New Lexus ES makes Singapore debut, priced from S$208,800

The new Lexus ES is now in Singapore, with a four model line-up. All four arrive with big shoes to fill

SINGAPORE — The all-new Lexus ES rolls into Singapore officially today, with a two-model range that starts at S$208,800 with Certificate Of Entitlement. Two trim lines for each model (the base Executive and the S$20,000 Luxury pack) take the total number of variants available to four.

Borneo Motors is launching the ES at the Changi Exhibition Centre, where more than 100 guests and prospective buyers are test driving the car over the weekend.

You have two engine choices: a 2.5-litre four-cylinder that powers the ES 250, and a 2.5-litre four-cylinder with an electric motor that together drive the hybrid ES 300h. The former has 203bhp and gallops to 100km/h in 9.1 seconds, with fuel consumption rated at 6.6L/100km.

The ES 300h is marginally more powerful (214bhp) and quicker (8.9 seconds), but uses much less fuel, at a rate of 4.6L/100km. Both cars are banded “B” (or neutral) in the current Vehicular Emissions Scheme pollution tax regime.

You can tell the Luxury variants apart by their headlights, which have the “triple-L” design that is usually fitted to posher Lexus variants.

Meanwhile, an easy way to spot the hybrid version is to look for a slim tail spoiler on the boot.

Yasuhiro Sakakibara, the car’s chief engineer (pictured below), was on hand to present the car and said the ES is a car that needs to deliver “comfort, quietness and driving dynamics.” At the same time, he explained that the new car was inspired by the pleasure of fine everyday experiences. “I wanted the ES to be one of the special things that sparks joy in our guests’ daily life each time they see or hear it,” he said.

At its core, though, the ES is a luxury sedan. From the looks of the local brochure, the new one is generously equipped.

Even the basic ES 250 Executive model comes with such worthwhile stuff as 10 airbags, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, a driving mode selector (for tuning the car’s responsiveness and handling), a rear view camera, an enormous 12.3-inch display for the navigation and infotainment system, keyless operation, a wireless device charging pad and so on.

But things get properly luxurious with the other three versions — that is, the ES 250 Luxury for S$228,800, the ES 300h Executive for S$218,800 and the ES 300h Luxury for S$238,800.

All three would work well with a chauffeur. They have pull-up window shades, a set of climate and sound system controls in the rear armrest (below), and an extra set of switches for moving the front passenger seat out of the way, which is something tall bosses would presumably appreciate.

The Luxury models have a rear seat that reclines by 8 degrees, and are for avowed audiophiles. They come with a 17-speaker sound system tuned by Mark Levinson, a hi-fi specialist. Their wheels are specially designed to cut noise.

Much is riding on the new ES, both here and around the world. Globally, Lexus is introducing it to more markets than ever, including Western Europe and Japan. There, it has to lead the brand’s push into a segment dominated by the likes of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series.

It faces those foes here too, and has large shoes to fill besides — it is the latest in what has usually been the single best selling Lexus model in Singapore. Around the world, more than 2.2 million units have been sold across seven generations, making the ES the Lexus brand’s best selling sedan, according to Sakakibara.

Those who sell the ES’ German foes will no doubt pooh-pooh the Lexus’ lack of a turbocharged engine. Chief engineer Sakakibara says that hybrid drive suits the characteristics of the ES particularly well, and that the new 2.5-litre engine in the ES 250 offers a good balance between performance and fuel economy.

Yet, what the new ES lacks in outright pace, it might make up for with space. At 2,870mm, its wheelbase (the length between the front and rear axles) is long enough to create plenty of cabin space. It actually offers marginally more rear legroom than Lexus’ own flagship, the LS limousine.

Indeed, the ES is in some ways better in the back than the LS, with seats that offer more comfortable seating for three people.

It will help, too, that the ES inherits the striking looks and enormous presence of the boldly-styled LS.

Lexus also likes to play up the fact that it was carefully tuned by a takumi (or “craftsman”) driver, so even if it lacks fizz in a straight line, it slips through bends with measured ease — something the test drives at Changi this weekend are designed to prove.

“When we talk about driving experience, I think you’ll know why we are holding this event at Changi,” said Samuel Yong, the marketing director at Borneo Motors, pictured above.

Pre-launch interest in the new car has been “phenomenal”, said Lawrence Tan, the general manager for Lexus sales at Borneo. Interest has been evenly split between the Executive and Luxury models, with the be-winged hybrid ES 300h accounting for a “significant” portion of sales. Across the Lexus range here, around 20 percent of volume comes from hybrid models, so by our estimates a “significant” proportion would entail something in the order of 30 percent.

Borneo had been collecting pre-launch “expressions of interest” from prospective clients, many of which are expected to confirm their orders this weekend.

The company declined to say how many pre-launch sales it collected, but by our estimates the ES has been selling by the hundred. If so, the car designed to soothe its occupants could well prove to be a headache for German rivals.

We drove the new ES in the US earlier this year. Read our review of the new ES 300h here

As much as we like the hybrid, it’s the ES 250 that’ll sell better here. Should it?



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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.