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Beauty That is More Than Skin Deep |

As top-end luxury sedans slowly bend the knee to the relentless onslaught of the SUV, there are ever fewer options for South African buyers who prefer this style of vehicle and even fewer that successfully combine incredible looks, an elegant interior, and an affordable price tag. Enter the refreshed Lexus ES.

It is a shame that, in South Africa at least, the era of the large luxury sedan has all but come to an end. In the face of ever-increasing SUV options, the once-thriving luxo-barge segment seems to have all but disappeared. Only a handful of worthy examples of the art remain, and most of them, predictably, are of German origin, and almost all are unattainably priced. 

Refreshingly, Lexus has remained steadfast in its commitment to the segment with the supremely sophisticated LS, the spritely compact IS, and their best-selling model, the recently revitalised ES.


One need not stretch the imagination too far to understand why the ES is Lexus’ bestseller. The medium-sized (in name only) luxury sedan offers an excellent balance between price, exclusivity, and number of standard features. It is also classically styled, albeit unmistakably Japanese, with its angular edges and sharp, aggressive lines that dynamically minimise the car’s bulk. 

For 2022, upgrades to the exterior include a new grille mesh design that more prominently integrates the Lexus signature L-shape design. There are also new grade-specific headlights (Bi-LED for the EX and EX Hybrid, full-LED with Adaptive Hi-Beam System for the SE grade), and alloy wheel designs (215/55 R17 for the first two grades, and 235/45 R18 for the SE). Three additional colour choices – Sonic Iridium, Sonic Chrome, and Graphite Black – are now available, taking the overall tally to 10 exterior colours.

True to purpose, it is inside the ES where the car comes into its own as a top choice for executives who appreciate automotive fineness. The overall build quality is fantastic, and materials used throughout the cabin are incredibly luxurious for cars twice the ES’ price, never mind this one. A full-leather interior is par for the course, and there is space aplenty for all passengers, with rear legroom, in particular, being one of the sedan’s most notable features. Further changes to the interior design are mainly focused on the fascia, where Lexus has moved the infotainment screen 112 mm forward to enhance usability for the driver. Lexus has also added a new “Mauve” scheme to the interior colour palette. 


In undeniable Lexus fashion, the ES boasts a high level of standard luxury and technology features across the three-grade range. Beautiful leather upholstery, climate and cruise control, heated and electrically-adjusted front seats, automatic lights and windscreen wipers, and a powerful 10-speaker sound system introduce both feature-rich EX versions. Upgrade to the SE and enjoy a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system combined with a massive 12.3” touchscreen infotainment system. Seat cooling is added in the SE grade, and the rear seats get a powered reclining function, but the most significant addition to the range-topping model is the Lexus Safety System that adds functions such as lane-keep control, blind-spot warning, collision warning, and more.

It cannot be understated how harmoniously Lexus blends technology and craftsmanship in the ES’ cabin and how effortlessly sumptuous the driving experience is as a result. True refinement is best judged by the effect that outside conditions have on the passenger experience inside the cabin. During our launch drive along the Cape Peninsula, we experienced high-velocity winds, yet we remained undisturbed inside the ES cabin.


The entry-grade ES 250 EX is available with a high-efficient, direct-injection 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine combined with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It delivers 152 kW at 6,600 r/min and 243 Nm between 4,000 and 5,000 r/min. Fuel consumption is estimated at 6.6 l/100 km, and it dispatches the zero to 100 km/h sprint in 9.1 seconds. It has a top speed of 210 km/h.

Both ES 300h grades are equipped with Lexus’ fourth-generation, self-charging hybrid drive system that delivers exceptional fuel efficiency. It’s also impressively responsive and has minimal emissions for a mid-size luxury sedan. It couples the ultra-efficient 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine with a lighter, more compact, and power-dense electric motor.

Total system power is 160 kW, and combined cycle fuel economy is stated to be from 4.6 l/100 km, although we maintained around 5.8 l/100 km during our launch drive, which is still an impressive number for a car the size of the ES. The ES 300h sprint time from zero to 100 km/h is said to be 8.9 seconds, and, interestingly, the hybrid grades are electronically-governed to a top speed of 180 km/h.


In their promotional material, Lexus describes the ES as a car that will “elevate your everyday”. Considering the remarkably high standards that the ES sets for the segment, this statement is more than mere marketing speak. The ES offers excellent value – smaller and less sophisticated German sedans will easily set you back the same, or more, than the ES – and its beauty runs more than just skin deep. 


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