feature gains Curve Speed Reduction tech, which slows the ES through certain road curves and bends for a greater sense of smoothness (Lexus also notes it’s improved the car’s lane-centering function).
These minor tweaks to the ES family are welcome additions to this mainstay midsize luxury sedan. Look for the updated 2022 Lexus ES250, ES350, and ES300h to hit dealerships this fall. Final pricing and other details will be released closer to the on-sale date of the 2022 Lexus ES.