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The many faces of the Lexus ES


IT’S DIFFICULT at first to place the new Lexus ES. It’s about the same size as the GS, but retails for less than the IS. Is it just me, or does it sound like Lexus loading a shotgun and aiming it at its own right foot?

When you look at the Lexus range with the ES included, it doesn’t really stack up, but you need only drive it a few kilometres to know why it absolutely deserves a spot on showroom floors.

Think of it as a replacement for two models that used to be quite popular in South Africa. It’s a replacement for the previous-generation IS 250 as much as it’s a replacement for the long-gone-but-not-forgotten Camry.

That is, however, the last time I shall mention the ‘C’ word. I only make the comparison because the Camry (sorry, this really is the last time) immediately comes to mind when you first see and drive the car.

It’s an honest proposition, this ES. It’s a large car with a lot of space, powered by a humble 2.5-litre four-pot mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. It was never going to set the world on fire, but then I don’t think that was the idea behind it at all.

That much is clear from the styling. It’s not as striking as the IS or GS, but it’s beautiful in its own unassuming way. There are no vulgar get-out-of-my-way-slow-person design elements on the exterior, which means it’s undoubtedly a study in sophistication. Only classy people need apply.

It’s more of the same to drive. The 2.5-litre delivers a 135kW/235Nm punch, which Lexus says is enough to get it from zero to 100km/h in a smidgen under 10 seconds. A hybrid model is also available to order, but I’ll get back to you once it’s been down to the office for testing. At the coast, the ES never felt underpowered, but then again I wasn’t really in a hurry to get anywhere.

You see, driving the ES hard felt rather uncivilised and uncouth. The ES aims to pamper rather than thrill and I really like that. Given the option, I’d choose luxury over sportiness every single time and the ES offers that in spades.

Out on the open road it’s a quiet companion, carrying us from one venue to the next in elegant, stylish luxury. In a car like this, you let go of the urge to get where you’re going as soon as possible and rather spend the time enjoying the various luxuries on offer.

And you do get a lot of those. There’s only one model and it comes equipped with absolutely everything, including leather seats (available in black and ivory), a smart infotainment system with all the necessary applications like Bluetooth connectivity and satellite navigation, eight-inch touch screen with Lexus’ mouse-like Remote Touch System, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, electronically controlled and heated front seats, park distance control and a moonroof. Lexus won’t even charge you extra for metallic paint.

As it’s a family car, safety is of the utmost importance. The ES’ standard safety fare includes stability control, traction control, ABS brakes, EBD, brake assist, Isofix mounts and blind-spot monitoring with lane-change assist. On the passive side, you get 10 airbags and whiplash-reducing technology on the seats.

All things considered, I’d say the ES is a very good car at a very good price. It offers a staggering amount of space and features. If Lexus launched this car at the beginning of April, I wouldn’t have believed them. I’m not sure how they wangled it, but Lexus (a prestigious brand) now offers a large luxury car with a decent, if somewhat old-school drivetrain and an extremely generous amount of standard kit at a price you’d pay for a mid-grade saloon from a segment below. If you think about it some more, it might even make more sense than a few SUVs out there…

As it currently stands, it competes in a class of one. It’s a little pricier than its Korean rivals and a lot less than similarly sized German saloons.

At first it didn’t make sense to me, but now I understand it. Lexus is making luxury more accessible and who can blame it for that? At this point it’s anyone’s guess whether it’ll be a sales success, but if I had to put money on it, I wouldn’t bet against it.

The ES is retailing for R435 900, is covered by a 4-year/100 000km warranty and comes as standard with the Lexus Distance Plan Plus maintenance plan.

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