It’s roomier than ever and gets new engines, sharper handling and fiercer looks. Can the Lexus ES continue to deliver the bulk of the brand’s sales?
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE — The most important Lexus for Singapore is on its way, with a planned launch here for late October or early November
Borneo Motors, the brand’s distributor, is planning to unveil four versions of the new ES here: the ES 250 for a base model and the hybrid ES 300h as the model’s flagship. Both models will be available in the more basic Executive and upscale Luxury trim lines.
Now in its seventh-generation, the ES has been revamped from the ground up. It sits on Toyota’s GA-K platform, which also underpins the new Toyota Camry, but the car’s chief engineer Yasuhiro Sakakibara told CarBuyer that the two cars have little in common.
He said that he and the Camry’s chief engineer had different missions, and likens the process to how two chefs can create different flavours even if they both start from the same dashi, or soup stock.
“Just changing one bushing on the suspension makes a huge difference. Of course, you also have the coil springs and shocks, and body rigidity, and even the anti-NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) measures that have been put into the car,” he said. “It’s just a completely different animal.”
It’s different from the last ES, too. The new platform is 142 percent stiffer and 63kg lighter, with more high-strength steel in the main structure and the bonnet and front wings now made of aluminium.
Sakakibara said the main aims with the car were to enhance three traditional ES strengths — ride quality, roominess inside and quietness — but sharpen the handling and add “wow” factor.
That second goal is why it shares the lithe form and aggressive face of the LS flagship.
The body may be sleeker, but it’s significantly bigger, too, with a 51mm gain in wheelbase helping to add 66mm to the overall length of the car.
At the same time, the roof is 5mm lower, while the bonnet sits 15mm lower. The front and rear tracks are wider by 10mm and 38mm respectively.
Longer, lower and wider means a sharper-looking silhouette, but the ES has also gained a huge amount of cabin room — there’s actually fractionally more rear legroom than in the larger, flagship LS.
The 2.5-litre in-line four engine in the ES 250 (below) and petrol-electric 2.5-litre drivetrain in the ES 300h are both completely new, with the former hooked up to a new eight-speed auto.
Headline figures for the ES 230 are 207hp maximum output, and 247Nm of peak torque at 5,000rpm. These deliver a tentative 0 to 100km/h time of 9.1 seconds — Lexus has yet to have the figure certified.
Average fuel consumption is just 6.6L/100km, no doubt helped in large part by the new transmission, as well as an on-demand cooling system and new cylinder head design for the engine that helps bump its thermal efficiency to 40 percent — comparable to the engine in the first Prius.
As for the hybrid model, the ES 300h’s 2.5-litre engine and electric motors now deliver a system output of 218hp, with torque peaking at 221Nm at 3,600rpm.
The 0 to 100km/h time is 8.8 seconds for the ES 300h, with fuel consumption at just 4.6L/100km.
The hybrid system’s nickel metal-hydride battery pack has been moved under the rear seats, meaning it no longer compromises boot capacity, measured at 473 litres for both ES models.
Both cars look noticeably different, with a small tail spoiler (above), along with subtle “hybrid” badges and a blue-tinged Lexus logo helping to distinguish the ES 300h.
As for the trim lines, the Executive model will be identifiable by its plainer lamps: it has a bi-LED headlight design, as shown here:
The Luxury pack adds the triple-LED lamp design that’s found on other high-spec Lexus models, along with sequential turn indicators.
Both versions of the new ES get the enormous 12.3-inch infotainment screen that’s also found in the LS.
While the Executive models get a 10-speaker system, the Luxury models have a 17-speaker sound system from Mark Levinson.
A huge head-up display system, semi-aniline leather upholstery (versus synthetic leather) and a rear seat that reclines by up to eight degrees are other perks of going for the Luxury model.
It’s too early for pricing info but on the current ES, the Luxury pack costs S$12,000 more on either version of the car.
Big things are expected of the new ES, however it’s specified. It’s currently Lexus’ best-selling model in Singapore, and in global terms it’s the brand’s best-selling car model (with the RX sport utility vehicle taking the overall sales crown).
Find out what we think of the new ES when we report from its launch in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday at 7pm.
Coorrection: An earlier version of this article said a V6, 3.5-litre ES 350 model would be on sale on an indent-only basis. It also said that some versions of the ES would get 19-inch wheels. Borneo Motors has since said neither of those will be available in Singapore. Sorry for the errors.