The ES has a reputation Stateside for being one of Lexus’s quietest and most comfortable cars. And while the company has made an effort to tune the seventh-generation ES to suit European tastes, it hasn’t changed the character too much.
Suffice to say, the ES excels in suppressing wind and road noise, and its suspension has the ability to ease the car over almost any lump or ridge you’re likely to find with the minimum of fuss or disturbance. It’s a very relaxing place in which to travel. And the ES manages that without leaning hard in corners or lolloping too wildly over bigger bumps and crests. It steers fairly crisply, too, with a usefully weighty steering wheel.
The primary reason that the ES is so much better at a gentle, economic stride than a hurried one isn’t the front-wheel drive chassis; rather, it’s the hybrid engine, badged 300h, which will be the only option for UK buyers. Combining a new 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit with a couple of electric motors and a continuously variable gearbox, the 300h feels less one-dimensional than some of Lexus’ petrol-electric engines, but it still resorts to frenetic revs when you need forward impetus quickly and lacks the mid-range torque for easy drivability. Use full power and outright acceleration isn’t bad; but rushing it along quickly feels like you’re forcing the ES to do something that’s fundamentally against its nature.
The transmission has a Sport mode and can be selected with paddles on the steering wheel, but the latter may as well have been left off because even when you select a lower gear yourself, you’ll find the car doesn’t stay there if you dig more than halfway into the accelerator pedal.
Still, if you rarely need to rush and are more interested in efficiency than excitement, the ES won’t let you down. It’ll easily top 45mpg in mixed use; this improves significantly in Eco driving mode, which lets the car ‘sail’ rather than regenerate energy when easing off the accelerator in order to save fuel.