Frugal, well-specced, good residual values
Leisurely performance, bungee CVT gearbox
What is it?
UX, ES, NX, RX, RX L, RC F, LC, LC Convertible, LS. Nope, it’s not some sort of World War II cipher, but the current Lexus range list.
Confusing at the best of times, then. The one we’re focusing on here, the ES, is actually now in its seventh generation, having been part of the Lexus line-up since the brand was launched in ‘89, but was only introduced (as a replacement for the GS) to Europe in 2018, while it received a mid-life facelift late last year.
It faces off against the likes of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class in the mid-sized saloon sector. Tough competition, then.
HIT ME WITH THE FACTS.
Well, in the UK, it comes with a single engine and transmission set-up (ES 300h) and a fairly keen set of trims and packages (base ES300h, Premium Edition, F-Sport and Takumi, which is the bells’n’whistles grade). It shares its basic ‘GA-K’ architecture with the US Toyota Camry, albeit with some extra bracing to add body stiffness.
It’s front-wheel drive, a mild-hybrid, and biased more towards economy than performance – and for the first time anywhere, it also gets a specific F-Sport variant, although this model actually only designates some suspension improvements (adaptive damping), rather than any bald performance gains. Full details on the driving tab.
The bold front-end styling appears to have been based on a pair of semi-drawn curtains, a real love-it-or-loathe-it aesthetic, but you can’t complain that it doesn’t look different. Tweaks for 2022 models include a revised grille, slimmer headlights, and “three-eye” LED units on upper specs, but only the eagle-eyed will likely notice.
HYBRID ONLY, YOU SAY?
Yup. The drivetrain combines a clever 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol and self-charging electric-motor/smallish-battery arrangement, coupled to an E-CVT gearbox. Lexus neglects to give an electric range, with battery power solely reserved for pulling away and at low speeds around town. There’s a surprising amount of electric running to be had, but don’t expect to get anywhere near the distance of any plug-in rivals, such as the claimed 37 miles of the BMW 530e.
The car isn’t awfully powerful, kicking out a combined 215bhp/221lb ft, but coupled with that endless-ratio ‘box, Lexus claims nearly 55mpg and just 119g/km of CO2 on the smallest wheels/tyres. For a car of this size, that’s spectacular, and offers big savings for business users. Head over to the buying tab for the full lowdown.
IS THE CABIN A LUXURIOUS AFFAIR?
Lexus has clearly put in a considerable amount of time (and learned lessons from the LS limo) making sure it’s quiet and comfortable, tweaking cabin tranquillity via aero and noise blocking, and sorting out the seats and driving position… even some of the alloy wheels have drone-absorbing hollow rims. The multimedia system has also been addressed in the mid-life facelift, with the 12.3-inch infotainment display now offering much welcome touchscreen functionality. See the interior tab for more.
But the real talking point is the £1,600 optional 'digital door mirrors', which help to reduce aero drag. Regular side mirrors make way for a pair of growths resembling bug antennae, relaying their camera feeds to 5in screens inside the doors. The display will zoom in and out as you park and display alerts when someone's hovering in your blind spot. It takes a while to get used to them, but for those buying into a Lexus for its tech and its wilful styling flamboyance beside more sensible rivals, they're a strong talking point.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Prices start from just shy of £39k for the entry-level ES trim, rising to an eye-watering £52k in top-spec Takumi trim. Full details over on the buying tab.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
A saloon car for people who don’t really care about/enjoy driving, but quite like big mpg and a nice stereo. And cutting-edge tech, if you're after its fancy mirrors. Plus, Lexus's legendary reliability.
A big front-drive premium car is never going to stir the soul, but by offering it as a tax-swerving hybrid and focusing on making it a nice, serene place to be, Lexus may have found a gap in the market. Just not one that’s ever going to interest the enthusiast.