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Lexus ES test drive

The new Lexus ES offers a refined and luxurious executive experience, but can it make an impact on rivals like the BMW 5 Series?

What’s the Lexus ES like inside?

Cabin quality is of a seriously high standard in the Lexus ES. Plush materials are present on every visible and touchable surface in the cabin, while an abundance of leather ensures the seats and steering wheel match the impression of quality.

That said, the driving position almost feels like an afterthought — it’s slightly offset from a natural position to the pedals and pushed almost into the door.

Lexus also claims best-in-class distance between the back of the rear seats to that of the front passenger. That’s an elaborate way to say it’s pretty spacious for those in the back too, offering bags of legroom for even taller adults. As for boot space, the ES offers 454 litres.

What’s under the bonnet?

Here in the UK, we’ll only see the ES in 300h form — meaning it’s powered by a 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, capable of developing a combined 218hp while torque is rated at 221Nm for the internal combustion engine and 202Nm for the electric motor. The system is paired with a CVT gearbox.

As a result, 0-60mph comes in 8.7 seconds with a top speed of 112mph possible. Lexus claims the ES300h can achieve 53mpg on the combined cycle while emitting 106g/km of CO2 emissions.

In a move that’s to be expected of Lexus at this point, the system is well-refined and just simply does the job. There’s not an abundance of power, but enough for it to accelerate briskly to motorway speeds and sit there quietly thanks to its electric capabilities.

That said, the old CVT trick of making an engine sound like a vacuum cleaner while getting up to speed is all too present.

What’s it like to drive?

Buyers of a Lexus ES will likely do most of their driving on a motorway, and it excels here. Lexus has worked hard to ensure it’s a quiet and comfortable thing at speed (they say 93% of the hidden metal is covered in soundproofing material), and it has paid off.

We drove the car on smooth Spanish roads, so we’ll have to reserve final judgment until we drive a UK-spec car on UK roads. However, it’s clear that the ES rides exceptionally well and there’s so little noise coming into the cabin that you could probably hear a baby breathing while hurtling along at 70mph.

Don’t expect the excitement to ramp up when things get twisty though — despite the F Sport’s attempts to bring that to the table.

What sets the F Sport model apart from the rest of the range is trick adaptive suspension that, in simple terms, aims to bring a more involved drive when pressing on while creating a more comfortable environment at a cruise. It does the latter well, but there’s little sense of involvement under harder loads.

Verdict

While the Lexus ES300h remains its only variant, it’s not going to be knocking the established German rivals from the perch — but the Japanese firm will be the first to tell you it isn’t aiming to do that.

Rather, this is an alternative for those who want hybrid efficiency and strong quality yet have residual values and low running costs strong in the back of their minds. It helps the car itself is pretty good too — offering bags of luxury and tech in a comfortable package.

Alternatively-fuelled cars remain the niche choice, but perhaps it’s fair to say the Lexus ES is well positioned to be a seriously strong executive contender when the majority become plugged into the electric revolution.

Similar cars

Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Key specifications

Model as tested: Lexus ES300h F Sport
Price (on-road): £38,150
Engine: 2.5-litre hybrid
Gearbox: automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT)
Power: 215 hp
Torque: 221 Nm (engine), 202 Nm (electric motor)
Top speed: 112 mph
0-60mph: 8.7 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 53.0 mpg
CO2 emissions: 106 g/km

Ryan Hirons
Ryan Hirons
Articles by Ryan Hirons are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.
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