So here's the scenario, a few weeks back I was in Cape Town for four days, the Mother City for me has always been like a side chick city whereby I visit it occasionally for a few days of fun and glamour. I try to chose a nice upmarket spot at a reasonable price, end of the day I don't want to get broke and in my line of blogging, I'm fortunate enough to request cars that we don't get coming to Durban, more often than not, high end luxury cars to keep up with the "baller" facade during my stay. I more often than not get a pretty BMW to go roaming around the Western Cape but this time around none were available! Now what could I do?! The luxury mansion in Camps Bay was booked, couldn't be rocking up there in a Polo?! Step in the kind folk at Lexus who offered me the use of their all-new ES300h. It all worked out brilliantly as I didn't get the chance to test the ES while it was in Durban and this was the bigger and range topping version of the car so as happy as I was to get it, I had to make it seem like it would do.
The Lexus ES holds a close place in my heart, reason being my family were Camry drivers and when Toyota chose to discontinue sales of it locally back in 2004 it hurt us, a lot. But four years later, in 2008 Lexus introduced the ES250 at JIMS, it was the perfect replacement for the Camry, coming in at a reasonable price tag, practically built on the same platform as the Camry but with all the creature comforts that Lexus is known for having. And true to Lexus nature, majority of the items that would normally be classified as extras on other manufacturers came standard on the Lexus. It was in essence, the perfect big family car, offering the driver a refined driving experience, while the passengers sat in the lap of luxury and comfort. Fast forward to this latest model and much of it remains the same, there's a whole lot more tech and it's gotten a lot better to look at too.
As mentioned, the ES is sort of what the Toyota Camry would be in the market and much of the older models followed the same design lines as a Camry, this new model however takes on Lexus new design language that's been passed down from the LC Coupe and it is beautiful. This Hybrid model had a few extra design elements that just make it stand out more. The colour I had it in was Opulent Blue and it's every bit as opulent in the metal. It's striking, even more so in the sun and contrasts so well with the smoked out multispoke mag wheels. The spindle grille which has become a focal point on all new models is in silver holding in place a Lexus badge with blue background, signifying that the model is a hybrid. The side profile of the ES is that of a luxury limo, it's low stance and elongated body just oozes class, the silver trimmings exude this feeling along with the sharp edges of the front and tail lights. The front headlamps alone will have you admiring the intricate detail of the compact triple-beam LED system which is not only great to look at but is actually an adaptive high beam lamp. Moving to the rear and the sharp edges and curves follow through with a solid chrome bar along the boot lid just highlighting the lights, and the L shaped LED light system emphasizing the Lexus brand. Moving on the inside, much of design is carried through, with perfect contours mixed with craftsmanship and materials that which make the ES300h look like something that belongs in a class much higher than it is.
The word "comfort" and Lexus go hand in hand, well actually its luxury but with luxury comes comfort and to say the ES300h is "comfortable" will be doing it a disservice. It's more than comfortable, its a super luxurious sedan and just glides over any type of road surface. The seats of the ES seduce you with their softness, and has individual comfort options for the front passenger and driver like adjustable lumbar support, seat heaters and electrically adjustable with memory seats. The The leather stitching is gorgeous and the has four colour options to choose from, black, topaz brown, chateau and rich cream. The hybrid engine powers the car at low speeds, so the cabin is ultra quiet, with not even wind noise to disturb the peace. If you need something to break the silence, the 17 speaker, 835 watt Mark Levinson Premium Sound system will do just that. The audio system was developed especially for this car and is ultra clearly, ultra crisp and adapts to any musical genre to give you the best listening experience. The ES has a three zone climate control system ensuring the cabins temperature is to everyone's satisfaction and if there's a need for a bit of fresh air, the sunroof is always a nice extra to have.
Both, the ES250 and ES300 come fitted with 2.5L in-line 4 cylinder engine with the hybrid version being down tuned a bit to allow for the added power by the hybrid electric engine. The petrol engine produces 131kW and 221Nm of torque which compensates well with the electric power. Lexus is one of the leaders in petrol-hybrid cars having the likes of the GS450h and the RX450h, the defiance of their innovations in hybrid technology is evident in the ES300h with it being of their most advanced and efficient hybrid systems to date. It produces nearly 70% fewer smog-forming emissions than comparable petrol engines and the new generation hybrid system provides outstanding efficiency and an exhilarating drive. Lexus say that the new hybrid transaxle provides the lowest fuel consumption and highest driving performance in its class. I can vouch for that, as when I returned the car, the petrol needle hardly moved with them prompting to ask if I even drove the car over the four days I had it. It's that good, the electric motor works at low speeds, moving quietly without a fuss, the transition from electric to petrol power is unnoticeable at all, that is how smooth this system works.
As mentioned, the car is packed with features, one of the main drives by Lexus is safety and what they call "the comfort of safety". The ES comes with Collision Prevention, which with its intelligent Pre-Crash System that synchronizes the brakes as well as lane departure alert and lane keep assist. So keeping you in your lane if there's cars on either side but breaking sufficiently to not cause you or the car harm. This also plays a part in the Safe cruising mode, with dynamic radar cruise control, which allows you to set a speed and following distance to the car in front, if it slows down, so will you. I spoke briefly about the LED Adaptive high-beam headlamps which I feel is a must in cars these days. As lighting conditions change ever so often on our roads, the high beam will come on when areas are not well lit and dim if it picks up a car as to not affect the drivers vision of that car. There are more safety features in the Lexus that I could bore you with by stating the acronyms like EBD, VSC, TRC, HAC, BSM and PDC but I rather not, also the Lexus has a shit ton of airbags, it even has knee airbags! I mean have you ever? Apart from the giant navigation screen, the ES300h also has a digital instrument cluster that you can view various info on and if that wasn't enough, it has heads up display for the driver. The Lexus multimedia system is one to get used to, still not a massive fan of that track pad but it works and you just have to get used to it. There is a wireless charging mat for your mobile phone and bluetooth audio and telephone connectivity.
You really have to sit and nit pick if you're going to fault this car, yes there is some aspects of the interior that feel a bit cheap, like the high glass wood which is made from rather light plastic but you have to understand that this car is made to conserve the environment so using lighter materials helps with the performance of the car to keep the emissions low. I think long gone of the days where the ES was considered a Camry replacement, it's playing a bigger field now where it's attacking the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E Class which is where Lexus wants to be playing. The ES is packed with the luxury comforts that allows it to take on the likes of those and the best part about it is, is its priced better than them. I wish I could have been driven while sitting at the back as from what I heard, it's heavenly I believe them because even from sitting in the back while the car is still is quite something. This new ES is definitely worth the hype and this particular hybrid model is severely underrated and I feel that we, the motoring media need to do it justice to get it the recognition it deserves.
2.5L in-line 4 cylinder hybrid-petrol
8 Speed Automatic