LEXUS has been producing some pretty daring designs recently, and this ES model is no different. The ES replaces the GS and is an executive saloon you might consider instead of a Mercedes E-class or BMW 5-series.
Parked next to either of those models, the ES will turn heads thanks to its spindle grille, slanted headlights, sloping roofline and intricate tail light design.
The interior is also very distinctive. It has a multi-surface design that is visually arresting, and most of the parts you touch feel high quality and expensive, particularly the soft leather elements.
As is common in Japanese cars, there are some scratchy plastics in evidence — the doors bin, centre console and behind the steering wheel, for example, which let the side down somewhat.
But you’ll not notice that, probably, as you’ll be more distracted by Lexus’ unintuitive infotainment system. It’s controlled via a touchpad that is a real pain to use, especially when you’re driving. The infotainment graphics also aren’t as crisp as you’ll find in the Lexus’ German rivals.
It’s a shame because the ES’ driving position is very good and the optional 1,800W Mark Levinson stereo makes even compressed music sound brilliant.
There’s more good news when you try out the front seats that can rival a Volvo S90’s for comfort. Even the back seats have decent levels of knee room and plenty of headroom, plus electrical seat adjustment is an option if you want added comfort.
The 473-litre boot is smaller than alternatives’ but big enough for a family’s luggage for a fortnight away.
Head out on the road and you’ll quickly realise the ES is very comfortable to drive, with suspension that smooths out a variety bumps in the road very well.
F Sport models get adaptive dampers that can stiffen up to stop the car leaning if you drive quickly through a series of bends, although our experience of the system with our long-term Lexus NX suggests ‘dumb’ dampers might be the way to go. Meanwhile, the ES’s steering is well-weighted and loads up nicely, making it an easy car to drive quickly.
If you’d rather the car does the driving for you though, its radar cruise control can accelerate, brake and steer the ES independently. On top of that, the cabin is very quiet so even long journeys aren’t overly wearing.
Sadly, the cabin isn’t always perfectly serene. A sharp prod of the Lexus’ accelerator pedal fills the cabin with an annoying drone as the CVT transmission holds the engine at high revs. You can change the gears using the car’s steering-wheel-mounted paddles, but the phoney system is so slow to react that there isn’t a lot of point.
Leave the gearbox in auto, though, and you’ll find the ES is quick enough; its hybrid combination of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor mean it produces 215hp and gets from 0-62mph in a shade over eight seconds.
It’s party trick, however, is its ability to drive for a few miles in silent electric power and return fuel economy of more than 60mpg. Whatever way you look at it, that’s very impressive for a non-diesel.
So the ES won’t set your hair on fire if you’re looking for a sporty drive, but if you want a distinctive-looking saloon (unlike in an Audi, BMW or Mercedes, there’s no estate version) that’s very well built, relaxing to drive and cheap to run, then ditching the obvious German choices for the striking Lexus ES isn’t such a silly move.
Lexus ES rivals
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