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REVIEW: Lexus ES 300h SE is a relaxing and luxurious cocoon on wheels

Published May 12, 2022

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Johannesburg: You can’t help but admire Toyota for offering vehicles like the new Lexus ES to South African buyers.

That’s because when it comes to luxurious sedans like this, there aren’t really many buyers. For instance, Lexus has only sold an average of 17 of these a month since the beginning of 2022. The grey-suited bean counters at most rival car companies would have given up on a car that attracts such small volumes but, thankfully, TMSA likes to cater for your more individualistic buyer who wants something different.

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Which the new Lexus ES certainly is. While past incarnations of the vehicle have been fairly conservative in the way they’ve presented themselves, the latest sedan is rather striking. Even more so after the recent facelift that brought a sharper-looking grille, new LED headlamps and fresh 17” and 18” wheel designs.

Priced from R741 500, the Lexus ES is a luxurious sedan that offers 5 Series size for 3 Series money, albeit with front-wheel propulsion.

On the road, it’s quiet, smooth and rides very comfortably. Some might say that it’s just a Toyota Camry with Lexus jewellery, given that it shares its TNGA-K platform with the latest version of Toyota’s saloon stalwart that’s not offered in SA, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Sure, the steering isn’t exactly communicative, but thanks to its low centre of gravity and a long-wheelbase design that sees the wheels pushed to the corners, it does handle rather neatly for its size.

You get to choose between two engine options: an ES 250 powered by a normally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol unit that produces 152kW and 243Nm, and an ES 300h hybrid model that pairs an Atkinson cycle version of the aforementioned 2.5 with an electric motor for a total system output of 160kW.

Although you do get a bit of unpleasant CVT drone when working the engine hard, the Lexus ES 300h we recently tested offers adequate performance and decent fuel economy. Our unit averaged 7.5 litres per 100km on a route that consisted mostly of highway driving, which is not bad for a car of this size. Also consider that due to the hybrid system that works best in stop-start conditions, your in-town fuel consumption would be lower than you’d normally expect.

At lower speeds, in the urban jungle, the Lexus ES is a refined experience, with that electric motor making pull-offs whisper quiet. In fact, the whole car feels like a big de-stress zone.

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The luxuriously appointed and tastefully finished cabin also contributes to the feeling, of course. In the latest facelifted model, the ergonomics have been given a welcome upgrade. While you get the option of using that horrible ‘touch pad’ that has made past Lexus models somewhat frustrating to operate, the new 12.3-inch infotainment display has touch functionality. Lexus also moved the screen 100mm forward to give you a fighting chance of being able to reach it.

The new infotainment system is reasonably intuitive and below it you still get separate controls for most of the climate functions. There’s also a large, shiny and conveniently placed volume-control button on the dashboard, sad as it is that this has become a talking point in modern cars.

In terms of spec choices, buyers of the ES 300h can choose between an EX model, priced at R797 600, and an SE that requires a stretch to R976 900.

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The EX variant provides as much luxury as most people could wish for with synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, 10-speaker DAB+ sound system, electric front seats, tilt-and-slide moonroof, dual USB ports in the front and back, cruise control and a whole suite of advanced driver assistance features such as Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitor and Active Cornering Assist.

Expensive as it is, the ES 300h SE flagship that we tested adds a whole pile of sumptuous trimmings, including Semi-Aniline Leather, three-zone climate control, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, wireless phone charging, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping System.

Moving to the back seats, there is space for occupants to stretch their legs but due to the car’s low stature, headroom might not be sufficient for taller individuals. If you opted for the SE model your passengers would get to enjoy an electrically retractable sunshade.

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The boot swallows 454 litres, according to Lexus, but you’re not going to squeeze bulkier items through the narrow aperture. If you’ve got bicycles to load then best you look at a bike rack, or an SUV.

VERDICT

Most people shopping in the luxury car segment are going to ignore the Lexus ES in favour of more fashionable SUVs but for those who like the sedan format, the Lexus offering is a compelling luxury car package.

It’s comfortable, spacious, equipped to the hilt and, in hybrid form at least, relatively economical for its size. At just short of a million bucks, the range-topping SE is pricey though.

FACTS: Lexus ES 300h SE

Price: R976 900 (May 2022)

Engine: 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder, petrol + electric

Transmission: Continuously variable (CVT)

Drive: Front-wheel drive

Power: 160kW (total)

Torque: 221Nm + electric

0-100km/h: 8.9 seconds (claimed)

Top speed: 180km/h (claimed)

Fuel use: 4.6 litres per 100km (claimed, mixed use)

Fuel use: 7.5 litres per 100km (tested, freeway use)

Boot capacity: 454 litres

Kerb weight: 1740kg

Fuel tank capacity : 50 litres

Warranty: 7-year/105 000km (vehicle)

Warranty: 8-year/195 000km (battery)

Maintenance plan: 7-year/105 000km

IOL Motoring

Related Topics:

Car ReviewsLexusSedan

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