Lexus ES 250 Luxury Review
Shimamoku-Trimmed Business Class

James Wong
29 Sep 2020
 

"The Lexus is longer, lower and wider than before, boasting a 50mm longer wheelbase compared to the previous ES."

The Lexus ES has always been synonymous for being a great car for passengers. With its front wheel drive layout - as opposed to its other saloon sibling, the rear wheel drive Lexus GS -  it allows a stretched wheelbase and a flat rear floor, thereby giving limo-like legroom especially for rear passengers. 

What is a little less unceremonious though is the ES is also famously referred to as a rich man’s Camry, for the chassis, engine and gearbox are shared with the latter. Thus, the ES has its work cut out to prove that it is worthy of the Lexus badge. 

Design-wise, a layman wouldn’t be able to tell at all that the two cars are related. The Lexus is longer, lower and wider than before, boasting a 50mm longer wheelbase compared to the previous ES. There is a long sloping roofline that lends the car a presence that it never had before. Together with the spindle grille and exquisite details like the LED rear lamps, the car looks sophisticated and luxurious, even beautiful. 

Inside

The good news continues inside. Following the Lexus Future Interior concept in the LC with that soulful V8 and the flagship LS, the ES’s interior is futuristic yet comforting. Cabin materials in general are top-shelf and only when you reach for the bottoms of the doors do you find any hard plastic. Lexus claims that the steering wheel is ‘customised’ through studying the palm pressure points on the wheel to achieve the most natural grip no matter how you hold it. In practice, they do feel very ergonomic. If you recall the old Lexus days where wood trim may look like plastic, forget them now. The Shimamoku wood trim in the ES is multi-layered and took 67 manufacturing steps over 38 days to put together. It looks exquisite. Such is the level of detail Lexus went into the interior. 

There is a huge 12.3-inch display next to the digital instruments which is nice to look at but difficult to operate due to the infamous Lexus trackpad. Worst still, if you use Apple CarPlay, there is no touch screen so it is not intuitive at all. Lexus updated this in the latest RX so hopefully the ES gets a touch screen too. There is a wireless charger in the centre armrest compartment, however if you wanted to check your phone often you may find it inconvenient. 

In the Luxury Edition we drove, the specification was absolutely sumptuous. The semi-aniline leather seats feel soft and delicate, while rear sunshades ensure maximum privacy and the rear seats can recline by up to 8 degrees, too. This is one car where I preferred to sit at the back than to drive.  

The Drive

Based on the GA-K platform, Lexus achieved a torsional rigidity that rivals the GA-L rear-wheel drive platform of the LC coupe and the LS sedan. Various grades of high tensile steel reduced weight, while an all-new multi-link rear suspension, rack-mounted electric power steering and a V-brace mounted behind the rear seat gave the ES a new level of precision.

It shows the moment you show the ES a corner. Despite its comfort-biased nature, the car handles very willingly, the rear feeling planted and secure. The steering is nicely judged so that it doesn’t really feel artificial. 

With all that great ingredients for handling, it is a tad underwhelming when it comes to the engine. Yes, the 8-speed torque converter is fairly responsive and unoffensive, but it cannot mask the weaknesses of the 2.5-litre nearly enough. If driven very gently, it is passably refined, but once you need more pace it doesn’t quite deliver. It is incongruent with the character of the rest of the car, feeling a little strained and out of place in all that luxury. It may have some fast-burn combustion technology and advanced heat management, but in practice it still feels rather average.  

Thankfully, the car does its level best to mask away the roughness of its engine. The entire floor board is covered inside and out, and A, B and C pillars all contain PUR foam to block as much noise as possible from reaching passengers’ ears. In the Luxury Edition, there are even noise reducing wheels that direct sound waves into a chamber and quells them into heat instead. The result is a very quiet cruise, so long as you don’t push the engine too hard. 

Our Thoughts

The ES is a wonderful car. Lexus pulled out the stops on their detailed engineering to obsessive levels. The results are appreciable in the way the car rides, handles and drives. It is extremely likable and its main weakness is its engine.The ES is truly a winner in its class in the measures of comfort and luxury, though we would prefer the hybrid 300h model which has a little more pace. 

In Summary

We Like

The car is made extremely well and feels rather special for the price. The level of engineering and detailing that went into it is amazing. It drives surprisingly well and the rear seat comfort levels are class-leading.

We Don't

The engine is rough and feels like it is from a cheaper car (it is). There is no touch screen and the track pad is not easy to operate.

Verdict

Immaculately finished, the ES250 deserves a better engine to complete the business class experience.

Car Loan Calculator - Lexus ES 250 Luxury (A)

SGD 304,800 (10 Jun 2022)

Based on OMV, this car is eligible for minimum 40% down payment

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