“It’s all about hospitality.” These are the words of Lexus Product Planner Basetsana Msimanga. She was speaking to us at the launch of the new Lexus ES where we had just done a tea tasting, accompanied by cakes, eclairs and truffles (whatever I could get in my mouth, really) followed by a Japanese whisky tasting. Hospitality at its finest. And this, for me, embodies the Lexus brand. It’s a car you want to be hosted in, just for the experience if anything else.
To be honest, I am not exactly the biggest Lexus fan – I’ve never envisioned owning one myself. And I can’t really say for sure why that is. The German brands have a hold on me, like it does on most South Africans. But what I can appreciate is a brand that not only listens to its customers, but caters to their every need. And this, my fellow humans, is why you should consider the new Lexus ES if you are in the market for a sedan.
This new ES is flipping sharp looking. The lines are clean and the overall design is sleek and stylish. It commands respect as it comes in to view on your rear view mirror. You will happily move out of the fast lane for this new Lexus ES. The interior is modern, except for a few “oudoos” touches here and there. (Side note: “oudoos” means old fashioned in my vocab, but I fear it could also mean old vagina to others). The wooden trim along the dashboard and on the steering wheel just gives it an outdated look and feel. And the touchpad used to operate the infotainment system has been a bugbear of mine for some time. I cannot get to grips with it, it is not user friendly enough and I find it to be far too finicky. Other than that, the spacious cabin is a great place to be as a driver, or as a passenger.
As is typical with Lexus, these cars come standard with a bazillion features and so there are no optional extras available…there doesn’t need to be any, they are all in the car already. The ES250 boasts heated seats, reverse camera, leather upholstery, keyless start and 10 airbags to name a few. You can also expect the Lexus Climate Concierge which operates the climate control system, seat heating and steering-wheel heating (hybrid only). The 300h adds things like heated seats for everyone, that heated steering wheel, navigation, a panoramic view display on the reverse camera, and a wireless charging pad.
The line up in South Africa consists of the ES250 EX which boasts a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine producing 152 kW and 243 Nm. It sends this power to the front wheels via a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The other, far more expensive model on offer is the ES300h SE which is the hybrid offering. It combines the 2.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and a CVT transmission. You’re looking at power outputs of 131 Kw and 221 Nm.
I drove both these models on the launch and am impressed by how refined the drive is on both these cars. The ride quality is magnificent and you don’t hear much a part from what is going on in the cabin – so very minimal wind and road noise. From a performance point of view, don’t expect fire! The Lexus ES is about comfort and tranquility. It is not about giving it horns. But if you want to throw it in to a corner for some reason, you will be happy for the reworked steering which is far more responsive and direct (interestingly, it is the same steering wheel found on the LS500). The hybrid is impressive and of course, it means less stops at the fuel station. However, the almost R250 000 price difference makes my mind up as to which I would choose.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Lexus is all about hospitality and this new ES exudes this. It is the car you want to be driven in. There is more space than its rivals, more features and an air of that luxurious hospitality you want in a car in this segment. But like I say, go for the ES250. I cannot fathom why you would pay so much more for a car that is essentially the same barring a few extra features and the added electric motor. But if you want to be all earthy and drive a hybrid, I won’t judge you. I might become friends with you, however, but only for your money.
LEXUS ES PRICING
Lexus ES 250 EX – R593 300
Lexus ES 300h SE – R843 800