Could this executive saloon tempt you away from the usual suspects?
- There’s a replacement for the GS incoming
- Instantly recognisable Lexus grille
- Efficient hybrid engine a definite, but won't be plug-in
- Divisive styling
- Extremely strong rivals
- Just one engine option
Lexus’s slightly odd car line-up is to get a does of normality with the launch of a direct executive saloon rival to the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz E-Class for the first time. Called the Lexus ES – it’s a car you might have seen in the US – but has never been officially been available in the UK until now.
Where does the 2019 Lexus ES sit within the range?
Unlike its rivals, the ES will be hybrid-only – as was the outgoing, but poor-selling four-door coupe GS it replaces in the UK – and offered in just one engine derivative, a 218hp 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid with fuel economy starting from a claimed 60.1mpg.
At a glitzy unveil in Brussels earlier this week, Parkers saw the car up close and can confirm a design more in keeping with the acclaimed LC coupe and LS luxury limo that translates to a longer, lower and wider exterior stance with a bold interpretation of Lexus’s now well-recognised spindle grille (using vertical grille bars rather than horizontal ones).
The cabin of the new ES is a step up too, featuring a curvier and less geometric dash layout with some neat metallic details which Lexus says were inspired by traditional Japanese sword-making. Either way, at the cabin’s centre is a 12.3-inch multimedia display controlled by its second-generation remote touchpad system. The car will also offer connected services and voice recognition up front and better rear-passenger legroom due to a longer wheelbase at the back.
New platform = better safety
That longer wheelbase is made possible because the ES is based on new car platform that also enables a raft of safety features called Lexus Safety System +. Headline among them is the addition of ‘daytime cyclist detection’ to the Pre-Collision System which already looks out for oncoming vehicles and pedestrians. The same system has also been adjusted in terms of its radar sensitivity and range to better spot pedestrians at night.
What will the Lexus ES be like to drive?
Media test drives won’t happen until later this year but for now Lexus engineers are promising the ES will be more responsive, with quicker steering and more power and capability, in addition to its previous attributes of comfort and quietness. Lighter and stiffer, the car is front-wheel drive, and F Sport models will offer Adaptive Variable Suspension (akin to the one on the LC coupe).
While Lexus has used the ES name in a number of core markets since the brand’s inception 30 years ago, this would be the first time it’s been used in Europe. Ditching the GS moniker and switching to ES effectively allows Lexus to reboot its marketing message against its well-established rivals.
Will the 2019 Lexus ES be a hybrid?
So far, all Lexus has confirmed is to ‘expect the unexpected’, but that won’t mean the brand is ditching its popular petrol-electric hybrid powertrain.
While we’ve yet to hear officially what engine will power the new saloon, the blue glow around the badge on the grille is Lexus’s usual tell-tale for hybrid-powered models.
Although we expect that the ES will be based on the same modular architecture as the luxurious Lexus LS limousine, it’s unlikely its engine will be as large or as powerful – we wouldn’t bet against it being badged ES 350h.
It's unlikely to be a plug-in hybrid model, though. As Pascal Ruch, Lexus’s director of Europe explained to Parkers: ‘For the short-term, the full “self-charging” hybrid is the most pragmatic solution. With what we have today, Lexus has the strongest offering.’
If you’re holding out for a diesel-engined ES, then forget it – there won’t be one.
Could there be a hot Lexus ES F?
Given that there’s not been a high-performance Lexus ES F in any market where the saloon’s been sold before, it’s highly unlikely, even if we’re on the lookout for the unexpected...
Lexus didn’t replace the previous-generation IS F and the outgoing GS F is very much a leftfield choice in a market dominated by the Audi RS 6, BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E 63.
What else do we know about the 2019 Lexus ES?
Until it’s revealed at the end of April, the Lexus ES will remain rather enigmatic – there’s nothing else concrete to confirm.
At the very least, if Lexus is true to form, the ES will be generously appointed and impeccably built, but we fear the multimedia system won’t be as user-friendly as its Germanic rivals if the system fitted to the LC Coupe is anything to go by.
Being based on the LS’s underpinnings should ensure that the ES’s passenger compartment is more capacious than that of the GS, too.
How much will the Lexus ES cost?
Exact prices will be confirmed nearer the January 2019 launch – and no figures have yet been released regarding CO2 emissions and their associated company car tax bands – but UK Lexus director Ewan Shepherd indicated a range in line with the outgoing GS, so circa £36,000-£45,000.
However, he also said that spec for spec, the ES was set to include up to £5,000 more standard kit than the outgoing GS models, as the second-generation Lexus Safety System + will be standard on UK ES cars.
We expect that the first British customers will get their hands on the ES in spring 2019, although order books may open before the end of 2018.
Parkers will be among the first to drive this four-door executive car, so check back with us soon for the full Lexus ES Saloon review