ROAD TEST

Lexus ES 250 is a smooth operator

This saloon is refined and comfy, but by no means a torpedo

31 January 2019 - 13:41 By Phuti Mpyane
A modern redesign gives the new Lexus ES far more styling shine than its conservative predecessor. Picture: SUPPLIED
A modern redesign gives the new Lexus ES far more styling shine than its conservative predecessor. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Lexus brand doesn’t have what you’d describe as a big following in SA, where it exchanges punches in the sales charts with offerings from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

In an effort to enhance its fortunes, Lexus SA has culled the GS from its local line-up and has given the baton to the latest ES range to cover the needs of enduring sedan lovers. 

In this latest iteration the new ES has been treated to a somewhat more agreeable aesthetic redesign than the previous car but the formula of a spacious sedan remains. The car is available in ES 300h hybrid guise or in this naturally-aspirated ES 250 flavour. Crucially, the ES 250 is R250,500 cheaper than the flagship ES 300h hybrid.

Thanks to a front-wheel-drive chassis instead of RWD, the lack of a diff has yielded generous room at the rear. Despite a sportback-esque silhouette, it’s actually a sedan in the traditional sense that it has a conventional bootlid rather than an up-swinging rear hatch.

However, based on the shape, length and price bracket, it has to slug it out with some pretty talented Germans in the form of BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe and Audi’s A5 Sportback. But I liken it more to a rival of VW’s drop-dead gorgeous Arteon — an alternative that offers virtually equal dimensions and inside room but much more in terms of modern drivetrain options like diesels, petrols and AWD underpinnings.

The Lexus ES is larger and roomier than its price rivals. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Lexus ES is larger and roomier than its price rivals. Picture: SUPPLIED

Where the ES 250 thumps not only the VW but the entire village of peers, is the legendary Lexus smoothness. Thanks to a double-wishbone front suspension setup and new swing valve shock-absorber technology, the damping is superb. The last time a car I drove a car that wafted this supremely was the BMW M760Li with its air-suspension dialled all the way up to Comfort Plus.

This new shock-absorber innovation is claimed to give maximum damping should you drive on even the tiniest of stones. The ES 250 also steers decently around corners for its length. Combined with eerily good sound-deadening, apparently the best of any Lexus, and robust build quality, you would be hard-pressed to even hear the crunch of gravel under its wheels.

While the Lexus ES 250’s front-engine and front-wheel-drive formula is fairly effective, it is let down by its normally-aspirated 2.5l four-cylinder engine. Outputs are 152kW and 243Nm,  but these translate to relatively lethargic performance. Attached to an eight-speed automatic transmission, it is claimed to get to 100km/h from standstill in 9.1 seconds and reach a top speed of only 210km/h.

It possesses a “sport” button but this tester was at odds to find reasons for such an unnecessary addition to a car with not much of a dynamic envelope to speak of.

Utilising the old recipe of stuffing loads of standard specification into a car rather than going the expensive options list route, this ES 250 arrives at your door with ample luxury amenities such as bum-warmers, leather trim, reverse camera, keyless start, cruise control, a comprehensive infotainment system operated by mouse, Bluetooth connectivity, a moonroof, and a remote boot opener, to name a few. There’s also a score of active and supplementary safety features including 10 airbags.

The boot is also a very reasonable 420l and has a full-sized spare wheel.

One of the best cabins of the times. Stylish and solid quality build boosted by enormous rear legroom. Picture: SUPPLIED
One of the best cabins of the times. Stylish and solid quality build boosted by enormous rear legroom. Picture: SUPPLIED

There is virtually nothing on the subject of trendy novelties like autonomous driving capability, gesture controls or artificial intelligence. It is down to basic cruise control for any self-regulation and the pushing of buttons or fiddling with its touchpad mouse for navigating around its mono screen.

Beyond the dramatic spindle grille, which is truly dazzling to onlookers, it isn’t as bewitchingly pampering as the retired GS, nor does it offer the spiciness of the compact IS. This somewhat coupe shape saloon masks an undeniably stylish and professional-looking digital dash.

At 4.9m nose-to-tail it’s larger than its price competitors, and is in the general area of the BMW 5, Mercedes-Benz E and Audi A6. This makes it a good value-for-money proposition along with its reasonable 8.7l/100km fuel consumption.

 

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