Car Compare: 2019 Lexus ES 350 vs. Acura TLX, Infiniti Q50, Lincoln MKZ, and Buick LaCrosse – MotorTrend

The ES is Lexus’ best-selling car, and it’s a best-seller in the shrinking “near lux” sedan segment it helped define. The segment’s original formula was to take a squillion-selling midsize sedan (Toyota Camry, in Lexus’ case), tinsel it up, and slap a swanky badge on it. Infiniti’s I30 was a dolled-up Nissan Maxima; Acura’s Vigor was an extensively revised Honda Accord; Lincoln’s MKZ (née Zephyr) was a costumed Ford Fusion. The world has moved on.

Today Lexus bases the ES on larger Avalon underpinnings and is extending the model’s appeal with both a performance-oriented F Sport variant and a new Ultra Lux package. The Infiniti Q50 has no mainstream Nissan counterpart on our shores. The Acura TLX/Honda Accord relationship remains fairly distant, and the Lincoln MKZ no longer shares any major sheetmetal with the Fusion. We’re also throwing the Buick LaCrosse in for consideration. It primarily targets Toyota’s Avalon, but in its swankiest new Avenir trim, it’s priced and positioned to fight the Lexus.

After spending a week in an Ultra Lux 2019 Lexus ES 350 (an ES 350 F Sport is shown in this story), we’ve rounded up some relevant specifications data, reviewed our notes from earlier drives of the key competitors, and are ready to make a few predictions on how a full comparison of the major players might shake out.

Sizing Up

As all of the original contenders have evolved, the Infiniti and Acura entrants have shrunk. The Q50 measures 6.3 inches shorter in length and 1.6 inches narrower than the ES, which tightens its rear seat and trunk somewhat, but the front seat boasts 2 inches more head- and legroom, so overall space is down just 1.6 cubic feet overall. Similarly, the Acura TLX gives up 4.2 inches in length at a cost of rear legroom and trunk volume while adding front-seat space. The Buick is larger in all exterior dimensions, but the payoff is just a slightly larger front-seat compartment—the trunk and rear seat are slightly smaller than in the Lexus. Lincoln matches Lexus almost to the tenth on overall interior and trunk volume while measuring 2 inches shorter in length and 1.2 inch taller. But Lexus remains the benchmark for space, boasting the biggest trunk (16.7 cubes) and back seat (by a nose at 46.6 cubic feet).

Powertrain Choice

Lexus offers your choice of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid electric with an e-CVT good for 215 hp or a 302-hp 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a conventional eight-speed automatic. Both powertrains spin the front wheels. Most of the competition now offers a choice of all-wheel drive (usually for no more money than our front-drive ES 350 Ultra Lux), which I rather missed as mid-February snow- and ice-storms bedeviled my week with an ES on all-season rubber. Acura offers a 2.4-liter 206-hp four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic or a 3.5-liter 290-hp V-6 and nine-speed auto, and honest-ta-goodness torque-vectoring all-wheel drive can be had with the V-6. Infiniti sells its older, fixed-compression-ratio 2.0-liter turbo-four (208 hp) and a choice of two twin-turbo V-6s producing 300 or 400 hp. All three engines spin the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic with all-wheel drive optional on any engine. Lincoln sees Infiniti’s 2.0T and pair of V-6 twin-turbos powering the front or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic and raises with a front-drive hybrid/e-CVT.

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