2023 Lexus ES350 F Sport H
Sporty Yet Spacious
The 2023 Lexus ES350 F Sport Handling offers an impressively smooth ride - yet can tense up as desired.
By J-F Wright
Fri, Mar 17, 2023 10:58 AM PST
All images by J-F Wright
Walking up to the 2023 Lexus ES350 F Sport H (“H” for Handling) and you might think “huh, that looks really small”… Somehow, the designers at Lexus have managed to hide a relatively large vehicle in what looks like a really sporty sedan. Now, in all fairness, it IS a really sporty sedan - but it’s also a lot larger than its exterior might elude to.
The Lexus ES350 F Sport sits low to the ground - again, it’s a sports sedan. This is definitely noticeable when getting into the vehicle - you have to semi-fall down and into your seat - but I guess most will get their entry-procedure figured out quickly, just like I have. Once you’re there, you’re sitting in very comfortable - yet sporty - bucket-seats. I say “sitting in” rather than “sitting on” because these seats wrap up and around your butt, hugging your gluteus maximus. Definitely tighter than seats found in non-sport trims, but they do serve a purpose - they’ll keep you snug and steady regardless of how fast you hit a corner.
Do I Have To Drive Sporty?
Nope - the 2023 Lexus ES350 F Sport H works just as well cruising around town as it would busting around cones on an open parking lot… Actually, I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of ES350 Sport F sedans spend most of their lives with the car in the “automatic” driving-mode - which for most will mean that it’ll be in “normal” and/or “eco”-modes.
On that note, this is a very smooth ride. Actually “smoooooth” is one of the first adjectives I wrote on my notepad after my first drive. This is especially true in “normal”-mode, obviously, but the sport modes (there are two: Sport S and Sport S+) seem to add a tighter touch where needed without removing too much of the comfort. With that said, it’s nice to know that this car will hug the road whenever necessary. And hug it will.
When Will I Benefit From The Sporty Elements?
Let’s be honest, you probably aren’t spending your days dragracing a Lexus down Main Street (if you are, Stop It!). And you probably don’t want a ticket for reckless driving whenever you make a turn. So, why would you need the F Sport trim package?
Note that I said “need”… I’m sure many of us “want” anything that says “Sport”, but what’s it for, really?
It’s for the aforementioned hugging. And I’m not just talking about the seats hugging your cheeks - that’s only a part of it. No, this is about the car’s ability to hug the road. Wether you prefer to call it “hugging” or “gripping”, the fact that the car does not squirm all over the road, even when thrown around by an overzealous driver, actually makes for a safer vehicle. It’ll go where you point it.
This phenomena can be - and obviously is - labeled differently depending on what crowd is being addressed. A driver who enjoys the sporty fee will definitely enjoy the 2023 Lexus ES350 F Sport… However, many of these folks will need to get a partner onboard before they can purchase a Lexus ES350 with a “Sport”-label on it. And it’s in those conversations where the concept of “safety” often replaces the concept of “sport”. Here’s how:
“Remember that time we had to swerve for a jackrabbit on our way to Las Vegas? Remember how it took a second to get control of the car again? Yeah, well, that squirmy and rolly feeling doesn’t happen in this car. That same incident would have been safer in a sports sedan”.
(Modify to fit your specific circumstances.)
Notable Features & Technology
See-Through Top-Down Camera
Most, if not all, of the vehicles we test have a backup camera. I don’t think the manufacturers would trust us journalist to jump in and out of cars all day long without a camera helping us steer clear of the car behind us.
Many of the vehicle we test have a top-down feature within their surround-view camera system. Remember the original Grand Theft Auto? Yeah, that kind of view, but it’s a live view of your car.
I’ve seen a system, offered by Land Rover, that projected a view “through” your hood, giving a great view of exactly where your tires are - meant to be used during fairly extreme off-road driving.
But this is the first time I get to see through the entire Lexus while viewing the car from above (top-down view). The camera system remembers what it saw as the car drives over it and keeps showing that, making the car “see-through”. It’s actually really intuitive and a helpful addition to the top-down view feature. If they haven’t already, other brands will follow (maybe Lexus wasn’t first?).
FSport Moveable Meter
Now here’s a fun touch! When switching driving modes to one of the sport-settings, I noticed that the round frame surrounding the tachometer - which looks like it should be stuck in place - moves to the right to give the entire dashboard a very different look.
Lane Tracing Assist
No, this feature is not marketed as a rival to GM’s SuperCruise or Tesla’s Autopilot, the name is a good indicator as to what it is doing. It’s helping the driver stay in their lane, both on surface streets and on the freeway. A helpful addition to the ever-growing suite of safety features, sure, but remember that you’re still expected to hold on to the steering at all times. It does trace your lane really well though, so even though the system will yell at you for letting go of the steering wheel, it does show that Lexus is making lots of progress in the autonomous systems as well. The few times where it seems to get confused is when one of the side-lines it’s following veers off - usually it’s an exit off-ramp, for example. The Lane Tracing System might - or might not - trace the “wrong” line.
The interior of the 2023 Lexus ES350 F Sport is well-appointed with leather seats and an intuitive layout of all the knobs, buttons, and toggles. The most-used functions are often present with their own button (convenient!) even though you can most often reach them through the screen menu as well.
I wonder why the design team placed the on/off-switch for the anti-skid system so prominently right behind the steering wheel just above the dashboard. But, as a sports-sedan, I guess it’s a legit placement for a switch that most cars have hidden out of sight.
As mentioned, the 2023 ES350 F Sport is a lot larger inside than it looks to be from the outside. The Lexus website mentions that the ES features “class leading legroom”, a claim I would get behind as well. The rear seat occupants have all kinds of space for their legs - and random stuff if they’ve got it.
The spaciousness carries over to the trunk as well. A Costco-run resulting in larger-than-average recycled boxes is not a problem - the Lexus ES’s trunk is surprisingly deep.
Can you convince yourself and/or your partner that you need a “Sport”-badge on the side of your car (you do, see above)? Don’t want to compromise on spaciousness and luxury? Want an unbelievably smooth ride, but still want a car that can handle a sudden change in your mood and driving style? Yeah? Then you should probably go test drive the 2023 Lexus ES350 F Sport.
About The Author
John-Fredrik Wright was born in Sweden, but raised on both sides of the Atlantic. His experience in the automotive industry starts with a summer-job as a host at Volkswagen’s premier showroom in Stockholm. Later, he worked as an instructor at Swedish Active Driving, teaching safe driving (among other things the renowned "elk-avoidance maneuver") and advanced driving techniques.