LEXUS quietly let loose the brand new ES saloon with no fuss or fanfare. Some say it is pretty, others say it is busy. I think the handsome coupe-like profile looks the business.
The smooth riding LEXUS comes only in a hybrid drivetrain with two trim levels, Luxury and Sports Luxury. It has been lavished with technology, comfort, and design.
The all-new ES is the Japanese car maker’s mid-size sedan. It continues a long line of ES models which many have termed “a fancy Camry.” Both use the same TNGA (GA-K) platform and share much of the same technology, but there it ends.
17” alloys are standard, with 18” on the top model. The roof is lower by 5mm. Width has been increased by 45mm, and the wheelbase is 50mm longer. For those wanting a big boot, you’re in luck. It is now a generous 454L. The boot gets auto opening on Sport Luxury.
A complex hourglass grille and headlights follows the signature look of the LS and LC coupe. It can be polarising, and some will not like it. ES is in-your-face, building on the group’s president, Akio Toyoda’s wish, not to “build boring cars any longer.”
As you move along the doors, you pass a coupe-like silhouette to a voluptuous rear end that squats over the wheels like a cat ready to pounce. Adaptive Matrix headlights are standard on the top model with both grades gaining LEDs on both beams. L shaped daytime running continue the corporate look. If you look hard, you’ll find “L” shapes all over every LEXUS model. That’s what LEXUS says, but I’m fairly sure you’ll find angles on most cars, it isn’t as if you could avoid it.
LED tail lights, like those in LS, have 3 distinct lines that trail “L” shapes across the rear end.
There are 10 colours to choose from, including two new colours. Glacial Ecru is designed to mimic light reflected off fresh snow, and Radiata Green is inspired by ocean water in sunlight.
LEXUS ES has the newer style of cabin design including the infotainment system. As in the LS, the centre console lid hinges on either side so either driver or passenger always has the lid opening their way.
Shiny interior surfaces have been kept to a minimum to reduce glare and reflection from sunlight. Chromed plastic can look cheap, so LEXUS has textured some of the plastic with an interest organic design and flecked colour palette.
An Asymmetric centre stack houses climate controls etc, but most settings are also located within the infotainment system.
Seating is comfortable where all readouts can easily be seen, and controls easily accessed. There is enough room for 4, with a 5th person in the rear middle able to use the armrest section. Although there is a seat belt for the middle, it isn’t comfortable for any distance over an airport run.
Some grades gain rear controls for climate settings in the rear armrest. Legroom is astounding. With the front seats set for a 190cm passenger and driver, those in the back can still stretch out. There was at least 16cms between my knees and the back of the front seat.
The design is reminiscent of the newest generation of Camry. Normally that might be considered an insult, but a lot has been done to up the quality. LEXUS takes that further with soft coverings over much of the interior.
Simulated metal finishes on the dash aren’t quite my thing. I’d prefer the real thing, or nothing. Ditto for the woodgrain.
Features and technology have major advancements over the old model.
These are but a few of the tastier traits:
- High resolution 12.3” centre LCD
- 12” HUD in front of the driver
- reviewed infotainment system
- Mark Levinson sound with 17 speakers (Sport Luxury)
- 10 speaker Pioneer Sound system (Luxury).
- Auto lights and wipers
- Electric parking brake
The infotainment system interface continues to be an issue.
There is no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and the large display has no touch input. You’re limited to voice or touch pad control. Both are very moody to use, and impossible to use once the car is on the go. Touch input requires intense concentration. The cursor tends to dart across the screen and you spend much of your time trying to find it.
American ES models have CarPlay according to our American colleagues
Drive and Engine
If the looks and equipment didn’t convince you, the drive certainly will.
ES uses LEXUS’ new GA-K platform. A platform is a base to which the rest of the vehicle is attached. It has made new ES more rigid, and lighter too.
LEXUS ES uses the 4th generation Toyota Hybrid drive. A 2.5L Atkinson cycle 4 cylinder petrol engine works with the electric motor powered by batteries. The system has increased efficiency over previous model. Advances in the nickel metal hydride batteries and electric motor yield greater performance while being more compact.
The cabin is utterly silent.
In EV mode, the loudest noise are your espadrilles ruffling the carpet. In fact, it was so quiet, there were several moments when I had to check to make sure the system was still switched on.
Drive modes a-la LS/LC models give the driver added options but things in the normal setting are just fine by me. Sport setting adds weight to the steering while adding a touch of sportiness to the drive by increasing throttle response.
Power steering is electric with the motor mounted on the rack for more accurate control.
Sport Mode gives power a noticeable boost, but completely unnecessary. 0-100 is a leisurely 8.9 seconds but a combined fuel economy of 4.6L/100k assuages the embarrassment of being blown off by a hot hatch at the lights.
Like most hybrids, ES has a CVT driving through the front wheels. Surprisingly, the ride hasn’t been sacrificed handling on the altar or practicality.
The active safety features I’ve already mentioned are cocooned in a cabin with 10 airbags.
Warning systems keep the driver aware, while the reversing camera uses various radars and sensors. It will even warn you when an object moves into your path, even if that object is moving at speed (in Sport Luxury models). Sport Luxury adds a panoramic view to the camera, as well as blind spot monitoring with warning lights in the side mirrors.
The top model also has automatic matrix LED headlights with 24 cells which switch on an off to keep the road ahead in full light without dazzling other motorists.
Menus on the infotainment interface become inactive whilst the car is on the go. That’s great if there is only one person on board, but very annoying if your passenger wants to make changes or input an address.
- Excellent equipment level
- Comfort and quietness
- Supremely smooth ride
Not So Good Bits
- Some plastics look cheap
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Complex infotainment interface hard to use on the go
ES now starts at under $60,000. That’s a price reduction for the base model and a $3,000 increase for the top grade.
ES is aimed at the buyer who might consider a BMW 5 series, Audi A6, Mercedes E Class, or Jaguar XF. While some of those might handle better, the LEXUS feels nicer on the road. I’m as surprised as you, but there it is.
Although the fuel tank is only 50L, you could expect over 1,000 on a road trip.
Also look at:
Facts and Figures: 2019 LEXUS ES 300h Hybrid
- Engine: 2.5L four-cylinder hybrid producing 160kW
- Transmission: CVT
- Warranty: 4 years/ 100,000km
- Safety: Five stars (tested 2018)
- Origin: TBA
- Price: from $59,888 MLP*
*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.
The smooth riding LEXUS comes in a hybrid drivetrain with two trim levels, Luxury and Sports Luxury. It’s been lavished with technology, comfort and design.