Lexus is gunning for success in the executive saloon class
Pros: Refinement, build quality, hybrid system
Cons: Certain rivals more exciting to drive, no diesel option
Lexus is gunning for success in the lucrative executive saloon space with an all-new hybrid model for 2019. This is the ES, a sharply-styled saloon that replaces the Lexus GS of old and features advanced hybrid technology, a comforting front wheel drive platform and the brand’s latest styling advancements. The Lexus ES focuses on driving comfort over driving dynamics, so It differs to rivals like the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. We spent a week living with the ES recently to see how well it is suited to Irish roads.
What is it like?
In similar style to Lexus’ range-topping LS saloon, the ES boasts a huge spindle front grille with sharply-styled lights. It’s low and sleek from the outside and stands apart from class alternatives like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The ES is the only dedicated hybrid model in the executive saloon class, and Lexus is keen to point it out with hybrid badges on side flanks. As standard, the ES is equipped with bi-LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels and chrome exterior details, while our test car is the range-topping FSPORT. This adds all sorts of niceties such as 19-inch alloy wheels, a darkened front grille, sequential indicators and F SPORT bumpers, though at a premium price point.
The ES feels suitably premium inside with a plethora of high-grade and soft-touch materials throughout. It’s easy to get comfortable in the driver’s seat with lots of adjustment available, while both front seats are heated and wrapped in soft touch leather upholsterey. The centre console mixes conventional button controls with digital displays; and there’s also a traditional analogue-style clock. The centre console features an eight-inch infotainment screen which is intuitiveto use, though it can’t be operated by touch. There’s also a digital driver’s display which incorporates the hybrid system details such as battery range and recharging. Space throughout the cabin is plentiful with enough room to accommodate four tall adults in comfort, while there is 454 litres of space in the boot and plenty of usable areas for stowing away items.
The ES is only available in hybrid guise, which means there are no petrol or diesel engines in the range. The ES300h features Lexus’ tested and proven hybrid powertrain, matching a 2.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and a new E-CVT gearbox for a combined power output of 215bhp. The ES300h focuses on driving comfort rather than outright performance, and it will sprint from 0-100km/h in just under nine seconds. The ES is best-enjoyed at motorway speeds, and it is well-suited to stop start urban driving. That said, it loses out to rivals like the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series in terms of outright performance.
Different driving modes can be selected including ECO, Normal and Sport, which alters performance and power delivery. The transition between petrol and electric power is seamless and varies depending on the level of battery charge, and there is an EV mode for enabling battery-powered driving when the system is suitably charged. In terms of running costs, motor tax is a mere €190, while we achieved circa 7l/100km during mixed driving conditions.
Out on the road, the ES300h is incredibly hushed and relaxing to drive. The level of sound insulation is superb, and it's easy to have conversations with passengers at motorways speeds without having to raise voices. Unlike the rear-wheel-drive Lexus GS, the ES is based on a new front-wheel-drive platform which is shared with the latest Toyota Camry, though heavily-upgraded for comfort. While the BMW 5 Series remains the class leader for driving dynamics, the Lexus ES is comparatively refined, relaxing and comfort-focused.
Prices for the new Lexus ES start from €49,450 which undercuts Audi’s A6, BMW’s 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. There are three levels of specification to choose from, with Executive, Luxury and F Sport. The base Executive model is well equipped at this price point and likely to be the mainstay choice in Ireland, with electric mirrors, bi-LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, dynamic cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, an eight-inch Lexus infotainment screen, front heated seats, a leather steering wheel and various safety aids such as Lane Tracing Assist and Emergency Response System.
The mid-range Luxury (from €55,350) adds rain sensing window wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, wireless smartphone charging, heated and ventilated front seats, electric steering adjustment and lots more. The range-topping F SPORT (€55,850) that we droveleaves little to be desired with F Sport bumpers, 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension, performance dampers for improved handling, F SPORT upholstery and customisable driving modes. In terms of equipment, the ES puts a strong case against its rivals.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The new Lexus ES focuses firmly on driving comfort and refinement, with standout styling and the only dedicated-hybrid powertrain in the executive saloon class. It offers something different to the rest, and is likely to intrigue those who are considering a switch from traditional petrol and diesel models. While the ES is highly comfortable and refined, it isn’t quite as fun to drive as certain rivals, and is best-enjoyed at a leisurely pace.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Lexus ES300h F SPORT
Prices from: €49,450
Price as tested: €55,850
Annual Road Tax: €190
Engine: 2487cc petrol-electric hybrid
Top Speed: 180km/h
0-100km/h: 8.9 seconds
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Body style: Saloon
Boot Space: 454 litres
BMW 5 Series