Refined ride: Lexus ES 250 EX | Fin24
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Refined ride: Lexus ES 250 EX

Jan 29 2019 09:51
Glenda Williams
Lexus ES250

The Lexus ES 250 EX boasts a distinctive silhouette with a strong downward slant. (Image supplied)

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How you feel about the car you are about to drive is often based on the first few seconds that you lay eyes on it. 

That first glimpse of the exterior. 

The moment you enter the cabin. The all-important test drive may not even come about if those crucial first few seconds decide otherwise. 

That is not always a wise decision. 

Sure, looks are important. 

But the drive and the practicality of purpose should be the overriding decision-maker. 

And this brings us to the seventh-generation Lexus ES. 

Offered in two derivatives – the entry-level 250 petrol variant that finweek tested, or a hybrid 300h – this premium sedan has a somewhat edgy look. 

The look

The Lexus ES’s unique face may not be to everyone’s taste, but I like the break the Japanese company has made from the bland design of previous models. 

The bold, edgy, break-the-mould design – predominantly conveyed via an unconventional spindle grille and slim, compact bi-LED headlights – helps it stand out in a crowd of more traditionally designed peers. 

This ES is 65mm longer, 5mm lower and 45mm wider than its predecessor, and its silhouette has a strong downward slant. 

The hood line is lower. 

So too is the roofline that slopes down to a chiselled rear end with LED lamps that wrap around its quarters. 

It’s a rear form that exudes a more elegant design, a style more favoured by the mature set.

Cabin connection

Enter. Sit. Feel. How immediately comfortable you are in an unfamiliar cabin speaks volumes. 

And in the Lexus ES 250 EX, you are instantly comfortable. 

There is a sense of luxury, comfort and familiarity. 

A sense of uncomplicated and easy-to-use controls all within easy reach.

By and large it’s a handsome cockpit not filled with too much clutter. 

The premium look is enhanced by features such as the leather gear lever and steering wheel and ergonomic, enveloping seats. 

Trim materials like soft touch plastic and the Nulux simulated leather used on the seats also have a premium look and feel.

Not all the switchgear is pleasing to the eye. Situated on either side of the dashboard is some odd-looking switchgear for drive modes and traction control that bring to mind Shrek’s ears. 

While uncomplicated to operate, these protruding horn-type controls are not an enhancement to the cockpit appearance. 

Despite being less convinced by a couple of the interior style elements, I’m a firm believer that one should not judge a book by its cover. 

And, it’s strange how odd or quirky elements can grow on you over time if given the chance.As expected, an obligatory screen dominates the dashboard. 

Yet this multi-infotainment display is not operated by touch, but rather by a trackpad located behind the gear lever. 

I am not a fan of this method of control. 

While trackpad operation is all very well and good while stationary, attempting to utilise it while on the go is just not practical.

On to phone pairing, which turned out to be less straightforward than it could be. 

Once paired, the system continually defaulted to playing my last voice note. 

After listening to the sound of my voice referencing points for a future article for the umpteenth time, and unable to rectify this, I finally conceded defeat. 

Convinced I was having a simultaneous blonde and senile moment, I roped in the tech-savvy young guns. 

Amid rolling eyes, heavy sighing and smug, knowing looks, they set to work. 

The outcome was not a happy one and their lack of success did much to restore my dignity. 

But the salient issue here is that the car’s not-so-user-friendly technology could be a potential deal breaker for both the more patient, mature folk, and the far less patient youngster set.

Uncomplicated technology as well as relevancy in cabin design is crucial. 

Yes, this is a car that appeals to the more mature who are not as fanatical about looks and tech – and vastly more interested in purpose, comfort and reliability – but Lexus may have missed an opportunity here to entice a somewhat younger owner.

Still, the Lexus ES has a head start with its offering of standard features. 

Aside from a premium audio system, dual-zone air-conditioning, two USB points and Bluetooth, it offers keyless start, heated front seats, park distance control with rear camera, cruise control and ‘moonroof’ among others. 

With no less than ten airbags and safety aids like ABS and stability control, the all-new Lexus ES 250 EX is no slouch from a safety perspective either.  

The Lexus ES 300h SE hybrid derivative, which achieved a maximum five-star rating in the latest Euro NCAP safety testing, benefits from an additional array of standard safety technologies. 

These include a pre-crash system (capable of detecting oncoming vehicles and pedestrians), adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, adaptive high beam system, and blind spot monitor.

Space in the 4-door Lexus ES also gets the thumbs up. 

The cockpit is roomy, rear legroom is more than generous as is headroom, and the boot is expansive. 

Its doors open really wide while the seat and 3-spoke leather steering wheel adjust automatically, making for trouble-free entry or exit. 

Also getting the thumbs up are the seats, with the front seats electronically adjustable. 

It took three years to produce these seats for the new ES, and these comfy, lumbar supporting seats certainly do the trick. 

Refined driving

Whatever gripes I may have had about the car before the drive paled into insignificance with the drive itself. 

A refinement of the driving position in the ES has brought about a more natural steering wheel angle and pedal positions, adding to its comfy and composed driving setting.

Even its ride quality, always first-rate, has been taken up a notch, courtesy of the Japanese carmaker’s innovative suspension design that ensures appropriate damping force – whatever the conditions.Built for an executive driving experience, the ES has always been known for its smooth, quiet and refined ride. 

Now it’s even more so. 

All told, it’s a ride that is immensely comfortable and unruffled.

The cabin is silent, as the superb insulation blocks out road and engine noise. 

Even window operation in the Lexus ES is silent – the most silent I have to date experienced – the windows opening so soundlessly and stealthily that you are convinced of an error in operation … until outside noise proves otherwise.

This executive cruiser is no small car, but you don’t get a sense of that behind the wheel. 

It’s a real joy to drive. Steering is direct and it’s now more athletic through the curves. 

Equipped with 17-inch multi-spoke cast alloy wheels, the front-wheel drive ES demonstrates great body rigidity, handling and stability and a supreme level of ride comfort. 

The high revving 2.5-litre engine, while not designed for swift getaways, is more than perky enough with ample power to haul the car comfortably at respectable speeds. 

And its mating with the 8-speed automatic gearbox is a triumph, producing gear changes that are seamless.

The Lexus ES 250 EX is equipped with three drive modes: eco, normal and sport. 

Although there is no massive difference in punch in sport mode, it does deliver quicker throttle response, albeit with increased high-pitched engine noise. 

That high-revving engine noise, though, is far less audible in eco mode, where gear changes occur at much lower revs. 

Being an executive sedan there is probably little use for manual gearing. 

But for those intent on upping the dynamism, this is achievable via the standard flappy paddles or by manual shifting of the gear lever.

I’m partial to the ES’s auto-off function that only activates when the brake is firmly depressed. 

This means that a light foot on the brake prevents the car from switching off automatically, seriously handy when you are only stationary for a second or so.

If I’m to be honest, I approached the test not expecting to like the car as much as I did. 

Happily, I parked my critical head and allowed myself the opportunity to enjoy the car, which I genuinely did. 

It would seem I’m not the only one – the Lexus ES having made the list of finalists in the executive and premium sedans category in the 2019 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year competition.

Aside from its premium look and feel, the Lexus ES 250 EX is a delight to drive. 

It is effortless to pilot and immeasurably comfortable. 

The icing on the cake is its comprehensive list of standard luxury features negating the need to dip further into one’s pocket for costly optional extras. 

This well-appointed executive sedan also comes with a cherry on top: a class-leading 7-year maintenance plan.

This article originally appeared in the 24 January edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.