Lexus ES: The look of verve

The Lexus ES Hybrid now looks sportier and its interior features more wood and leather.
The Lexus ES Hybrid now looks sportier and its interior features more wood and leather. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
The Lexus ES Hybrid now looks sportier and its interior features more wood and leather.
The Lexus ES Hybrid now looks sportier and its interior features more wood and leather.

Lexus ES is more energetic and youthful-looking after early makeover

In human years, the sixth- generation Lexus ES, which was launched here in 2013, is barely 27. Hardly in need of a nip and tuck.

But Lexus has given it one anyway. And I am not complaining. The refreshed car has been enhanced considerably, although changes are entirely cosmetic.

Presumably, Lexus has found no cause to tweak the performance of the car, unlike many other manufacturers who often add one or two horsepower in the name of engineering improvement. Believe me, 2bhp more in a 200bhp car is completely undetectable - unless you were a dynamometer in your previous life.

Aesthetically, the facelifted ES looks sportier. It has a full-blown spindle grille now, which reminds me somewhat of the headgear worn by kendo exponents.

  • SPECS / LEXUS ES HYBRID (LUXURY)

  • Price: $255,000 with COE


    Engine: 2,494cc 16-valve inline-4 with electric motor assist


    Transmission: Continuously variable transmission with manual override


    Power: 202bhp at 5,700rpm


    Torque: 213Nm at 4,500rpm


    0-100kmh: 8.5 seconds


    Top speed: 180kmh


    Fuel consumption: 5.5 litres/ 100km


    Agent: Borneo Motors

Flanked by slim, swallow-tail headlamps and boomerang-shaped foglamps, the countenance of the executive Lexus is as edgy and dramatic as its dynamic IS sibling's.

Its tail-lamp clusters have also been tweaked, but by a smaller degree. Trapezoidal tailpipes peek from beneath the rear bumper, but these are hidden in the Hybrid variant tested here.

Changes to the interior are more material. There is obviously more wood and leather all around, with the latter set in dual tones.

The dashboard is wrapped in cow hide, as is the centre armrest. A rich, multi-layered wood veneer line the doors and the fascia. And the steering wheel boasts both materials and feels close to what the flagship LS has at the helm.

The cabin is so textured and organic now that plastic surfaces become quite stark - such as the sides of the centre console.

Lexus has thrown in a few more premium amenities, including passenger seat shoulder switches (for the chauffeured to move the front seat away for more legroom), touch control for light switches and driver seat cushion extension.

The last feature is the most useful, speaking entirely from a driver's point of view, of course.

On the move, the ES is as refined as before. The car offers a higher- than-usual level of dynamism and engagement, with a sturdy and competent chassis, a steering that is weighty yet effortless and a suspension system that serves a good blend of ride and handling.

The only thing that marred the experience was a missing SD card that rendered the test-car's navigation system useless. Lexus is usually attentive to even the most minute of details and this goes to show that it is not infallible after all.

On the whole, the aesthetic exercise passes muster. If nothing else, it has made the often sedate front-wheel-drive sedan visually more energetic and youthful.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2015, with the headline 'The look of verve'. Print Edition | Subscribe