The market for mid-size executive saloons in the UK has been dominated by diesel power, as this has traditionally offered the best taxation and cost advantages for business users. But this situation is changing rapidly, with more and more customers looking for an environmentally-acceptable alternative to diesel. That puts the hybrid ES in a very good place – and the seventh-generation model is the most competitive and appealing yet.
All ES models are equipped as standard with the 2nd generation Lexus Safety System+, which features advanced technologies to help prevent three of the most common accident types: rear-end collisions, lane departures and collisions involving pedestrians. Lexus claims this makes the ES the safest premium saloon ever tested by Euro NCAP, with a full 5-star rating.
The Lexus spindle grille more than holds its own in the battle of the executive car park, being both assertive and distinctive (it’s a nod back to the company’s origins as a loom maker). The lines of the ES are striking without being fussy, and there are stand-out features like the ‘lightning bolt’ front headlamps. Its profile is sleek and the rear is coupé like without impinging on headroom. Inside, the pride Lexus takes in the quality of its materials is evident throughout, and the overall impression is plush, business-like and relaxing.
Even as standard the ES comes with business-oriented features like satellite navigation, an 8” touchscreen with an intuitive remote interface, parking sensors with brake function and LED headlights. Equipment levels increase with the F SPORT which also offers adaptive dampers and five drive modes. Top of the range Takumi trim comes with refinements like a wireless phone charger, 12.3” multimedia screen and an 835W Mark Levinson® Sound system.
The ES is described by Lexus as a self-charging hybrid, which means it doesn’t have plug-in capability but that it offers a combination of petrol engine and electric motor to deliver smooth performance with excellent economy. Parent company Toyota’s expertise with hybrids is unparalleled and in the case of the ES the result is a very frugal and refined powertrain. An all-new 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine powers the front wheels, aided by a new hybrid transaxle transmission (including 118bhp electric drive motor and a smaller motor/generator) and driving an ‘e-CVT’ gearbox. The result is a combined power output of 215bhp, with an official 106 g/km CO2 and just over 60mpg. The bodyshell of the ES is both light and strong, and all models from F SPORT upwards have adaptive variable suspension for a supple ride and responsive handling.
Verdict: the market for mid-size saloons is dominated by fleets and company car users and this has traditionally been resistant to change. But the ES in its latest guise replaces the former Lexus contender in this market the GS and offers some very tangible advantages for anyone prepared to leave the herd and follow their own instincts. It’s refined, frugal, well-equipped and distinctive.