By Gugu Masuku

The last time I drove a Lexus was two years ago, back when they launched the IS. I was privileged enough to drive both the IS 250t and IS 350 F-Sport. There aren’t enough words to describe the impression I was left with after hauling the mid-sized luxury sedan through Long Tom Pass up in Mpumalanga; that vehicle sticks to the road like a steadfast gecko and the steering wheel feedback was nothing less than precise.

Two years later and I’ve had the privilege of sampling yet another Lexus. I have to say it took them a while to send another invite through the post, but what matters is that they did! This time around it was to drive the new Lexus ES, launched in two derivatives: an ES 250 EX and an ES 300h SE, the latter coming in as a hybrid.

While driving the new model out in the Cape, I turn to one of the brand’s representatives sitting in the backseat to ask who the competitors of the ES are, the response I get is not what I expect to hear: “direct competitors to the ES are the Mercedes-Benz C Class and BMW 3 Series.” This took me by surprise because I would bet money that the ES goes head-to-head with the likes of E Class, not only does it look larger than both the 3 Series and C Class but it actually is larger! This second generation ES sits on a new platform that has a length increase of 75mm—hell, it’s even larger than the E Class, both in length and width! With that said, the price of the ES 250 EX is on par with its ostensible competitors, so you really are getting more bang with your buck with the Lexus, with a price tag of R593 300.

The large proportions are not there because the Japanese had more building material than they needed—they actually translate to a large and spacious interior. In my opinion, a key feature in a car like this is rear legroom because the ES exudes a stately aura, the type of vehicle that ferries important people from point A to point B. Luckily for me, I had one such person in the rear sitting directly behind me—normally people don’t enjoy sitting behind me in cars because of my height and driving position; with this in mind, I did my normal routine and checked to see if my passenger’s legs still had steady blood circulation. I was surprised to find that his legs were not only doing just fine, but he had enough room to fit a small bag between him and the front seat—I was pleased, to say the least!

Upfront, the Lexus ES is still a Lexus and it does not deviate from the brand’s interior layout style of modest while remaining premium. The 300h makes use of a wooden trim across the interior as well as the steering wheel, and the amount of buttons is not as overwhelming as you would find in other Lexus models. The battery pack in this derivative has been moved from beneath the boot and has been neatly built into the bottom of the rear seats, giving the hybrid more luggage space.

Powering both versions of the ES is a 2.5l engine, the hybrid getting a battery pack to do what hybrids do best. A CVT gearbox drones away in the 300h—also doing what CVTs do best! The ES 200, on the other hand, is specced with an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Driving both models back-to-back, I found the 250 ES to be more responsive at 152kW and 243Nm, while the 300h put out 131kW and 221Nm on just the petrol engine.

The Lexus ES is very niche; it is the ideal sedan for someone who wants something different, something that allows you to move in luxury but keeps you under the radar. Opt for the hybrid and you can expect to add over R200k to the R593 300 of the ES 250 ES, to get to the R843 800 asking price.