2021 Lexus ES 350 F Sport Black Line Special Edition - Review by David Colman
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
For only $51,795, you can now buy a brace of very special Zero Halliburton Edge Lightweight travel cases at your local Lexus dealer. These matte black polycarbonate beauties - a 22" Continental Carry-on and a 26" Medium Travel Case - carry a chrome logo badge laser-etched "Zero Halliburton for Lexus." Their interior is lined with a sumptuous fabric that mimics the Lexus spindle grill motif. Oh, and did I mention that this suitcase package also comes with a car? In this instance, a very special version of the ES 350 F Sport called the Black Line Special Edition. Black Line Special Editions are not limited to the ES 350 model, but are also available across the Lexus range this year, with suitcase equipped versions of the UX, NX, RX and LS on offer as well.
Of course, the modestly priced Black Line option (a steal at $850) also includes a number of other refinements to the already potent F Sport model. A premium graphite finish distinguishes the 19 inch, split 5-spoke alloy wheels which are fastened with matching dark lug nuts. Lexus fits these rims with 235/40R19 Michelin Primacy radials carrying a long life treadwear rating of TW 500. The exterior mirror housings are capped with black shells. A model specific rear spoiler tops the decklid, and a striking white perforated NuLuxe interior distinguishes the cabin. This soft touch material features low contrast gray seam stitching. Subtle Hadori Aluminum Trim graces the door and dash surfaces. The heavily bolstered front seats include both heating and ventilation, though a heated steering wheel is notably absent. If you are in any doubt about the worth of the Black Line option, bear in mind that you will pay more than $850 if you buy the two similar cases from Halliburton, and they won't have the same finish or logo ID as the ones made for Lexus. Secondly, the Black Line Special Edition is an exclusive option limited to just 1500 examples for the model year.
The ES 350, which utilizes the company's latest GA-K front wheel drive platform, benefits greatly from getting an F Sport massage. This salon treatment includes Adaptive Variable Suspension, which provides 650 levels of adjustment to the F Sport specific shock absorbers. Sensors measure and adjust the shocks according to vehicle speed, linear and vertical g-loads, steering angle, yaw rate, master cylinder brake pressure, engine control input, and skid control sensors. While the Dynamic Control Shocks of the standard ES 350 are quite competent in an old school way, they are simply no match for the advanced technology incorporated into the F Sport portfolio. And the best part of the deal is that you, the driver, get to select the precise amount of ride control by twisting a "Moveable Meter" control conveniently located atop the instrument binnacle. Our favorite setting was "Sport+" which stiffened the ride and suspension to just short of competition level. For extended freeway travel, however, the "comfort" setting will get you to your destination with less jounce and rebound harshness.
Even without the F Sport magic, the latest ES 350 platform benefits from recent structural upgrades that include doubling the number of laser screw welds compared to the previous generation ES. Lexus also added reinforcement panels to the front strut towers, a front strut tower brace, and new radiator support braces. The latest chassis also sits lower than before, with a longer wheelbase and a wider track both front and rear. The added stability of these changes is obvious when you push this sedan through a set of challenging curves. The 302hp V6 is quick on the uptake, especially when you manipulate the paddle shifts of the 8-speed automatic transmission to maximize torque thrust at 4700rpm. Handling and acceleration response is quick enough to satisfy your sports sedan craving.
The infotainment system in the ES 350 persists in utilizing a touch pad controller that is all but impossible to operate while underway. The simplest tasks have now been subsumed under even more levels of sub-menu complication. For example, it used to be relatively easy to eliminate the annoying valet seat slide by simply selecting the "settings" menu and then scrolling down to the appropriate heading. Now the computer brigade at Lexus has moved that operation into a separate category which requires you to first select "settings," then click on a pictograph of the car to access and delete the seat valet. Meanwhile, the "settings" menu now contains over a hundred micro refinements you will never need or use. For the record, I also gave up trying to tune the radio frequency through the infotainment pad. Could Lexus could make this simple request any more complicated?
Aside from the GUI complaint, very little blots the copybook of this fine family sized sedan. Our only real complaint has to do with that fancy luggage - because our test car never came with any!
2021 LEXUS ES 350 F SPORT
ENGINE: 3.5 liter V6 DOHC
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 22MPG City/31MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $51,795
HYPES: Spectacular Black Line package
GRIPES: Lose the GUI touchpad
STAR RATING:/br> 9.5 Stars out of 10