Driving Report: Lexus ES 300h

With comfort and elegance, the sedan to compete against Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class and 5er BMW

Lexus sends the GS into retirement and will in future compete with the comfortable ES for the favor of the business clientele. Typical for the Japanese: The ES is only available as a hybrid.   

You have to give the German Lexus governors one thing: they have stamina. For more than a quarter of a century, Toyota's noble subsidiary has been trying to establish itself in this country and is still not coming out of the niche. Most recently, sales have risen to just under 3.000 vehicles - as much as Mercedes brings to the people in around three days. Giving up is out of the question for the Japanese, on the contrary: In 2019, sales should climb to 4.000 units, in 2020 to 5.000 Lexus' sold. Sales are hoping for a strong boost from the new Crossover UX, which will roll out to dealers in the spring. But the ES business sedan, which is now also available for the first time in Europe for at least 48.200 euros, should also play its part.

Although the ES is objectively not in the first league, you feel immediately comfortable after boarding and can quickly cope

So far no ES has made it to Germany - and by the way not to Japan either - but the series itself is a complete success. Together with the LS, the somewhat smaller ES laid the foundation stone for Lexus in the USA in 1989 and has since sold more than 2,3 million copies in six generations. Number seven has been on the streets in America since late summer 2018 and will also be available from German dealers from January 19, where it will replace the GS that the WLTP Aus haunted. The GS also poached in the five-meter segment, but focused on sportiness. The new ES, on the other hand, wants to compete with the Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series with comfort and elegance.

A visual surprise is not the ES, it comes as a shrunken LS therefore, with the typical Diabolo grill, sharp-edged LED lights and narrow taillights. Following the spirit of the times, the roof line drops flat backwards and gives the sedan some coupé charm - with the disadvantage that the headroom is not particularly lush; especially since all ES as standard ancestors with sunroof. A classic sliding glass roof, no large panoramic window.

A visual surprise is not the ES. It comes as a shrunken LS therefore, with the typical Diabolo grill, sharp-edged LED lights and narrow taillights

Also unusually small is the partly analog, partly digital instrument cluster behind the wheel. Above all, the on-board computer is likely to push farsighted sometimes to despair, modern high-tech displays as in the Mercedes E-Class, the Lexus so not enough. The optional head-up display is the largest on the market. The unusually many switch of the center console, which does not all feel equally high-quality, also seem a bit dusty. A touch screen infotainment could provide more order here, but still the system available in two sizes is operated by touchpad on the center tunnel.

The now seventh generation of the ES is the first to come to the German dealers

And still: Although the ES objectively does not play in the first league, you immediately feel comfortable after boarding and can quickly cope. Only the seats should be a bit wider, then the long-haul comfort for not very slim drivers would be even better. More spacious than the competition, it is in the back seat, at least forward, even long passengers have no problems. Again below average is the trunk volume: 454 liters go in, well 100 liters less than the competitors. And: The backseat is not foldable.

If these little things do not deter you, you can confidently turn to the Lexus ES. Because on the road makes the Japanese a great figure. The only power option is the hybrid 300h, which combines a 2,5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine (131 kW / 178 PS and 221 Newtonmeter) with a 88 kW / 120 PS strong electric motor, which adds additional 202 Newtonmeter torque. The system performance is indicated with 160 kW / 218 PS. Thus, the ES is in the midfield of the business sedans and sprints in 8,9 seconds on Tempo 100. Particularly pleasing: The engineers finally succeeded in driving off the whine under full load, coupled to a continuously variable transmission. Although the ES gets a bit louder during the kickdown, but not unpleasant. During normal driving, it is extremely quiet, not least thanks to the generous use of insulating material in the body. So quiet that the ventilation of the rear-mounted battery can be a bit annoying when the radio is off.

Relaxed, the ES can glide along, but it also likes to jump into the curve. With a somewhat misplaced acting stub switch on the instrument panel can activate the sport mode, then shock and steering are tightened, and the ES reacts a bit more direct, but not really snappy on gas commands. Even sportier is only possible with the F-Sport equipment available from 57.000 Euro.

Despite the hybrid technology, the promised 4,4 liter standard fuel consumption (according to NEDC, WLTP: 5,3 liter) can not be reached during a brisk trip. But who does not exaggerate, easily comes to a six in front of the comma: Finally, the ES turns off the burner until Tempo 120 whenever possible. But he can not permanently power up, the energy in the battery only lasts for one or two kilometers. However, the dual-hearted technology not only ensures low fuel consumption, but also limits the Vmax: Just 180 km / h may run the ES and so must depend on the highway itself from the base models of the competitors.

Michael Gebhardt / SP-X

Lexus ES 300h - Specifications:
Upper middle class sedan, front-wheel drive, length: 4,98 meters, width: 1,87 meters (without mirrors), height: 1,45 meters, wheelbase: 2,87 meters, empty weight: 1.680 kg, trunk volume: 454 liters

Hybrid drive:
2,5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, 131 kW / 178 PS, maximum torque: 221 Nm at 3.600-5-200 rpm, electric motor: 88 kW / 120 PS, torque: 202 Nm, system performance: 160 kW / 218 PS, 0-100 km / h: 8,9 s, Vmax: 180 km / h, fuel consumption: 4,4 l / 100 km, CO2 emissions: 100 g / km, emission standard: Euro 6d-Temp, efficiency class: A +, price: from 48.200 Euro

Brief description:
Why: because he looks fancier and more exclusive than the competition.
Why not: because he does not run faster than 180 km / h and the back seat is not foldable.   
What else: Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF
When he comes: 19. January

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