It took me by surprise to find out we’re into the sixth
generation of the genteel Lexus ES. First introduced in 1989 to support
Toyota’s then-new luxury brand, ES has been the entry point for the
Lexus. Think of it as a Camry with a touch of class - or maybe more than
just a touch.
The Lexus folks provided a preview of the substantially revised ES
350 and the new-to-the-brand ES 300h Hybrid during a press event in
Dearborn today. Toyota, most of you know, has offered a fairly successful
hybrid version of the Camry but this is the first for hybrid for the ES.
Just about every element of the new Lexus ES gets an upgrade.
It’s quieter, quicker, roomier, has better materials and bolder
design. Though we won’t be getting firm pricing information until
closer to its arrival at dealers in August we can safely speculate that it
will be somewhere near the current 37-grand base price.
The shape and profile of the ES, as with previous generations,
implies unmistakably a Camry sibling but the details make it clear this is
a step above. From the front we see the distinct new Lexus styling language
in the “spindle” grille and added drama of the sculpted fascia.
Headlights and taillights get extended further and other body curves get
more pronounced and stylish. Small aerodynamic details, like subtile fins
on the A-pillars and judicious underbody cladding contribute to an amazing
0.27 coefficient of drag, probably worth a couple of mpg.
Inside, we are charmed by the thoughtful and elegant design and
execution. At first glance it looks a bit complex but it takes but a moment
to acclimate to the two-tiered structure with readouts and information on
the upper level and controls below. The traditional center stack has gone
away becoming lovely, flowing, horizontal shapes. Controlling everything in
the large navigation screen is the second generation, mouse-like, haptic
joystick that is one of the most pleasing tactile experiences ever
incorporated into an automobile.
My favorite element of the luxuriously appointed interior is the
blonde, bamboo wood trim on the dash, doors and steering wheel of the
Hybrid ES. It’s offered as well on the GS Hybrid and makes an
important ecological statement as bamboo is about the most sustainable of
wood products. It’s beautiful as well.
The chassis and suspension have been substantially reworked with
more extra-strength steel, more body bracing and opposite-wound front coil
springs, reworked geometry in the rear and quicker steering. We expected
improved ride and handling and we were not disappointed. More sound
insulation as well contributed to a feeling we were in something quite
special as it was quiet as a calm summer day in the forest. Three drive
modes allow us to adjust shift points, acceleration curves, suspension
damping and I don’t know what all. Try as we might, we could find
nothing to complain about here.
Watch TACH's exclusive ES 350 promo video
Both the ES 350 with its 268-hp, 3.5-liter V6 and the ES 300h with a
modest 4-cylinder augmented by a substantial battery pack and hybrid drive
system, have plenty of power. The standard 6-speed automatic transmission
is carried over from the last generation but has been recalibrated.
The ES 350 is rated at 21-mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. The
Hybrid is rated at 40 in the city and 39 on the highway. Both use regular
With 10 airbags (reminds me of our city counsel) and all the usual
chassis dynamics, available lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring
and rear cross traffic alert, we would rate it a top safety pick, though
we’ll have to wait and see if the IIHS agrees.
Compared to the last generation of ES this one is 2-inches longer
and stretched 4-inches in wheel base allowing for lots of extra leg room in
the rear seat. ES has a decent 15-cubic-feet of trunk space and
12-cubic-feet for the hybrid which has its battery pack mounted vertically
behind the rear seat. We climbed into the back to be sure, and it felt
generous. The rear seats are more contoured as well for extra pampering of
We had enough drive time in both during our drive routes in and
around suburban Dearborn to get a good sense of the cars and was pleased
with both. Both accelerated decisively and handled admirably. It seemed the
ES 300h squealed its tires too easily. They may be low rolling resistance
tires which naturally have a bit less stickiness.
We’ll have a complete review for you when the new ES models
are available in the press fleet. In the meantime, look for the new ES 350
and ES 300h at dealers in August.