Cars

A ve­hi­cle where form and func­tion meet, fol­low­ing the spirit of true Ja­panese omote­nashi— this is how James Deakin de­scribes the new Lexus ES

Philippine Tatler - - CONTENTS -

Mo­tor­ing Ed­i­tor James Deakin reports on how the new Lexus ES em­bod­ies the warm spirit of Ja­panese hos­pi­tal­ity and why it’s worth the pur­chase

Nashville, Ten­nessee: home of coun­try mu­sic, cow­boy boots, and bach­e­lorette par­ties. Quite pos­si­bly the last place on earth you would think of launch­ing a pre­mium Ja­panese sedan like the Lexus ES. Or is it?

On the sur­face, there’s not much that Ten­nessee and the ES have in com­mon—ex­cept for the amount of e’s and s’s in their names. Other than that, they are about as dif­fer­ent as things can get.

But if you dig deeper, you’ll start to ap­pre­ci­ate the sim­i­lar­i­ties— not in the end- pr od­uct, but in their jour­ney.

You see, for the folks out here, coun­try mu­sic is not just a genre. It’s a way of life. It’s a lan­guage all its own that tells the story of the peo­ple of the Amer­i­can South. In pretty much the same way, Lexus is not so much in the busi­ness of mak­ing cars as it is in mak­ing cars tell its story.

Take the ES: there’s no doubt it is a great car. But that is not enough any­more. Let’s face it, it’s 2018; al­most any rep­utable brand can make a good car. We’ve come to ex­pect that al­ready. Which is why Lexus choose to fo­cus on the jour­ney—sim­ply be­cause no two are the same.

They call it omote­nashi. There is no lit­eral English trans­la­tion for the word, but sim­ply put, it is the Ja­panese way of hos­pi­tal­ity, of go­ing beyond what is nec­es­sary to please a cus­tomer or a guest. For Lexus, this has be­come a sa­cred doc­trine. The design of the ve­hi­cle isn’t sim­ply the way it ap­pears—it has as much to do with func­tion as much as form. In ev­ery­thing, from the painful process of choos­ing the ma­te­ri­als to the qual­ity con­trol process to mea­sure the gaps be­tween the pan­els, the at­ten­tion to de­tail would make even a watch­maker proud.

“The ES has al­ways been an el­e­gant lux­ury sedan,” Lexus In­ter­na­tional’s Chief De­signer Ya­suo Ka­jino tells me over a coun­try club lunch over­look­ing a man­i­cured golf course in one of the most af­flu­ent ar­eas in the United States. “We call it provoca­tive el­e­gance. And for this gen­er­a­tion, we have added daring design el­e­ments that chal­lenge the tra­di­tional ex­pec­ta­tions of buy­ers.”

Ka­jino-san is largely re­fer­ring to the lat­est it­er­a­tion of the brand’s sig­na­ture spin­dle grille that fol­lows the path set by the LC coupe and LS flag­ship yet adds in­di­vid­ual cues that are unique to the ES— like the ver­ti­cal grille pat­tern and satin plated trim. That theme is re­peated at each cor­ner of the bumper to give the ES a wide planted look that looks like it’s half­way through a push-up.

Ka­jino-san’s team also gave the ES slim head­lamps with dis­tinc­tive L-shaped marker lights with three com­pact LED pro­jec­tor for the high-end ver­sions, while the base design fea­tures a sin­gle LED pro­jec­tor beam design that re­tains the sig­na­ture L-shaped marker lights.

In pro­file, the ES has a dy­namic yet fluid shape that starts with the low hood line made pos­si­ble by an all-new global ar­chi­tec­ture that Lexus call the Global Ar­chi­tec­ture-K (GA-K) plat­form. More than just an en­gi­neer­ing marvel, the GA-K plat­form al­lowed Ka­jino-san the flex­i­bil­ity to cre­ate an ES that’s as vis­ually provoca­tive as it is rewarding to drive by al­low­ing it to sit 5mm lower, 45mm wider, and 65mm longer than be­fore. It also sports a lower roofline, thanks to the re­laxed A-pil­lar that flows smoothly to the sharply slanted C-pil­lar, while a long, un­in­ter­rupted shoul­der line that ex­tends from the top of the front-wheel arc all the way to the cor­ner of the trunk serves as a con­trast to the smooth arc of the roofline and gives the ES what Ka­jino-san calls a “smart, sporti­ness.”

This ES was built to de­liver a fun­da­men­tally higher level of per­for­mance

But be­cause omote­nashi is as much about func­tion as form, the en­gi­neer­ing team led by Ya­suhiro Sakak­ibara were tasked with not only im­prov­ing the per­for­mance of the ES but trans­form­ing it as well. That re­quired turn­ing a sedan known pri­mar­ily for com­fort and quiet­ness into one that is equally ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing class-lead­ing han­dling and per­for­mance.

Ac­cord­ing to Sakak­ibara-san, this ES was built to de­liver a fun­da­men­tally higher level of per­for­mance than any of its pre­de­ces­sors. “We knew that this ES had to feel re­spon­sive and easy to drive, no mat­ter what kind of road it was on; and that can only be achieved with a solid foun­da­tion,” he says.

That foun­da­tion is the newly de­vel­oped GA-K chas­sis. It’s an ex­cep­tion­ally rigid front-wheel drive chas­sis made from sev­eral grades of high-strength steel. The GA-K chas­sis also in­cor­po­rates far more struc­tural ad­he­sives than the pre­vi­ous ES chas­sis as well as the ad­di­tion of laser screw welds. A to­tal of 20 me­tres of ad­he­sive is used through­out the struc­ture, more than twice the amount (eight me­tres) used pre­vi­ously. Laser screw weld­ing, a con­struc­tion method shared with the LS sedan, is used in 120 lo­ca­tions through­out the GA-K chas­sis to fur­ther so­lid­ify the al­ready ro­bust struc­ture.

The wheels have also been pushed closer to the cor­ners, thanks to a 50mm longer wheel base and wider tracks front (+10mm) and rear (+ 30mm). This re­sults into a lower cen­tre of grav­ity and wider foot­print that pro­vides a more sta­ble ride and even sharper han­dling than its pre­de­ces­sor and taunts you to toss into curves as if it were al­most half its size. The body con­trol, too, has been sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved, not only be­cause of an ad­vanced elec­tronic sta­bil­ity pro­gramme but beefed up fron­tend stiff­ness, in­clud­ing a strut tower brace, mul­ti­ple re­in­force­ment pan­els for the strut tow­ers them­selves, and new ra­di­a­tor sup­port braces.

But as im­pres­sive as that all is, it isn’t a Lexus if it’s not quiet about its achieve­ments. Which is why sound-dead­en­ing in­su­la­tion now cov­ers nearly all the floor pan (up to 96 per cent from 68 per cent) while un­der­body-cov­ers and front fender-lin­ers fur­ther re­duce road noise. The in­stal­la­tion of per­for­mance damp­en­ers is also used to re­duce vi­bra­tions, while the chas­sis-mounted dampers ab­sorb even the small­est in­stances of frame com­pres­sion and/or flex and keep them from in­tro­duc­ing harsh­ness into the cabin, which pro­vides an ex­tremely relaxing ride, not only from the driver’s seat but the rear pas­sen­ger’s seat— which Lexus in­sisted on giv­ing us equal time in dur­ing this test.

While the ES of­fers hy­brid ver­sions, the Philip­pine mar­ket will only be get­ting the ES 350. Pow­ered by a 3.5-litre V6 (2GR-FKS) that de­liv­ers seam­less ac­cel­er­a­tion with im­pres­sive ef­fi­ciency (thanks to a D-4 S fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem), the ES 350 uses high pres­sure in­jec­tors to de­liver fuel di­rectly into the com­bus­tion cham­ber along with a low-pres­sure sys­tem that de­liv­ers fuel to the in­take ports.

So, the all-new ES is as much a driver’s car as it is a chauf­feur-driven one, and is me­chan­i­cal proof that the jour­ney can be more ex­cit­ing than the des­ti­na­tion.

sil­ver streak Pre­mium Ja­panese sedan in Amer­i­can cow­boy coun­try

road run­ner Smart sport­ni­ness on wheels; The prom­ise of a relaxing ride be­hind the wheel as well as in the pas­sen­ger’s seat for Lexus

Driv­ing force “L” is for lux­ury and for Lexus; (in­set) James Deakin en­joys the quiet ride of the Lexus ES

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