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