Lower, wide, longer – three watchwords that dog auto designers around the world as they move updated iterations of existing models along the development path and ensure the marketing speak that goes with a new model launch at least has some substance.
For the new Lexus ES the words are ‘provocative elegance’ as penned by Chief Designer, Yasuo Kajino to describe a car that is longer (+65 mm), lower (-5 mm) and wider (+45 mm) than its predecessor. The longer wheelbase (+50 mm) allows the wheels to be pushed closer to the car’s corners, with wider front and rear treads (+10 and +37 mm).
The seventh-generation ES follows the new LS flagship sedan and LC coupe in carrying forward the use of an all-new Global Architecture – GA-K platform –and the range includes the ES 250 petrol engine model as well as ES 300h. The ES 300h is powered by a new self-charging hybrid system.
“The ES has always been an elegant luxury sedan. For this generation, we have added daring design elements that challenge buyers’ traditional expectations,” says Kajino.
The new GA-K platform allowed for a lower hood line, which gave Kajino’s team the freedom to produce a distinctive silhouette with a strong downward slant, creating a dynamic yet fluid shape. Up front, the ES’ face is dramatically different and displays elegant bars that radiate out from the centre of the signature Lexus spindle grille, which has become a signature feature of Lexus vehicle design.
In a break with past generations, the design features a rear-ward-sloping fast roofline that emphasises the vehicle’s lower stance and aerodynamics. The rear end is clean and sharply chiselled, with LED lamps that wrap around the quarter panels to generate a continuous styling line when viewed from any angle.
Two different 17-inch and 18-inch wheel designs are available for the ES models. The ES 250 EX model is equipped with 17-inch multi-spoke cast alloy wheels and the ES 300h SE model runs on 18-inch Hyper Chrome Cast Allow noise-reducing wheels, featuring a turbine design. The hybrid model also features an integrated rear spoiler as well as auto-fold door mirror functionality when the car is switched off.
LED low and high beam headlamps are standard on the ES 250 EX model, while premium triple-beam LED headlamp technology on the Hybrid uses three compact bi-LED units. All-LED turn signals and side marker lamps are also included and its Adaptive High-beam System (AHS) is designed to provide enhanced visibility using the high-beam lamps.
The new ES provides a driving posture that reduces fatigue and provides an excellent feeling of envelopment, while also supporting the correct driving posture. The shape of the front seats have been designed in consideration of operating the steering wheel as well as ingress and egress which allow for easy access for the driver (the steering wheel and driver’s seat automatically adjust for ease of access).
Furthermore, these comprise two-way lumbar support on the ES 250 and four-way lumbar support on the hybrid model.
The cabin is a connected space, too, with the availability of a navigation system on the hybrid that includes a range of connected services. The navigation provides a 12,3-inch multimedia display and second-generation Remote Touch touchpad control; its voice recognition capabilities extend to a mobile assistant, allowing contactless driver’s smartphone control. The display features a reverse camera as standard kit, but the hybrid tops this up with a panoramic view display.
The standard combination meter features a 7-inch TFT LCD screen with a display configurable based on the driving mode. An Optitron-type meter is used for the water temperature and fuel gauges and lastly, a start-up animation plays across the combination meter, multimedia display and Head-Up Display, creating a visual welcome in the Lexus ES.
The engineering team, led by Chief Engineer Yasuhiro Sakakibara, had a clear goal: transform the image of the ES. That meant turning a sedan known primarily for comfort and quietness into one that is equally capable of delivering class-leading handling and power that you can feel and hear.
The starting point is the new GA-K platform. It is an exceptionally rigid, front-wheel drive chassis that rivals the GA-L rear-wheel drive platform used for the LC coupe and LS sedan in terms of torsional stiffness.
Various grades of high-tensile steel reduce weight compared to previous platforms, while enhancements such as an all-new multi-link rear suspension design, rack-mounted electric power steering and a V-brace behind the rear seat gave the engineers the flexibility to tune the ES with a new-found precision.
Although the design of the front suspension is similar to the previous ES, several changes have been made to improve overall responsiveness. The angle of the strut itself has been revised to better align it with the load path from the wheel for improved ride quality, while an increase in caster angle (+2 degrees) and caster trail (+8 mm) help to improve straight-line stability.
New Dynamic Control Shocks are capable of responding to even the smallest movements thanks to a non-overlapping auxiliary valve that allows damper oil to flow in either direction before entering the main valve.
The rear suspension design has a trailing arm, multi-link setup that also benefits from the responsiveness of the new Dynamic Control shocks. Higher placement of the trailing arm mounting point and a larger bushing size result in improved control over road irregularities. Wider spacing of the anti-roll bar bushing mounts also contributes to overall roll reduction.
The ES 250 is available with an all-new, high-efficiency, direct-injection 2,5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a new eight-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission. Outputs are pegged at 152 kW at 6 600 r/min and 243 Nm at 4 000 r/min – 5 000 r/min.
Constructed in lightweight aluminium, it has a long-stroke design, laser-clad intake valve seats and advanced intelligent variable valve timing (VVT-i) to achieve high-speed combustion. It has a high overall thermal efficiency of 38%. The fuel consumption on the ES 250 is 6,6 l/100 km and it dispatches the 0-100 km/h sprint in 9,1 seconds and tops out at 210 km/h.
The ES 300h is equipped with a new, fourth-generation, self-charging hybrid drive system and couples the 2,5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine with a lighter, more compact and more power-dense electric motor. Total system power is 160 kW and combined cycle fuel economy is from 4,6 l/100km. The ES 300h sprints from 0-100 km/h in 8,9 seconds and is electronically-governed to a top speed of 180 km/h.
Designed specifically to work with the 2,5-litre engine, the new transaxle has a multi-axle arrangement of the electric motors in place of the previous coaxial set-up which reduces the overall length of the package by nearly 30 mm. The traditional planetary gear set has been replaced by a parallel shaft gear and a multi-function gear that incorporates a power split planetary ring gear, parking gear and counter drive gear into one compact unit.
The hybrid control system is now designed to deliver a more linear acceleration feel by aligning engine speed more closely with vehicle speed, reducing the ‘rubber band’ feel commonly associated with hybrid systems. Engaging the Sport drive mode further enhances acceleration by boosting torque at lower speeds while paddle shifters can be used to move through eight-simulated gears for more precise control.
ES models are equipped with 10 air bags: 2 x driver and front passenger air bags; 2 x driver and front passenger knee air bags; 2 x driver and front passenger seat-mounted side impact air bags; 2 x front to rear-side curtain air bags; and 2 x rear cushion air bags.
The Lexus ES 250 EX carries a price tag of R593 300 and the ES 300h SE model retails for R843 800. Furthermore, Lexus has expanded the customer care experience to a 7-year/105 000 km Warranty and Full Maintenance Plan. Vehicle service intervals are at every 15 000 km, alternatively once a year.