While the Lexus ES may not be a standout in the brand’s lineup or be the most exciting luxury sedan on the market, its focus on interior amenities, a smooth and quiet ride, and comfort has kept it in the conversation.
The ES’s most striking feature is its unique and polarizing looks. You either think that radical front end is stunning or a face only its mother could love. It’s a bold design decision for a mid-range car designed to appeal to the more conservative audience.
Lexus offers two flavors of the ES. You can opt for a traditional petrol V6 ES 350, like most customers, or a hybrid.
The ES starts from $38,900 for the traditional 3.5-liter V6 that pumps out 268 bhp and 248 lb/ft of torque through the front wheels. It’s reasonably spritely, hitting 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph.
The other option is the 300 horsepower, petrol-electric hybrid, which starts at $42,815. The hybrid will give you 200 bhp, a 0-60 mph time of 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 116 mph. A 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and two electric motors combine to create a relatively paltry powerplant.
Independent testers rarely come close to the hybrid’s claimed 40 mpg and they largely reckon on a 31-33 mpg return. For an expensive hybrid that has sacrificed performance in the name of economy, that’s a disappointment.
The petrol-powered 350 does come close to hitting the claimed 30 mpg and 21 mpg in the city. So, the reality is these two models really aren’t separate by much in terms of real-world fuel economy.
Safety and Entertainment Features
The luxury arm of Toyota does score big on safety, with a five-star NHTSA crash rating. It only scores a four in the frontal crash test, but it’s still a solid car that can take a hit as the IIHS picked the Lexus out as a Top Safety Pick+.
In 2017, Lexus added the Safety System+ package to the standard equipment list. So now every ES comes with adaptive cruise control, active lane control, forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and intelligent high-beam headlights. Optional extras include blind-spot monitors, cross traffic alert, and parking assist.
Now, the infotainment system includes voice control and the ability to hook the car up to your smartphone to browse your apps or even remotely unlock and start the car. But sadly, Lexus has openly rejected Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
You can order a Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package. Tick that expensive box and you get an upgraded, eight-inch LCD screen as part of the deal, as well as a 15-speaker surround sound system that combines to deliver 835 watts of sound.
How Does It Stacks Up Against the Competition
Yes, this is where things go really wrong. The Lexus ES is outclassed by the BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE, and Mercedes C Class in terms of power, handling, and cache.
Closer to home, it has to cope with the Nissan Maxima, Kia Cadenza, Buick Lacrosse, Lincoln MKZ, and Volvo S90. Then there’s the car that shares the platform, the cheaper Toyota Avalon.
The Buick Lacrosse is arguably the most elegant car in this class. The Maxima is just as dramatic to look at in its own special way, it’s faster, and arguably more interesting. In fact, the buff books love the Maxima and it has collected four and five-star reviews, while the ES hasn’t.
The Kia Cadenza is a great all-rounder with a more cohesive design, but it’s the Avalon that gives the Lexus ES the most problems. Considering how similar the two cars are in build, the Avalon feels like a better version of the ES with more standard equipment and less money than a Lexus.
- Unique front end.
- Superb fit and finish inside.
- Standard safety equipment is better than most competitors.
- Optional Mark Levinson package turns your car into a concert hall.
- The Lexus is just too expensive for what it is.
- It’s an aging car and it is aging badly.
- The hybrid simply doesn’t hit the claimed mileage.
- The Toyota Avalon just makes more sense.