Cinderella Lexus ES 300h impresses on all fronts
Look at this car. It’s a big Lexus, right? Yes. But it’s not the big one. This is ES, or Lexus Junior. It’s large, luxury saloon with all the bells and whistles. But at a fraction of the price you’d expect to pay. No, this is not the full fat LS limo, it’s the Camry-based front-wheel drive ES. And it has most of the bells and whistles anyway.
ES is no copy watch. It’s a real Lexus
Not quite a copy Rolex or Louis Vuitton either, this is a genuine Luxury Lexus ES. It’s the real thing and perhaps then some. In fact, we came away quite impressed by it. This is a hell of a lot of car, especially for the money. And it’s come quite a long way since Toyota’s luxury arm first toyed with an affordable yet quite compelling compromise.
When Lexus first introduced ES, it seemed a little too much Camry. Remember Toyota’s lofty large saloon that was once on sale in SA for many years? And so perhaps a bit too little Lexus. But the luxury brand has addressed all that and this ES is now very much a Lexus. In fact you’d need to know those little nuances to tell them apart.
It’s nothing new, but the ES recently benefited the expected Lexus nip and tuck. That smile has freshened teeth and there’s a really cool new high-resolution 12.3-inch widescreen display The Lexus Navigation EMV unit better fills the dash and moves 100 mm closer as it debuts some new touch-display functionality for the front occupants.
A few little ES 300h refinements
The driving position has also been refined. There’s a more natural steering wheel angle, better pedal positioning and a 10-way adjustable seat. They even stole the steering wheel from the LS, complete with wood trim to match the dash, and integral heating to go with the front seats that warm your winter butt.
Anyway, we enjoyed ample time with ES and came away convinced. Positioned as an alternative to the LS many may confuse it with, it looks, feels and rides close enough to the flagship to fully earn that association. This super frugal hybrid driveline just drives that quality feel home even further. The petrol electric drivetrain adds a definite air of superiority to it…
On the road, ES may lack the kind of deft steering you’d expect of a 3 Series. But does that really matter? This car is all about copious space and all the luxury you could possibly cram into it. Not that it handles badly. It’s solid to drive and most impressive on gas. Performance is solid too.
Some would not believe it’s not an LS
We took friends out to dinner with the ES, including a brisk run over a nearby pass. It took some convincing that this ES was not the full-blown LS. It took a little explaining as to the differences. They were doubly impressed once they understood. Which is precisely the point of this car.
Sure, this mini me is by no means as sophisticated as its flagship sibling. Its more of the rough stepsister who buffs up good to steal the show. Now what was her name again? – Michele Lupini
Images & data: Giordano Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Lexus ES300h SE Engine: 160kW 220Nm 2.5-litre hybrid petrol I4 Drive: CVT automatic FWD TESTED: 0-60 km/h: 4.16 sec 0-100 km/h: 8.35 sec 0-160 km/h: 18.95 sec 400m: 16.1 sec @ 147 km/h 80-120 km/h: 5.18 sec 120-160 km/h: 7.74 sec CLAIMED: VMax: 180km/h Fuel: 4.6 l/100km CO2: 104 g/km Warranty/Service: 7y 105K/7y 105K km LIST PRICE: R1.001M RATED: 8