THE VERY QUIET ACHIEVER
Lexus has added some deft touches to the ES without compromising its value for money VERDICT
Alot of people aren’t passionate about driving but do appreciate quality and value. They’re the types who buy a Lexus ES. Others want a touch more engagement in their automobile. Lexus has accordingly imbued a touch more responsiveness to the latest model of its midsized sedan.
This seventh-generation version shares the traits that earned its predecessors a small but faithful fan base in Australia, from the quietness in the cabin to the finish of the interior trim and insulated ride.
Those features are now ensconced in a more dynamic body, with the accentuated coupestyle roof sitting on a stretched and lowered modular platform the Lexus shares with the Toyota Camry.
The interior is just as stylish, from the 12.3inch screen just protruding from the multilayered dash to the feel of the controls, despite Lexus persisting with a fiddly touchpad to operate the infotainment menus.
Default kit in the base Luxury version includes full LED headlamps, a colour head-up display, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist. With a starting price of $59,888 plus on-road costs, the ES Luxury hits the value for money equation as a prestige sedan and is about $3800 cheaper than its predecessor. Metallic paint adds $1500.
The Sports Luxury is up by about $3000 to $74,888 but has 18-inch alloys with hollow rims to cancel out tyre drone, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, powered rear seats, front and rear sway bars and a kick-activated sensor under the boot.
That boot has now grown to 473 litres as a result of a smaller, denser nickel-metal hydride battery now fitting under the back seat (which doesn’t fold flat).
Both variants are now solely a hybrid proposition, using a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and an electric motor for a combined 160kW.
The 3.5-litre V6 has been dropped from the ES line-up as the company continues its push to educate buyers on the benefits of hybrids. In the case of the ES, it’s hard to argue with an official fuel use of just 4.6 litres/100km.
Lexus touts the ES as “the most fuel-efficient car in its class that does not require a plug”.
ON THE ROAD
A little voice is cautioning me to “please obey all traffic regulations”. It’s not my conscience, so it has to be the second generation of the Lexus Safety System. So I won’t be replicating the claimed 8.9-second run to 100km/h without being electro-nagged. In any case, the time doesn’t reflect the ES’s solid performance just off the line when accelerating to change lanes.
It’s no performance car but it can credibly hold its own around town or on the highway, especially with the drive modes and CVT set to sport. In that case six preset “gears” can be manually selected via paddle shifters. Alternatively, the ES will slip into neutral and coast when cruising on flat roads in Eco mode.
The steering is light in the normal drive mode and has a touch more artificial heft in sport. Feedback in either mode still seems a bit diluted once it reaches the steering wheel but the steering does respond well to changes in direction, though at the cost of some body roll.
To be fair to the Lexus it isn’t set up for sporty handling. Tree root-lined boulevards won’t rate a mention beyond a bit of gentle fore and aft pitching and the cushiony ride ensures it wafts over manhole covers and road joins.
The cabin is simply serene — so quiet that your passenger jumps when a truck enginebrakes while pulling up alongside. Even then the 17-speaker stereo in our car didn’t need more than a couple of clicks on the volume control to drown out what little noise does manage to intrude on the isolation.
The ES Luxury is down by almost $3900 to $59,888 plus on-roads despite extra gear. The Sports Luxury has risen by almost $3000 to $74,888.
A head-up display, wireless phone charging, traffic sign recognition and lane-keep assist now are standard on all ES versions. Sports Luxury adds adaptive high beam headlamps, rear cross-traffic alert and powered rear seats.
Combined power from the hybrid layout is rated at 160kW, up by 9kW from the old model. Official fuel use is down from 5.5 litres/100km to 4.6 litres.
A new MacPherson front and multilink rear plus rack-mounted power-steering gives the ES improved agility, though steering feel is still muted.
This car is 60mm longer, 5mm lower and 45mm wider, sitting on the same modular chassis as the Toyota Camry. Rear head and legroom is up and a 12.3-inch infotainment screen replaces the eight-inch unit.
TECHNOLOGY PERFORMANCE DRIVING DESIGN