Not too long ago, the Lexus ES was regarded (more like derided) as a merely glorified Toyota Camry. And those who thought so weren’t entirely wrong: The ES was based on the Camry platform from its first generation in 1989 all the way to the fifth one in 2006. Hence, in the minds of the purists and the class snobs, the ES was an afterthought more than it was a legitimate Lexus. It existed, they believed, just so the Japanese luxury brand could have an entry in the luxury midsize sedan segment of the US market.
As Lexus grew in global reputation and prestige—consistently beating even Mercedes-Benz in quality surveys among premium brands—the division’s leadership felt it was time to dissociate the ES from its “pedestrian” Camry twin. And so, for the car’s sixth generation (introduced in 2012), Lexus engineers and designers made sure it shared so much less in common with its Toyota counterpart. For starters, the chassis used for this ES version was that of the bigger (and higher-end) Avalon model. Anything, we suppose, to shake off the Camry connection.
Now that the ES has its own personality—with even the most discerning customers having embraced it as a true Lexus sedan—it’s ready to scale greater heights. This year, the brand unveiled the seventh-generation ES, underpinned by the so-called Toyota New Global Architecture (GA-K for this particular application). The TNGA is the automaker’s new strategy for making “ever-better cars,” the primary aim of which is to give vehicle owners a more satisfying driving experience.
With the all-new ES, that starts with a more dynamic exterior design. If this car was previously known as a sedate (read: bland) luxury sedan, it is now forging a new identity—that of a sporty car which driving enthusiasts wouldn’t think twice about bringing to the weekend fun run with the boys.
To give the ES a coupe-like appearance, the manufacturer made it 66mm longer and 45mm wider, but also 5mm lower. The engineers were also able to position the wheels closer to the corners, with the wheelbase now measuring 50mm more than that of the last model. Finally, the tracks were expanded—by 10mm at the front and 38mm at the back—for a more athletic stance and improved track performance. The result? A car that Lexus feels “will make owners take a second look as they walk away.”
The coupe-like appearance results in a car that Lexus feels will make owners take a second look as they walk away
Yasuo Kajino, the project chief designer, explains the design approach this way: “The ES has always been an elegant luxury sedan. For this generation, we have added daring design elements that challenge the traditional expectations of buyers.”
And to underscore Lexus’s serious intent to overhaul the character of the ES and make it a truly exciting car, an F Sport version has been introduced—a first in the model’s history.
In the US, the all-new ES will be sold in three forms: the conventionally powered ES250 and ES350, and the hybrid ES300h. For the Philippine market, Lexus is offering the preferred ES350 (presumably based on past customer purchases), which is equipped with an updated 3.5-liter V6 engine that features D4-S fuel injection. Producing 300hp of output and 355Nm of torque, the powerplant is mated to a new eight-speed “Direct Shift” automatic transmission to help with the car’s sporty aspirations. Lexus claims that this transmission “automatically selects the optimum gear based on speed, acceleration and the individual’s driving habits.”
From the ES press statement:
The first-gear ratio in the previous six-speed [transmission] was 3.30:1, while the new eight-speed offers a 5.51 in first gear. On the high end, the new eight-speed allows the engine to run 250-300rpm lower at 100km/h compared to the six-speed, thanks to a taller final drive ratio (2.56) made possible by the more flexible transmission ratios.
What we have then is a luxury midsize sedan that is tempting to drive (which may be bad news for the employment status of many chauffeurs). Those thrill-seeking owners who will venture from the back of the car to the driver seat should immediately appreciate the new electric power steering installed on the ES. The steering feel and feedback are more precise, achieved by mounting the assist motor directly on the steering rack. This new steering setup also provides “1.2 inches of additional tilt and 1.6 inches of additional telescoping range.”
In the cockpit, the driver benefits from Lexus’s “Seat in Control” concept, a thoughtful interpretation of what other carmakers term as a “driver-centric” layout. When you take your position in the driver seat, “all the controls you need are within reach, and all the information you want is in plain view.”
A Drive Mode Select system offers three drive settings—Eco, Normal and Sport—to perfectly adapt the car’s behavioral dynamics to one’s driving style as well as the driving conditions.
And because this is a proper Lexus, the cabin is fully immersed in opulence. For those times when you’re just happy to be a passenger, you will be pampered by the car’s remote touch interface, rear-seat control panel, rear power-recline seats, rear power sunshade, and climate concierge. Meanwhile, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system will more than adequately drown out all the noise pollution along your route.
With the new ES, Lexus specifically boasts about the brand’s takumi craftsmanship, which makes every detail of the cabin “a remarkable work of true artistry.” For our market, the ES is available with four interior color schemes, three types of trim, and semi-aniline leather seat upholstery.
Safety-wise, the all-new ES is better than ever, too. The ES350 for our market has the following standard safety equipment: 10 airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, blind spot monitor and hill-start assist. When you consider how so much sportier this new model is versus its predecessors—which could inspire a lot of spirited driving—you will agree that first-rate safety systems are now more important than they have ever been.
More good news: The all-new Lexus ES350 is now sold in the Philippines. Priced at P4,308,000, this head-turning, heart-thumping luxury sedan is the stuff juvenile dreams and executive ambitions are made of. With this car, those fantasies no longer have to be mutually exclusive.
This branded article was produced in partnership with Lexus Philippines.