There’s more than one change going on here, so take that into account as we haven’t tested the non-F-Sport ES models before this.
Firstly, Lexus says the ES facelift has been updated with the ‘Lexus Driving Signature’, a sort of brand-wide similar driving feel for all of the cars with the usual superlatives. In terms of actual changes, besides the tuning, Lexus says the rear suspension linkage was changed to a stiffer one, and braking was improved by changing the brake components (master cylinder, booster) as well as the brake pedal itself and the pedal mount. On top of that, the F Sport model doesn’t add any mechanical changes – unlike the IS F Sport which has adaptive F Sport suspension – other than the 19-inch wheels.
In the ES 250 F Sport there is a sense of directness that wasn’t there before. Handy, since the biggest criticism we had of the previous car is the tradeoff between lux-lazy, and that was most apparent in the handling.
The car’s 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder remains unchanged, but still performs well in the Age Of Turbocharging (Almost Over). It’s not hugely torquey, nor will it thrill you in a straight line, but it does deliver the smoothness only natural aspiration can bring, and the eight-speed auto is still the smoothest shifting in the biz. Surprisingly, it’s quite fuel efficient for a large car with a large, non-turbo engine – we nabbed sub-9.0L/100km, probably because the ES is the kind of car you don’t feel like rushing around in.
There are three drive modes – Eco, Normal, and Sport – but without adaptive suspension this only changes the drivetrain behaviour. The larger wheels add a bit of jiggle and tyre roar that wasn’t present before, but it’s not overwhelming. The contrast to keep in mind here is that the top-spec Luxury model has noise-reducing 18-inch wheels, which should offer more refinement.
It’s tidier and slightly sportier/jiggly-er because of the wheels, but the ES does remain a car that’s very nice to drive, tremendously refined, and the sort of place that’s a welcome refuge from the noise outside. You don’t feel the need to rush, nor are you pressured by the actions of others – in other words it’s still very much an ES. In fact it’s so refined you’d wonder why someone would ever need an LS, at least until you try an LS.
The vault-like feeling is bolstered by improved active safety systems this time around: Lexus says it’s improved the lane recognition and the car’s ability to recognise dangerous situations (at junctions involving pedestrians and other cars) and there’s an added Emergency Steering Assist to help you steer during evasive manuvers. It’s worth noting that the ES F Sport packs a comprehensive active safety suite, including lane keeping/warning, blind spot indicators, and even radar cruise control.
The ES still doesn’t have a direct German competitor, since it’s always been an in-betweener. To use a BMW metaphor, it’s a 3 Series priced car which offers 5 Series size/refinement. That’s the secret of its popularity, for those who don’t need a German flavour of luxury and want more refinement and space.
That being said, the first F Sport Lexus ES makes a unique case for itself. If you’ve always wanted the ES experience with a dash more sportiness, well you’ve found it – stop reading here.
But it’s 2021 and if you’ve FOMO-ed after reading all the EV-centric content we’ve been putting out, our recommendation would be to get the ES 300h hybrid.
Why? Our single, standout niggle of the ES? It has start-stop, but it’s not very refined and sends a slight judder through the car which is at odds with everything else. The ES 300h is more refined all around, and sips fuel at 4.6L/100km – it’s the perfect gateway to electric motoring, now more than ever. The pricing is a bit tricky, though: The hybrid is either S$10k cheaper (Executive S$258,800 with COE) or S$14k more expensive ( Luxury, S$282,800 with COE).
The F Sport treatment doesn’t transform the ES into a very nice to drive IS, but the facelift model has improved the driving experience with more directness and feedback, while the F Sport kit adds on visual pizazz.
|Engine||2,487cc, inline 4|
|Power||203hp at 6600rpm|
|Torque||247Nm at 5000rpm|
|Top Speed||210 km/h|
|VES Band||B / –|
|Price||S$268,800 with COE and VES|