Launch review: 2021 Lexus ES
Cape Town - If SUVs are taking over the word’s automobile space at the cost of sedans, then I say long live the sedan. Especially if it’s a Lexus. And in this case the Lexus ES range that’s the luxury brand’s top seller and it’s not difficult to see why.
Sure, most people, especially South Africans, tend to look towards the Germans when it comes to luxury vehicles but Lexus does its thing elegantly without much fanfare and when it arrives on the scene takes over much of the conversation. A bit like the Springboks’ bomb squad on the bench.
Lexus calls it a minor upgrade with an all-new chassis built on the GA-K platform that allows for a lower bonnet line and a distinctive silhouette with a strong rearward sloping fast roofline.
Up front the spindle grille has been tweaked, depending on the model grade, with fewer vertical bars and the introduction of L-shaped elements and slimmer units added for both the single and three-eye LED headlights.
There are three model grades: ES 250 petrol EX grade, ES 300 hybrid EX and the ES 300 hybrid SE.
The petrol variant is Lexus’ 2.5-litre four cylinder motor with 152kW and 243Nm, coupled to an eight-speed direct shift automatic transmission. Lexus says it’s good for 6.6l/100km, which isn’t far off what we achieved at the launch, and that it will get to 100km/h in 9.1 seconds and top out at 210km/h.
The two hybrid variants have the same petrol mill and are equipped with Lexus’ fourth-generation self-charging hybrid drive system giving it a power output of 160kW and a combined fuel economy of 4.6l/100km. It will sprint to 100km/h in 8.9 seconds and is electronically governed to a top speed of 180km/h.
But the ES is not about numbers. When you open the doors, smell the leather and see the quality of the finishings, that’s really what it’s about.
What Lexus calls the “Future Interior concept and Seat in Control” that gives a driver-centric cockpit and spacious and comfortable area for the passenger is very evident.
With two tall guys in the cockpit the ES feels incredibly roomy with the new 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s been moved forward just over 100mm, but the touchpad in the centre console is still finicky, a more natural steering wheel (taken from the LS) angle and revised pedal positions the ES begs to be driven on long roadtrips.
And passengers are well taken care of too, with ample leg space for tall adults.
As has come to be expected from Lexus everything comes as standard from the comfortable heated and cooled leather seats, moonroof, fantastic sound, advanced safety features to the fantastic ride quality.
The hybrid SE grade cabin also has a Mauve trim option (I didn’t even know that it was a colour) while the EX grades have Hazel and Rich Cream trims as new.
We sampled the ES 250 first and from the moment you climb behind the wheel the Lexus provides a kind of calmness that allows you to ignore the bad Cape Town drivers and just let them be while they dawdle in the fast lane and you pass them on the left, still well below the speed limit.
There was a gale like only a Cape South Easter can provide and apart from slight wind noise from the side mirrors there was nothing else to disturb you inside. The ES 250 rides on higher profile tyres than its hybrid siblings and while the hybrid would be my choice, the 250 provided a gentler ride.
In the 300 hybrid the combination of ICE and electric work in perfect harmony. Everything is done for you, no worrying about buttons or electronic readouts because the energy from braking regenerates the battery allowing you to silently cruise through town or step on the accelerator to give you that instant short burst of power.
The suspension and chassis combination work together brilliantly so if you do decide to step things up it will gladly take on the Franschhoek pass with little fuss and even less body roll.
It may be out of character for it because as I said earlier the classy interior, calming nature of it and sublime drive is something you would rather experience on a long trip with sweeping bends with your luggage in the back of its enormous boot.
The Lexus ES is everything a medium luxury sedan should be including very well priced against its competitors.
So if you’re in the market in that price range look beyond the teutonic models and please don’t let an SUV cloud your judgement.
It comes with a seven-year/105 000km warranty and maintenance plan.
Lexus ES Pricing (2021)
ES 250 EX: R719 400
ES 300h EX: R774 400
ES 300h SE: R948 400