Lexus ES review

Category: Luxury car

Not without its strengths, but the Lexus ES is outclassed by the majority of rivals

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  • Lexus ES interior infotainment
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  • Lexus ES interior detail
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  • Lexus ES front right tracking
  • Lexus ES front cornering
  • Lexus ES interior dashboard
  • Lexus ES interior back seats
  • Lexus ES interior infotainment
  • Lexus ES right tracking
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  • Lexus ES grille detail
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  • Lexus ES headlights detail
  • Lexus ES rear lights detail
  • Lexus ES interior front seats
  • Lexus ES interior detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

The Lexus ES is aimed at anyone looking for a luxury car that combines the tax advantages of a hybrid without the faff of plugging it in. Indeed, almost every model in the current Lexus range is helped along by at least one electric motor.

This seventh-generation ES is the first version available in the UK (Lexus aimed previous versions primarily at the US market), and under its bonnet is a 2.5-litre petrol engine that’s assisted by two motors. 

So, what are the benefits of its 'self-charging' hybrid set-up? Well, for a start the ES can travel short distances on electricity alone, which makes it quiet at lows speeds.

Plus, its official CO2 emissions are more in line with a small hatchback than a big luxury saloon – and that's particularly good news if you pay company car tax. Unless you’re looking at plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options, the ES trumps the Audi A6, the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes E-Class for emissions.

So, can a car that mixes all the trappings of a luxurious vehicle while also giving a big nod to efficiency cut it against the best rivals? Read on over the next few pages of this review to find out how we rate the Lexus ES for performance and handling, interior quality and space, running costs and more.

And don’t forget, you could save a packet on your next new car if you search out the lowest prices using our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. They're a good place to find the best new luxury car deals.

Overview

The ES is a very compelling choice considering its low-price, minimal running costs versus rivals, and outstanding amount of standard equipment and safety features. It still lags behind rivals for performance and outright driver appeal, plus there is still some coarseness from its hybrid system under acceleration.

  • Low running costs for most drivers
  • Lower list price than rivals
  • Well-built interior
  • Sluggish acceleration by class standards
  • Small boot with no folding rear seats
  • A PHEV or electric car is likely to be cheaper to run
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

As luxury cars go, the Lexus ES is not particularly quick. Its 2.5-litre petrol engine and two electric motors team up to produce a maximum of 176bhp, for a 0-62mph time of 8.9sec. That's some way off its electrified rivals, including the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Volvo S90 T8 Recharge, with its 4.7sec acceleration time.

To put that in context, the ES is outpaced by the cheapest BMW 5 Series and even the humble Honda Civic hybrid. Lexus gives you a CVT automatic gearbox (there's no manual option), so the petrol engine revs away frantically when you demand maximum acceleration.

The ES lacks the low-rev urgency that makes diesel rivals so relaxing to drive. There's a brief immediate surge as the electric motor does its best, but then you're left waiting for the revs of the petrol engine to increase before any serious momentum starts to build. It works best if you rarely need to rush and are more interested in efficiency than excitement.

Lexus ES image
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The ES is no embarrassment through the corners, with precise enough steering that adds a reassuring amount of heft through a turn at higher speeds, and a reasonable amount of grip to keep you on the straight and narrow. It’s nowhere near as agile or fun as a 5 Series or a Jaguar XF though. Going for sporty F Sport trim adds adaptive suspension, but it doesn't transform the car handling wise.

Ride comfort for non-F Sport cars isn't up there with the best versions of the 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class – with some shudder through the body when you go over larger abrasions – but the ES is comfortable enough. F Sport trim's adaptive suspension has a Comfort mode that does a much better job of isolating you from the worst impacts.

Cruising refinement is good on all versions, although there is more road noise than in the quietest rivals. The ES can move almost silently at low speeds when it's in EV (electric vehicle) mode, but PHEV versions of the Audi A6, the 5 Series, the E-class and the S90 have bigger battery packs, allowing them to travel further and faster without using the engine.

Lexus ES front cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

The driving position in the Lexus ES is comfortable rather than sporty, with good visibility that’s helped at night by automatic LED headlights. You also get automatic wipers, a rear-view camera, and front and rear parking sensors.

Unless you go for the entry-level Premium Edition, the headlights are matrix LEDs that can be left on full beam without dazzling other road users, and you get a 360-degree camera system to help you park. You can have cameras in place of door mirrors in top Takumi trim, but we wouldn’t bother because the displays are quite low-resolution and the system is pricey.

The seats are comfortable, with adjustable lumbar support as standard and decent lateral support, although some of our taller testers wished the driver's seat dropped a little lower in the car. F Sport trim adds front sports seats that hold you in place a little better during cornering.

The digital driver display behind the steering wheel changes its appearance depending on the drive mode selected (you do this using a stalk that sprouts from the side of the instrument binnacle). If you want an analogue-style rev counter dial, you can select one, but the instrument panel has nowhere near the level of configurability of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.

All versions have a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. It's not too challenging to use, but we’d prefer a rotary controller interface like the one in the rival BMW 5 Series. If you opt for the F Sport Takumi pack or the range-topping Takumi model, you get an excellent 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.

The ES's interior uses good quality materials, and the leather in range-topping Takumi versions is particularly impressive. Still, it's not as plush inside as the Audi A6 or the 5 Series, and there are some scratchy plastics around the door bins and centre console. Everything feels solidly screwed together, though.

Lexus ES interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

The Lexus ES is a fairly big saloon that can comfortably transport four adults. It also has a surprisingly wide boot, although it can't take as much luggage as some luxury cars. Front space shouldn’t prove an issue unless you’re very tall.

Lexus says the ES has just 1mm less knee room than the giant Lexus LS and it's true that taller adults in the back will have plenty of space for their legs. They might find their heads hitting the ceiling though, because the roofline drops towards the rear of the car.

You'll find a couple of average-sized cupholders between driver and passenger, a cubby beneath the centre armrest, and door pockets just about big enough for drinks bottles. The glovebox is disappointingly small, though.

Boot space is below average for the class. You get 454 litres, which is less than in the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class. The biggest obstacle to practicality is that you can’t fold down the rear seats to increase capacity, as you can in rivals, although you do at least get a ski flap.

Lexus ES interior back seats

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The low list price and running costs of our recommended Premium Edition Lexus ES make it a compelling ownership prospect (it's one of the few luxury cars that avoids the luxury road-tax fee for models with a list price above £40,000). That said, if you want a company car with really low benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bills, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) – such as the Audi A6 50 TFSI e or the BMW 5 Series 530e – is a better bet. Electric cars have even lower BIK tax.

Fuel economy is good, too. The ES can officially manage more than 50mpg, and we easily achieved more than 40mpg during testing.

The cheapest trim, Premium Edition, is our favourite because it gets you plenty of standard equipment, including dual-zone climate control, electric seat adjustment and a sunroof, plus keyless entry and start. Range-topping Takumi gets you practically every creature comfort you could think of, but it's also very pricey. If you have that much cash to splash, there are much better cars available.

All ES’s have lots of safety kit. The list includes automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The model was awarded the full five stars in its Euro NCAP safety appraisal, with impressive individual category scores.

Lexus has an excellent reliability record, and topped the brand list of 32 manufacturers in our What Car? Reliability Survey again in 2022. We don’t have any specific data for the ES, but it comes with a three-year warranty that's extended up to 10 years and 100,000 miles if you service your car at a Lexus dealer each year.

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Lexus ES interior infotainment

FAQs

  • The ES isn't the best luxury car for performance and driver involvement, but as an efficient hybrid car it is a great choice for private buyers looking for a luxurious vehicle with low-running costs.

  • The ES is indeed based on the same platform as the 2019-2022 Toyota Camry and they share the same hybrid system. The ES has a more upmarket interior of the two, which is hardly a surprise: Lexus is the luxury arm of Toyota.

  • At 4975mm in length, the ES is quite a large car. It’s also 1865mm in width (not including mirrors) and 1445mm tall.

  • The ES is one of the more affordable luxury cars – undercutting base-spec versions of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class by quite some margin. It even has excellent resale values, which helps to keep monthly PCP finance quotes competitive.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £5,022
Target Price from £39,770
Save up to £5,022
or from £498pm
Swipe to see used car deals
Nearly new deals
From £34,695
RRP price range £43,595 - £56,895
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)1
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)hybrid
MPG range across all versions 53.2 - 53.2
Available doors options 4
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £2,426 / £3,171
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £4,853 / £6,343
Available colours