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The all-new Lexus ES

28th April, 2018


FOR THE LONGEST TIME, the Lexus ES has been the more rational, conventional, reserved model within the Lexus range. While Malaysia only received the ES during its previous generation (officially though there may have been earlier units imported privately), it has had a successful history around the world that spans 6 generations.

The formula for the ES up until its previous generation has always been simple: take the Toyota Camry (in later years, the Avalon) platform, apply mild Lexus design cues, and build it to Lexus quality standards.

One would imagine that this kind of car couldn’t possibly sell well as a luxury vehicle, but it did. It was hugely popular for the brand, being a simpler and more affordable Lexus model. It was a step up for consumers moving up from a large sedan and into the world of luxury cars, without forcing them to pay a big sum of money.

And most important of all, it was a Lexus – a brand synonymous with build quality and reliability since coming into the world in 1989.

Under Akio Toyoda’s stewardship of both Toyota and Lexus, no model can escape his plan to make every car “Fun to Drive, Again”. The new ES would not have been allowed to remain a simple product at the sidelines of the Lexus range. No, it had to get the same treatment as every other Lexus model and would be brought in line with their corporate identity.

Starting with the structure, the new seventh generation ES sits on the Toyota GA-K (or Global Architecture – K) platform which in turn extends the wheelbase by about 50 mm. On top of this, the overall length of the car has increased by a bit more than the same dimension with a tiny bit of extra width. The result is a visually sporty car which also delivers what its looks suggest.

In terms of the exterior design of the car, the chief designer calls it “provocative elegance”. In a sense, it’s definitely more aggressive before but again, the ES has traditionally managed to avoid the widespread treatment applied to the rest of the Lexus range. It was considered as more of a counterpart to the contemporary models, not least of which because it’s front-wheel drive while the other models are rear-wheel drive.

But customers still have the option of the level of visual aggression that they desire. With the entry level ES 350 and ES 300h, the front grille remains as a set of vertical bars that radiates out from the centre, while the ES 350 FSPORT trades this for a blacked out cross-hatch pattern with cut-outs at each corner of the front.

The interior also receives a major upgrade. This has traditionally been where the ES shines – it provides customers with an entry into the Lexus experience in terms of ambience and layout, and boasted great rear legroom as well. The new interior layout mimics that of the LS flagship, with a relocated central display screen and multiple angular trim pieces running across the width of the dashboard.

With a more open environment up front, rear passengers also benefit from that increase in wheelbase with even more legroom. The lowering of the car has resulted in a hip-point that’s lower to make entry and exit easier, while the headliner has been redesigned to maintain ample levels of headroom.

It’s a well thought out car and while it may look like Lexus has gone all out to make it an aggressive and exciting car, it stays true to the elements that made it such a great selling car to begin with.

But even so, enthusiast drivers will be able to appreciate the work that has gone into the ES suspension. The previous generation wasn’t a fantastic car to drive despite being incredibly plush and comfortable. The damping and the handling were simply not up to hard driving although most ES owners were unlikely to do that.

With the new platform, increased rigidity and double wishbone suspension layouts mean that the ES handles far better than before, with predictable dynamics and a quick response to driver inputs.

As a whole, the new Lexus ES takes a step forward – with the rest of the Lexus models – but keeps one foot firmly in the past, remembering why people chose the ES over other Lexus models. It continues a great legacy, one established by the last six generations, and there’s no doubt that it will be a hit when it makes its way to American buyers.

I’m fairly sure it’ll be a hit here as well, providing Camry owners with another model to move further up to instead of switching to a German brand.

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