Sunday 22 September 2019

Lexus hope executive buyers will say YES to their new hybrid saloon, due here by end of the year

First look - Brussels: Lexus ES

Lexus ES
Lexus ES
Lexus ES interior
Lexus ES
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

The SUV bug has yet to catch many of those who drive a mid-size premium saloon or estate. It seems that companies and their drivers still prefer to do their executive work with a Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5-series, Audi A6 or Jaguar XF in tow.

That's good news for Lexus as they line up a brand new motor to tempt those, mostly diesel-driving, business buyers into their new ES hybrid.

The ES replaces the GS, which has been a favourite of mine for a long time. The mid-size sporty saloon 450h would give most of those rivals a serious run for their money, only it was a bit pricey, even if well-equipped.

It's obvious the new ES on its debut here (seven generations in the US) will have to be on the money. And that means an early-to-mid-€50,000s price start, I'd say.

It will come only as a hybrid (ES 300h). The fourth-generation hybrid system combines a new 2.5-litre 4cyl petrol with a lighter, tidier and denser electric motor. The total generated is 218PS and they claim 4.7l/100km (60mpg).

I've no doubt a hybrid is a big plus-point in a segment that largely uses, but is probably questioning, diesel.

The new car was unveiled to us in Brussels last week amid pomp and ceremony which included the opening of a Lexus lounge at the airport for those business-class travellers who find themselves with time on their hands between flights.

We had plenty of time later to take a close look at the new car, not in the lounge but in an airport hangar.

You'll get a chance to do the same without leaving the country in October when pre-production models will be on show prior to the car going on sale for 191-reg.

Sitting low and coupe-like on a brand new platform it is easily the most eye-catching car in the segment, from the front anyway. What other car in the class has a grille of such dramatic design?

The coupe looks and stance deceive, however. The car looks relatively compact side-on. And technically there isn't that much difference in size (same width, slightly longer) compared with the GS. But we were surprised at the space in the cabin, particularly in the rear, even more so with the golf-bag devouring boot. The longer wheelbase (+50 mm) helps. Even though the roofline slopes noticeably, getting in and out was no problem and interior headroom was excellent despite a panoramic sunroof in the version we sat in.

They've also got the layout/design of cabin and dash mostly right, though the central console takes up a lot of front space, I felt.

The new car draws on elements of the gorgeous LC coupe, retains the minus point of unnecessary information-binnacle protrusions but addresses the other drawback of a dark area on the dash with some taste.

The 12.3ins screen dominates but you're reliant on what I have found to be a feckity touchpad to work it. However, there is voice recognition so you can command vocally.

We await so much, of course - driving, handling, feel and all that but this car looks promising. In a segment that accounts for a quarter (26pc) of all premium cars sold here, they've got to compete on every front.

Helping the handling and ride should be the all-new multi-link rear suspension design and rack-mounted electric power steering.

There will be four grade and price levels - Executive, Luxury (big seller), F-Sports and Premium. And the transmission is the latest version of their continuously variable transmission.

Standard spec will include 17ins wheels and their second generation Safety System +. It now has daytime cyclist detection as part of the pre-collision system.

The ES is built on their new Global Architecture - K platform - and importantly is front-wheel-drive (the GS was/is rear).

It also coincides with the arrival of the first F SPORT versions, which will have the option of adaptive variable suspension.

A 17-speaker Mark Levinson PurePlay system makes its debut too.

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