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Cool and calm under the pressure placed on its segment, the new Lexus ES250 adds sophistication to what is essentially a Camry package...

The executive-sedan market in South Africa is no place for the fainthearted. Under constant pressure from a steady stream of raised-ride-height offerings of every shape and form, otherwise excellent models such as the Honda Accord, Mazda6 and honest Ford Fusion have gradually been forced out of showrooms to make way for more fashionable relatives sporting a commanding driving position, greater sense of adventure and the perception of superior safety. With the likes of the evergreen German compact-executive sedans even feeling the heat (the BMW X1, for example, regularly challenges monthly 3 Series sales), the pressure to remain relevant in the upmarket-sedan segment has never been greater.

While VWSA relies on the recently introduced, Passat-based Arteon to bolster its foothold in this segment, another stalwart of the SA motoring scene, Toyota, has (covertly) placed its trust in the legacy of one of the most popular executive sedans ever to grace our roads to ensure the newcomer finds an eager audience.

Indeed, built on the same GA-K platform as the eighth-generation Camry (and forthcoming SA-bound RAV4), the seventh iteration of the Lexus ES may share its architecture with the bestselling car in the US market but, says Lexus, boasts stronger underpinnings and support structures than the Camry to achieve the levels of comfort and sophistication expected of a well-heeled cousin.

There’s no mistaking the newest Lexus with anything else on the road. Longer, wider and lower than the model it replaces, a near five-metre profile is crowned by a sloping roofline tapering into sleek taillamp clusters at the rear. Up front, a meticulously crafted and neatly chiselled evolution of Lexus’s unmistakable spindle grille ensures this entry-level ES model echoes the upmarket appeal of the LS grand saloon.

With only two derivatives available, it’s the lower-specification ES250 that’s charged with offering a compelling blend of value and finesse or – as suggested in our first test of the last ES back in 2014 – affording the Camry a Lexus upgrade. Certainly, in terms of perceived quality, there’s a lot to appreciate in the cabin of the new Lexus. From impressively comfortable (electrically adjustable) front seats to a well-considered scattering of soft-touch surfaces, the accommodation offers a welcome sense of luxury. Yes, there are cost-considered firmer plastics present and, in this specification, the leather upholstery is of the synthetic variety, but none of this detracts from the fact that even an entry-level Lexus sedan feels expensive.

A quick glance at the interior of the hybridised ES300h SE model reveals where the lower-spec derivative loses out. Apart from an obvious upgrade in the quality of both leather and trim items, the incorporation of a vivid, 12,3-inch display screen within the tiered facia design in the more expensive car makes the still-crisp seven-inch unit in ES250-spec feel somewhat dated by comparison. Size and clarity of this screen aside, both systems use the latest evolution of Lexus’ Remote Touch Interface infotainment control and it remains as comparatively user-unfriendly as always. While it’s a system which inevitably gets easier to understand and use with time, you have to wonder how much longer Toyota will persist with this tech; the move towards touchscreen and voice-recognition interfaces is in full swing among European-based rival brands.

While rear-passenger legroom remains as impressive as in the previous-generation car (a measurement rivalling that of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class), an inevitable compromise in headroom thanks to the new car’s sloping roofline means taller-than-average passengers may want to call shotgun. One further concession to the design of the new ES is the absence of folding rear seatbacks, the inclusion of an extra layer of strengthening in the car’s rear bulkhead limiting access from the luggage area into the cabin. That said, a generous 352 litres of luggage space can accommodate a set of golf clubs or bags for a family weekend away.

Introduced to our market in the ES250 is Toyota’s Dynamic Force Series A25A-FKS 2,5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine. Mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission, this direct-injection unit targets improved combustion and thermal efficiencies for both superior performance and fuel consumption compared with the previous E250’s powertrain. Offering 152 kW and 243 N.m of torque, the new car proved slightly quicker off the mark than the six-speed 135 kW/235 N.m model we tested in February 2014, while it made the most of its slick – although occasionally frenetic – eight-speed transmission to improve on the previous car’s 100 km fuel-run figure (8,3 plays 8,7 L/100 km).

That figure will inevitably improve while the ES250 is driven in its most natural habitat: on the open road. Here, the transmission takes a break from its constant search for the optimal ratio and the engine settles into a low-rev background away from the audible strain associated with strident performance duties. On this note, the inclusion of both a sport mode and the one-touch ability to dial out traction control seems counter-productive.

It is on a quiet cruise where this Lexus comes into its own. Boasting class-leading NVH levels and a well-considered suspension arrangement, the ES250 makes gentle, unobtrusive progress.

It’s for that reason adaptive cruise control (a traditional system is standard) and satellite navigation – both included in the ES300h package – are missed in this entry-level model. These spec items are the most obvious concessions to economies of scale, however, with climate control, heated seats, auto LED headlamps and wipers, parking sensors with a reverse camera, keyless entry and a full bouquet of audio-system functionalities tipping it back in the ES’ favour.
FRANSCHHOEK, Cape Town – With the underrated Lexus GS no longer offered locally – and considering the previous ES sedan was the marque's bestselling four-door in our market – Lexus has expanded the reach of the new ES line-up, offering this base ES250 EX with a healthy but not overly generous spec list at R593 300 and a lavishly equipped ES300h hybrid in SE trim at R843 800 (a leap of nearly R170 000 over its ancestor). That leaves the base model to duke it out with smaller German midsize sedans, while the SE tackles larger executive saloons. We were in Franschhoek and surrounds recently to sample both and it was the ES250 driven here that left the bigger impression.

Striking design...

Bearing a strong visual resemblance to the LS luxury saloon, the new ES ditches its predecessor's blocky, staid appearance for flowing lines and sharp detailing around the front and rear lights, as well as the alloy wheels (17s on this model; 18s on the hybrid). It's a big car – nearly five metres long – but it looks balanced and, most importantly, expensive (more so than an Audi A4 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class).

Slide onto the hide-trimmed seats (something called Nulux leather on this model) and the quality immediately impresses, with densely padded plastics covering the entire facia and most of the doors. There's very little deformation in any of the panels when prodded and I couldn't detect any rattles on the press vehicles we drove on the launch.

There are, however, some trim bits betraying the ES250's entry-level status: plastic strips where the hybrid features "wood"; plus an eight-inch infotainment screen instead of the 12,3-inch unit in the dearer version. The ES250 is offered in EX grade boasting such standard features as LED headlamps, auto lights and wipers, a reverse camera, electric adjustment for the front seats and 10 airbags. In addition, the SE incorporates a pre-crash system, adaptive cruise, panoramic parking camera, sat-nav and head-up display, among other mod-cons.

Space all-round is abundant – with the driver's seat set for my 1,85-metre frame, my knees were nowhere close to touching its back when I jumped in the rear seat – and the vehicle is impressively hushed at a cruise. The ES would make a great cross-country car.

Simple tech

Sporting a new 2,5-litre, four-cylinder engine under its fluted bonnet, coupled with a new eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, the ES250 makes steady rather than stirring progress. However, there is enough in-gear punch at oxygen-rich coastal altitudes to suggest the engine won't feel breathless at the Reef. It's not the quietest of powertrains, sounding strained above 4 000 r/min and penetrating the calm in the quiet cabin, but at steady velocities the din quickly fades into the background. That said, if you're used to the low-rev muscle of a turbocharged engine, the 2,5-litre's rate of response will disappoint.

What won't annoy is the ride quality, which is unquestionably the best in the premium-midsize class. Rolling on 17-inch wheels wrapped in 55-profile tyres, the ES250's independent suspension does a brilliant job of soaking up scars without being so soft as to send the body pitching and wallowing. The steering, too, is nicely direct and the gearing feels natural.

So, would I recommend the ES?

Yes, but this 250 and not the hybrid. While the ES300h adds another layer of performance to the ES package and its list of standard features is as lengthy as a 7 Series', R843 800 feels like a leap too big. The ES250, however, is no more expensive than an entry-level German sedan but contributes additional refinement, spec and space, plus Lexus' class-leading seven-year/105 000 km maintenance plan. In fact, it's the most resolved Lexus I've recently driven and deserves to at least equal its predecessor's success in the local line-up.

2020 Lexus ES 250 EX for sale

Ref No: 1879242

Full Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather upholstery: artificial
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Lumbar support adjustment: front electric
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Driver knee airbag: Standard
  • Passenger knee airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Rear side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 10
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Emergency brake hazardlights: Standard
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Eco, Normal, Sport
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Cruise control: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • CD player: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: 2
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear
  • Central locking: keyless
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Sun roof: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: LED
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 909 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 8
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Gear shift paddles: Standard
  • Front tyres: 215/55 R17
  • Reartyres: 215/55 R17
  • Spare wheel size full: alloy
  • Length: 4975 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1865 mm
  • Height: 1445 mm
  • Wheel base: 2870 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 11.6 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 420 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 490 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1660 kg
  • Gross weight (GVM): 2110 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 0
  • Towing capacity - braked: 0
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 60l
  • Fuel consumption average: 6.6 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 150g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: EU 5
  • Power maximum: 152 kW
  • Power maximum total: 152 kW
  • Power peak revs: 6600 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 91.6 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 243 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 4000-5000 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 243 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 146 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 9.1s
  • Maximum top speed: 210 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 2494 cc
  • Engine size: 2.5l
  • enginedetailshort: 2.5
  • Engine + detail: 2.5
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 16
  • Variable camvalve timing: Standard
  • Variable valvelift: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 7
  • Warranty distance (km): 105000 km
  • Maintenance plan: Standard
  • Maintenance plan time (years): 7
  • Maintenance plan distance (km): 105000 km
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Service interval (time): 1
  • Brand: Lexus
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 38125202
  • MMVariant: ES 250 EX
  • Introdate: 2019-10-14
  • DuoportarecordID: LexuES2s3

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