If I were to ask you to say the first luxury executive sedan that comes to your mind, chances are that it most probably wasn’t a Lexus. In a market dominated by the Mercedes-Benz E Class and BMW 5 Series, Lexus knew they had to make a statement with the seventh-generation ES to put a chip in their armour, and sure enough – they did.
The Lexus ES is such a breath of fresh air in terms of looks, especially in a segment where car designers mostly just aim for an inoffensive look to appeal to the masses – and more often than not, these cars end up looking at best a little bulbous, and at worst just plain uninspiring.
Lexus went against the grain with the design of the ES (which stands for Executive Sedan, by the way) using sharp lines, creases, and daring touches, and the result is a design that truly stands out from the crowd, and makes a lasting impression. I mean, just look at the three-dimensional spindle grille statement piece – take note BMW, this is how you do large grilles.
The Lexus ES range in Malaysia tops out (at the time of review) with the 250 Luxury variant, and I’d argue that it’s the perfect specification for the car, at least in terms of looks. There’s no need for the F-Sport trim when the car in its relatively civil outfit already looks so good.
The added flair from the tri-beam jewel-like LED headlights and purposeful chrome trims around the exterior are just the cherry on top, pleading for you to give it a second look when you walk away – and believe me, you will.
The interior of the Lexus ES 250 Luxury impresses just as much, too, and it’s obvious that Lexus put in extra effort in the cabin’s aesthetic department. Even something as insignificant as the door handles are sculpted to look like a modern art piece that should be placed in a gallery by itself.
The seats, wrapped in semi-aniline leather, also feels exceptionally soft and supple to the touch, while providing first-class grade support on long distance journeys. Even the rear seats of the Lexus ES 250 Luxury are electrically-adjustable, so you’d still get the ultimate VIP treatment no matter which seat you prefer.
But once you’ve sat in it for long enough, the Lexus ES’ drawbacks start to surface like a rose’s thorns. You might be able to forgive the manually-operated sunroof shades, but something like the infotainment system – with graphics from a 90s computer and a convoluted menu structure controlled by the horrid touchpad – is completely inexcusable in a car that costs north of RM300k.
Fortunately, all of these flaws immediately wash away once you get it on the move and revel in the serenity of the Lexus ES’ near-silent drive, thanks to the noise-reducing 18-inch alloys, and additional acoustic glass for the rear passengers on the Luxury trim.
Driving the Lexus ES 250 is a largely sedate experience, which is exactly what you would want in a big, luxury executive sedan. The 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated engine with 204 hp and 247 Nm of torque won’t blow anyone away in terms of performance, but it’s perfectly adequate to get you up to speed in no time – while remaining as quiet as the night sky while it’s at it.
Gear shifts from the eight-speed Direct Shift automatic gearbox are silky-smooth, and it isn’t afraid to downshift when needed to make up for the lower output figures. Pair that to the supple and well-damped suspension, plus the Lexus Safety Sense advance driver assistance suite doing most of the heavy-lifting on long-distance journeys, it’s just so easy to rack up the mileage in this thing without even realising it.
While the highways are the Lexus ES’ natural habitat, it also doesn’t shy away from the odd bends that come about. Despite its sheer size, it’s surprising how well the ES still manages to negotiate high-speed sweeping corners and fast direction changes with poise and confidence.
The closest thing we can compare it to is the Toyota Camry, which really isn’t a surprise given that they’re built on the same platform. To be clear, that’s not an insult by any means – if you’ve seen our review of the Camry, you’ll know how high of a praise this is.
There will never be a perfect car, and there really shouldn’t be one, since different cars are developed for different demographics and purposes. But in the space of the executive sedans, the Lexus ES truly does come very close to it.
To some, a car functions as much as a social statement as it is a transportation device – and in that case, the Germans might still be the right choice for them. But if it’s up to me, I know which car I’ll pick if I ever become a high-ranking officer in a multinational company.
Lexus ES 250 Luxury specifications:
|Engine||2,487 cc; naturally-aspirated four-cylinder|
|Transmission||8-speed Direct Shift Automatic|
|Max horsepower||204 hp @ 6,600 rpm|
|Max torque||247 Nm @ 5,000 rpm|
|0-100 km/h; Top speed||9.1 seconds; 210 km/h|
|Price (OTR, w/o Insurance, inclusive of SST exemptions)||RM327,510.50 (Limited Edition Variant)|