UK Drive: The Lexus ES is a compelling left-field alternative to the established executive saloon elite

Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW dominate the executive car market, but Lexus offers something a little bit different.

Lexus ES F Sport
Lexus ES F Sport

What is it?

Lexus ES F Sport
(Lexus)

There are typically two ways to sell cars. You either do what everyone else does and try to grab a slice of the big pie, or target the people who just want something a little bit different, nabbing a smaller pie all to yourself.

Lexus firmly falls into the latter. Sure, you could buy yourself a BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 or Mercedes-Benz E-Class like everyone else, but the Lexus ES offers another option that says you don’t follow the crowd. It looks like little else on the road, and that’s half its appeal.

What’s new?

Lexus ES F Sport
(Lexus)

The seventh-generation model received revisions for the 2022 model year, with new handling, styling, safety and specification features to enhance its appeal.

Inside, the multimedia system has been upgraded to include a 12.3-inch display, which can be controlled through touch, voice control, or Lexus’s annoying trackpad, which is supposed to work like a laptop but instead makes navigating menus incredibly awkward. There’s also an optional digital side view monitor to replace the wing mirrors, and a new adaptive LED headlight system.

Keen eyes will also spot some subtle styling tweaks, while handling and comfort is said to be improved through chassis changes. F Sport versions are said to be better to drive through tweaks to the adaptive suspension.

What’s under the bonnet?

Lexus ES F Sport
(Lexus)

You’ll find just the one engine option in the ES, but what it lacks in choice it makes up for in using a tried and tested unit. It’s a ‘self-charging’ hybrid, so there’s no plugging it in to top up the battery. An electric motor is paired with a 2.5-litre petrol engine for a combined 212bhp.

While it doesn’t quite have the crazy high economy figures of a plug-in, its official figures are 50.4-53.2mpg. During our time with the car we

What’s it like to drive?

Lexus ES F Sport
(Lexus)

Refinement is impressive in the ES, particularly in the high-specification Takumi trim. At motorway speeds the ride is comfortable and there’s not too much wind and road noise, making it a comfortable place to wile away the miles.

It’s obviously no sports car, but doesn’t come undone on a winding country road, though keen drivers would still be best served by a BMW 5 Series.

What does let the side down somewhat is the hybrid engine. When the petrol unit kicks in it can be rather loud with a slightly rough sound, undoing much of the great refinement work, especially under acceleration. It also doesn’t feel like you drive around in EV mode as much as you might like at low speeds.

How does it look?

Lexus ES F Sport
(Lexus)

It’s easy to see why some might not like the look of the ES, with its prominent grille and origami-like creases in the bodywork, but to our eyes it presents something a bit different and characterful in a segment that often sees safe and unexciting designs.

For the 2022 model, it’s the front end that has seen most of the changes, with fewer vertical bars and a new L-shaped motif – though the F Sport model’s unique grille is unchanged. The headlights are narrower, giving it a more focused look, while new alloy wheel designs freshen up the exterior further.

What’s it like inside?

Lexus ES F Sport
(Lexus)

The interior has a quirky style, too, though it’s not at the expense of quality, with all the materials you touch feeling worthy of the premium tag. There’s good adjustability for the driver and it’s spacious, while ergonomics are well-judged so everything feels close to hand.

The new 12.3-inch touchscreen is decent, feeling responsive to the touch with a high resolution, though infotainment remains a weak point for Lexus, with menu navigation not the most intuitive. The annoying track pad remains, but at least you can bypass its use through the touchscreen.

What’s the spec like?

Lexus ES F Sport
(Lexus)

Prices start at £38,765 for the regular ES 300h, which brings an eight-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 17-inch alloy wheels, reversing camera, sunroof and driver assistance features.

Step up to the Premium Edition from £39,265 and you get 18-inch alloy wheels, the larger infotainment screen with sat nav, while the F Sport starts at £40,930 and gets some sporty exterior upgrades, 19-inch alloy wheels and drive mode selection.

The top-specification Takumi model is a big jump in price, starting at £52,315. This gets 18-inch alloy wheels, semi-aniline leather upholstery, 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium sound system, head-up display, LED headlights with adaptive high beam and a 360-degree panoramic view monitor.

Verdict

Lexus ES F Sport
(Lexus)

There’s a lot to like about the Lexus ES. It’s stylish and stands out from the crowd, while the hybrid powertrain and Lexus’ reliability record means it should offer excellent running costs.

It has a pleasant cabin and a generally refined driving experience, too. Sure, if we’re being objective the overall experience lags slightly behind the big German manufacturers, but for those buyers who don’t want to follow the crowd, the Lexus ES makes a compelling case for itself.

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