The Lexus ES 350 Sports Luxury.
The Lexus ES 350 Sports Luxury. Paul Bradshaw

Road test: Lexus ES welcomes you to business class travel

NOTHING beats first class. Personalised attention, extra space and culinary options.

That is the experience available in the new Lexus ES. It's like being cosseted in the pointy end of the plane.

This is the sixth generation of the large luxury saloon, although it's the first time in seven years that we have seen it in showrooms after Lexus decided to restrict build to left-hand drive.

But it's back, with copious luxuries, an uber quiet cabin and space to stretch out - just what you'd expect with a first-class ticket.

Prices start from $63,000 for the entry-level hybrid and tops at $74,000 for the V6-powered Sports Luxury model.

Comfort

Regal and beautifully finished, the cabin has the trademark hushed operation for which the luxury Japanese marque is revered.

Yokohama rubber especially designed to generate less noise, triple layer acoustic glazing of the windscreen and a multilayered dash all combine to lavish the occupants in near silence.

Inside the Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury with bamboo trim.
Inside the Lexus ES 300h Sports Luxury with bamboo trim. Paul Bradshaw

Putting that stitched panel together is a task completed by one of 12 Lexus craftsman qualified to do the job - and part of the initiation process for that hallowed group is to fold an origami cat with one hand.

Sumptuous seats provide heating and cooling up front, while Sports Luxury models have heated pews in the rear and their own air con zone.

And it's in the back seats where you can be chauffeured in style. With more than one metre of leg space, even the tallest of drivers won't make adult travel a chore.

Four adults would welcome a long road trip, and three across the back seat doesn't come with any forced heavy petting.

On the road

There's a choice of two powerplants, a four-cylinder hybrid and a tried and tested V6 we have seen in the Aurion.

Neither are absolute firecrackers, yet they are no slouches either.

Under easy acceleration, around town or cruising on the highway the hybrid does a solid job. Put the hammer down and the four-cylinder can feel wanting.

The V6 is more hairy-chested in this department, along with a stronger feel under brakes.

Some challenging twisty terrain saw the ES handle surprisingly well through some sharp bends at speed and only on a few occasions could you feel it scrambling for traction with some minor torque steer.

But that is not the intention of the saloon. Its buyers are not looking for a sports car.

It has a wonderfully supple ride which is also manages to be compliant in the bends.

What do you get?

Standard kit is outstanding. The Luxury models have satellite navigation, blind spot monitor, sunroof, eight-speaker Lexus premium audio, smart entry with push button start, dual zone climate control air-con which has moisturising properties so it doesn't dry the skin, digital radio and leather accented trim.

Sports Luxury models get tri-zone climate control, HID headlamps, 15-speaker Mark Levinson Audio, heated and ventilated front seats, power boot lid, manual side sun shades, rear centre armrest-mounted controls and semi-aniline leather accented interior.

Lexus expects to gain five star safety rating, with 10 airbags, reversing camera, eight-head parking sonar, stability control and anti-lock brakes standard.

All models other than the entry-level hybrid also get radar cruise control, and a Pre-Collision Safety System which can help avoid an accident by applying additional braking pressure if an obstacle ahead is detected.

Running costs

Lexus has an exceptional reputation for longevity and reliability. Servicing costs are also much cheaper than the European marques, and there is a good dealer spread.

The hybrid is a frugal beast, the official average is less than six litres for every 100km but we achieved about 7.5.

Petrol models sip about three litres more which is about par for the V6 course.

Practicality

Boot space is 490 litres in the V6, and 425 in the hybrid due to the battery storage behind the seat.

That's a handy space, although the rear seats don't fold so flat-pack furniture is out of the question.

There are two cup holders in the centre console while a pair also pop out from the centre arm rest in the back.

Funky factor

While conservative, the styling has ample premium presence.

There's the now trademark spindle grille, which looks like an elongated hourglass, but it really is inside where you find the most "wow factor".

The lowdown

For those who don't step into the premium genre often, this is the ride you expect from a luxury car.

Soft, ultra-quiet and lavishly appointed, Lexus trumps the Europeans in this genre and thrashes them for value with standard appointments.

Mature folk will love this car. Families will also appreciate its many virtues. Lexus has delivered an extremely likeable car in a genre many say is dead.

Eternal pessimists will jibe that it's just a flash Toyota Aurion. But they're wrong. This is a class above, and it is premium without an exorbitant price-tag.

What matters most

What we liked: Beautifully hushed rise, gigantic back seat space, impressive standard specification list.

What we like to see: Electric park brake instead of foot-operated function, improved brake feel in hybrid.

Warranty and servicing: Four year 100,000km warranty, hybrid battery has an eight year warranty. Servicing is annually or 15,000km.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Lexus ES.

Details: Four-door large luxury sedan.

Engines: 2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid drivetrain delivering 151kW @ 5700rpm and peak torque of 213Nm @ 4500rpm; 3.5-litre quad-cam V6 developing 204kW @ 6200rpm and 346Nm @ 4700rpm.

Transmissions: Continuously variable automatic (hybrid) and six-speed automatic (petrol).

Consumption: 5.5 litres/100km (combined average, hybrid); 9.5L/100km (petrol).

CO2: 130g/km (hybrid); 224g/km (petrol).

Performance: 0-100kmh in 8.5 seconds (hybrid); 7.4 seconds (petrol).

Bottom line: ES 300h - Luxury $63,000, Sports Luxury $72,000. ES 350 - Luxury $65,000, Sports Luxury $74,000.



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