Lexus ES250: From sedate to sporty

After a facelift, the Lexus ES250 impresses with its premium amenities

After a makeover, the Lexus ES250 looks sportier and has a more luxurious interior.
After a makeover, the Lexus ES250 looks sportier and has a more luxurious interior.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
After a makeover, the Lexus ES250 looks sportier and has a more luxurious interior.
After a makeover, the Lexus ES250 looks sportier and has a more luxurious interior.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Lexus is known for being smooth, silent and somewhat stylish. But in an unintended crash test involving an Audi, the facelifted ES250 has demonstrated that cars from Toyota's luxury marque are also pretty solid.

In a side-on collision, the Teutonic carriage rammed into the ES250 at speed in a turn, hitting it near the B-pillar on the right.

But the ES250's passenger shell was no worse for the impact, nothing was dislodged in the cabin and the driver's door could be opened and closed with ease.

This demonstration aside, the ES250 was impressive in understated ways. Except now, with its first cosmetic makeover since the car was launched in 2013, "understated" may no longer apply to the model, which critics had dismissed as nothing more than a glorified Camry.

(Actually, that statement is akin to saying the Porsche Cayenne is nothing more than a glorified Volkswagen Touareg.)

The aesthetically revised Lexus looks decidedly sportier, with an unmistakable edge of aggression the ES has never come close to displaying before.

  • LEXUS ES250

    Price: $243,000 with COE

    Engine: 2,494cc 16-valve inline-4

    Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual override

    Power: 180bhp at 6,000rpm

    Torque: 235Nm at 4,100rpm

    0-100kmh: 9.8 seconds

    Top speed: 207kmh

    Fuel consumption: 8 litres/100km

    Agent: Borneo Motors

It boasts a full-blown spindle grille now, which looks a little like the exterior of the teleportation pod in the movie The Fly (1986).

Flanked by sleek headlamps that seem to be stylistic extensions of the overbearing grille, the front of the ES250 says "get out of the way" as opposed to the previous "excuse me, please".

In the rear, you will find similarly tweaked tail-lamp clusters that leave an impression on whoever is behind it in the dark. Below these, trapezoidal tailpipes peek from beneath the rear bumper. The pre-facelift car had oval pipes.

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

The dashboard is wrapped in cowhide, as is the centre armrest. A rich, multi-layered wood veneer lines the doors and the fascia.

Even the steering wheel boasts both materials, and it now 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. In this respect, the ES250 betrays its station, but only just.

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 a driver-seat cushion extension.

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

If you like driving, there is little with which to fault the ES250. Powered by a 2.5-litre normally aspirated engine that behaves like a modern turbo, it responds to your input just as you expect it to.

Its throttle is light, its power band is linear and flexible at the same time and its six-speed autobox matches revs with cogs efficiently yet unobtrusively.

Compared with its hybrid twin, this ES feels more revvy and a tad more lightfooted.

Passengers are not left wanting, either. The cabin is well insulated, as expected - not just from external noises, but also from tarmac undulations and forces exerted when the car negotiates a turn.

And as the unpleasant encounter with the Audi has shown, occupants will be relatively insulated against the sudden impact of a considerable force as well.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'From sedate to sporty'. Subscribe