Behind the Wheel

2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport Review: This is the ES variant you should be buying

The 2020 Lexus ES F-Sport is the flashiest ES model.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

There is only one Lexus ES 350 you should consider buying unless the prospect of mundane drivability excites you – the 2020 Lexus ES 350 F Sport.

The ES sits in the Lexus lineup between the IS and LS. It's a midsize sedan that is made in America and available in three models – ES 350, ES 350 Hybrid, and ES 350 F Sport. There are a variety of trim levels for buyers to choose from for 350 and 350 Hybrid models.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F-Sport The ES 350 F Sport has a different grille than other ES models.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

On the outside, it's immediately apparent that the 350 F Sport has the better grille and wheels (19-inchers) than the other ES models. There's also black finish mesh on the front fascia and available triple beam headlights. Those enhancements make the ES appear more sophisticated and sassier.

As the saying goes, it's not the size, it's how you use it. All ES 350s are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain achieves 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. The oomph is enough for the ES, but not anything that will excite.

ES 350 models have Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. The ES 350 F Sport replaces Sport mode with Sport+ and Custom. The Sport+ mode lengthens the amount of time between shifts and allows the driver to achieve a torquier behind-the-wheel experience, adjusts the throttle response, and changes the steering parameters. This is one of the keys to the 350 F Sport's success.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F-Sport Lexus has given the ES 350 F Sport sportier seats than what are other ES 350 models.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Combine the engine engagement with an adaptive variable suspension that is similar to the system in the Lexus LC and LS, and the ES's drive experience shines (for an ES). Don't mistake the enthusiasm for quickness. The ES still takes 6.6 seconds to get from zero to 60 mph and it only comes in front-wheel drive.

The ES serves valiantly as a daily driver in any model. Its trunk is spacious and there's a good amount of passenger space for four adult occupants.

While the materials in most of the cabin of this particular model are right with its price point, the entire interior experience is clouded by the Lexus track pad way of navigating the infotainment system. Thankfully, the ES is one of the few Lexus vehicles that has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so use of the track pad is not often needed.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F-Sport The ES 350 F-Sport is available with a red leather interior.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Other high points of the model include the available 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and the good amount of unobtrusive safety technology that works well including blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assist.

The 2020 Lexus ES F Sport starts at $44,635. With the options boxes checked, it can get near $50,000 including destination and delivery charges. That price seems fair for the model. It's pricier than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry but less costly than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The ES is priced most similarly to the Infiniti Q50's midgrade models. Top-tier models of the Q50 have significantly more horsepower befitting the higher rate.

Sure, the ES F-Sport isn't as

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A new Texas-themed version of the Jeep Gladiator is on the way.

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

Jeep has brought the Gladiator's off-road chops to the trails of the Lone Star State. The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Texas Trail is another of the the traditional of special edition vehicles for Texans who occupy the nation's largest truck market. It's the first time Jeep has offered a unique-to-Texas truck.

The new model builds on the Gladiator Sport S trim adding 17-inch Mid-Gloss Back Aluminum wheels wrapped in 32-inch mud-terrain tires, four-wheel drive, standard side steps, and the Trailer Tow Group. The Gladiator Texas Trail has a unique hood and decals that feature the year 1836 in the graphic as a nod to the year of the Texas Declaration of Independence. It also wears a black hardtop, black leather seats embossed with the Texas Trail graphic and comes equipped with the Technology Group and Convenience Group packages.

2021 Jeep Gl The vehicle is ready to be fully accessorized to the buyer's wishes.Photo courtesy of Stellantis

2021 Jeep Gl

The Texas-themed model features the buyer's choice of Jeep's new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine that's rated at 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque or the tried and true 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 power plant, which achieves 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.

Jeep has badged each of the models with Trail Rated status. To achieve this status, Jeep vehicles must pass extreme off-road capability challenges.

The Gladiator Texas Trail is available in 10 colors: black, white, Snazzberry, Granite Crystal, Sarge, Nacho, Hydro Blue, Firecracker Red, Billet Silver, and Sting-Gray. Jeep recently introduced a Snazzberry-colored Wrangler.

Each Gladiator comes with the Jeep Wave customer service program, which includes three years of maintenance, 24/7 phone/online support, trip interruption/first-day loaner coverage, and VIP access to Jeep events.

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Texas Trail has a starting MSRP of $40,435 (plus $1,495 destination) and is currently available at Texas dealers.

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New driver assist technology is coming to the Lexus lineup later this year.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

New Lexus Teammate driver assistance technology will debut on the 2022 Lexus LS 500h later this year. Its availability is constrained to all-wheel drive models.

The technology was developed based on the Mobility Teammate Concept. This automated driving concept is unique to Toyota sough to enhance communication between drivers and cars, "enabling them to reach out to each other for mutual assistance". The concept sees cars and humans interacting and partnering rather than having automation take over for drivers. This approach allows drivers to enjoy the experience of driving but allowing the vehicle to take over some functions of driver's duties at times. In this way, the tech works as both guardian and chauffeur.

2022 Lexus The company's flagship sedan will get the technology first.Photo courtesy of Lexus

2022 Lexus LS 500h

On the 2022 Lexus 500h, Lexus Teammate will offer two functions: Advanced Drive and Advanced Park.

Advanced Drive is design to "accurately detect driving conditions to plan and execute acceleration, braking, and steering commands to maintain the vehicle within the lane, follow other vehicles, change lanes, navigate certain interchanges and traffic jams and overtake slower vehicles." It's a Level 2 functionality that "allows for driving on limited-access highways with partial hands-free, eyes-on-the-road operation".

This description makes it sound a lot like the suite of lane keeping, lane centering, and adaptive cruise control technology that Hyundai offers rather than true Level 3 technology that General Motors's Super Cruise delivers.

Lexus will show operation of the technology on a screen with information displayed like this.Photo courtesy of Lexus

Advanced Park operates similar to how the Genesis GV80's hands-free parking assist technology works. The Lexus tech automatically controls steering, acceleration, braking, and gear changes with parallel parking or backing into a parking space. It uses a combination of 360-degree sensing technologies and a bird's eye view display to perform the task while allowing the driver to monitor progress.

"We are very proud of Lexus Teammate, which is the culmination of five years of close collaboration between our technical centers in Japan and the US. We conducted simultaneous development and rigorous testing in both markets with the goal of achieving industry-leading advanced driver assistance functionality," says Derek Caveney, executive engineer at Toyota Motor North America's Integrated Vehicle Systems team.

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