Cape Town - Let's be frank, the Lexus ES has always been known as something of a Toyota Camry in a tuxedo, along with a posher hairdo and some additional wining and dining charm.
The new one, which is the fourth generation globally but only the second to reach South African shores, follows its Toyota sibling onto the company’s latest platform, with all of its associated technological advancements, but judging by the styling this new one also wants to pass a few shooters around the table and then ride the mechanical bull at the entrance.
Although still quite classy in its overall approach, the new ES has a far more expressive design inspired by the premium division’s more daring L-Finesse styling language, or “provocative elegance” as the ES’s design chief Yasuo Kajino puts it.
Built on the company’s weight-reducing, high-tensile-steel-intensive GA-K global platform, the new ES is 65mm longer, 45mm wider and 5mm lower than before, with 50mm of that extra length going into the wheelbase.
Two models are available in the form of an ES 250 EX petrol and ES 300h SE petrol-electric hybrid.
The ES 250 sports a brand new and significantly more powerful 2.5-litre normally aspirated engine, which features a long-stroke design and a clever Direct-4S injection system that can provide high-pressure direct injection as well low-pressure (more efficient) Atkinson-cycle port injection.
The engine produces 152kW and 243Nm, up from the previous car's 135kW/235Nm, and is mated to a new eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The ES 300h mates that aforementioned 2.5 to an electric motor for a system output of 160kW. The hybrid model employs a CVT gearbox, but there are eight ‘simulated’ gears which the driver can flick through using steering-mounted paddle shifters.
Both ES derivatives come with Drive Mode Select, allowing drivers to choose from three modes: Normal, Eco and Sport.
The ES 250 rides on 17-inch alloy wheels, while the ES 300h gets 18-inch ‘Chrome Cast’ rims with a turbine design. You’ll also tell the flagship apart by its triple-beam LED headlights with adaptive high beam, the ES 250 making do with conventional LED lights.
There are numerous spec differences in the cabin of the new ES, although it must be said that even the ES 250 is rather well appointed.
For instance, both get cruise control, multi-zone automatic climate control and heated seats as standard, but the 300h gets adaptive radar-based cruise as well as a heating for the back seats and steering wheel.
Both come with a Display Audio infotainment system with reverse camera but the 300h boasts 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound and navigation.
The seats are upholstered in Nulux imitation leather in the ES 250’s case, while the 300h receives genuine Semi-Aniline leather.
Other amenities what will be exclusively enjoyed by 300h owners include head-up display, a rear sunshade, wireless charging, Panoramic View Monitor, the Lexus Pre-Crash System with oncoming vehicle and pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Alert and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
All those flashy extras come at a price though, with the ES 300h SE retailing at R843 800. The ES 250 EX is somewhat more attainable at R593 300. Do you really need that (R723 000+) E-Class?
Those prices include a warranty and full maintenance plan that’s valid for seven-years or 105 000km.