The ES sedan, one of the oldest model lines in the Lexus range besides the LS, enters its seventh generation building on the strengths of past generation with an all-new chassis that allows for a more dynamic exterior design and even better driving performance.

The introduction of the new Lexus ES continues the expression of the brand’s design direction and commitment towards crafting vehicles with heightened excitement, emotion and passion expanding that vision of the brand’s future to a broader audience. Traditional buyers will find the new ES more spacious, quieter and safer than ever before while a new generation of customers will be introduced to a sedan with sharpened performance, class-leading safety technology and a level of craftsmanship rarely found in this segment.

First generation and sixth generation of the ES
The new 7th generation ES

Built on the all-new Global Architecture – K (GA-K) platform, the new model is longer (+65 mm), lower (-5 mm) and wider (+45 mm), with wheels that have been pushed closer to the corners, thanks to a 50 mm longer wheelbase and wider tracks front (+10 mm) and rear (+37 mm).

Project chief designer Yasuo Kajino describes the look of the ES as ‘provocative elegance’, saying: “The ES has always been an elegant luxury sedan. For this generation, we have added daring design elements that challenge the traditional expectations of buyers.”

His team pushed the limits of design in the midsize luxury sedan class to achieve an eye-catching appearance that reflects the car’s new-found performance capabilities. To create a dynamic yet fluid shape, the designers dropped the bonnet level which was possible due to the new platform, producing a distinctive silhouette emphasized by an aggressive downward slant.

Up front, the face of the ES is dramatically different depending on the model. The standard ES 350 and ES 300h Hybrid use elegant vertical bars that radiate out from the centre while the ES 350 F SPORT version gets a blacked out cross-hatch pattern that corresponds with cut outs at each corner of the fascia.

In a break with ES models of the past, the seventh-generation uses a fast roofline that emphasizes its lower stance and slippery aerodynamics. The rear end is clean and sharply chiseled, with LED taillamps that wrap around the quarter panels to provide a continuous styling line from any angle.

F SPORT version in the exclusive Heat Blue finish

A dozen colour choices make up the exterior paint palette including two new shades – green and beige – that are anything but typical. Moonbeam Beige Metallic was designed to mimic light reflecting off fresh snow while Sunlight Green replicates the colour of ocean water brightened by the sun. F SPORT versions get an exclusive Heat Blue colour that complements the high-energy design.

The engineering team led by Yasuhiro Sakakibara had one clear goal when it came to the new model: transform the image of the ES. That meant turning a sedan known primarily for comfort and quietness into one that is equally capable of delivering class-leading handling and power that could be felt – and heard. According to Sakakibara, this ES was built to deliver a fundamentally higher level of performance than any of its predecessors. “We knew that this ES had to feel responsive and easy to drive, no matter what kind of road it was on and that can only be achieved with a solid foundation,” he said.

The newly developed GA-K chassis is an exceptionally rigid front-wheel drive chassis, rivalling the GA-L rear-wheel drive platform used for the LC coupe and LS sedan in terms of torsional stiffness. Various grades of high-tensile steel reduce weight versus previous platforms while additional enhancements like an all-new multi-link rear suspension design, rack-mounted electric power steering and a V-brace mounted behind the rear seat gave the engineers the flexibility to tune the ES more precisely.

All of the upgrades to the chassis were designed to deliver a sense of comforting predictability coupled with a feeling of quick response to every movement. Yoshiaki Ito, chief test driver for Lexus, describes the ES’s heightened level and refined definition of comfort by saying: “We want every kind of driver to feel a sense of complete control when they are behind the wheel of the ES. It’s a level of comfort that goes beyond merely delivering a smooth ride.”

For an enhanced level of dynamic performance, F SPORT models offer an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) similar to that found on the LC coupe. AVS adds adjustable dampers at each corner that feature 650 levels of damping force for the ultimate in control over any surface. Another F SPORT exclusive is a Sport+ mode for the Drive Mode Select system that selects the most aggressive engine, transmission and suspension settings for maximum performance. A new Engine Sound Enhancement feature is also activated in Sport+ mode that adds an additional layer of engine noise that enhances the natural rhythms of the spirited driving.

There will be two powertrain options – 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and a 4th generation Lexus Hybrid Drive. The V6, a proven unit, has an updated D4-S fuel injection system and now develops 302 ps/355 Nm, both numbers up significantly compared to the V6 used for the previous generation.

4th generation Lexus Hybrid Drive

In addition to the boost in power, the new ES 350 also benefits from a new 8-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission. This has an ultra-thin torque converter and a multi-plate lock up clutch to more efficiently transfer power to the front wheels, and has been tuned to deliver crisp, precisely timed shifts with quick responses. With a wider spread of ratios, the new 8-speeder is able to utilize high torque gears on the low end for quick starts and tall gearing on the high end for optimum efficiency.

The new generation of the Lexus Hybrid Drive System is said to overturn the traditional image of hybrids with excellent performance, high-level fuel economy and the elimination of the ‘rubber band’ feeling associated with previous hybrid systems.

The new system couples an ultra-efficient, Atkinson cycle 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine with a lighter, more compact, more power dense electric motor and self-charging hybrid system. Together, they deliver a combined system output of 205 ps with a claim of over 17 kms/litre.

Overall drivability of the ES 300h is said to be improved with a more sophisticated hybrid system control computer that is better able to mimic the feel and power delivery of a petrol engine. Even the nickel-hydrogen battery is smaller than before, allowing it to be mounted underneath the back seat so it doesn’t intrude into boot space.

When designing the look and feel of the new ES interior, the Lexus Future Interior concept was adopted. This blends a driver-centric cockpit with a spacious and comfortable area for the front passenger. The driver’s focus is kept on the road ahead by placing the centre display screen, instrument panel and head-up display in a tight cluster in the driver’s field of view. Adjustments to the steering wheel angle and position and to the brake pedal angle and location provide the driver with a natural driving position.

The soft padding of the instrument panel – where each stitch is embedded into materials – has a striking, 3D effect. Sound insulation and absorption measures also underline the attention to detail and deliver an outstanding level of quietness and sound control.

Rear-seat passenger comfort has long been a hallmark of the ES and the seventh generation prioritises rear package capability despite the sleeker exterior roofline. A lower hip point and a carefully configured headliner preserve headroom while the longer wheelbase delivers uncharacteristically generous legroom.

All versions of the new generation feature the new Lexus Safety System + 2.0 (although features may vary in different markets). This adds new capabilities that further expand the scenarios in which it is capable of providing additional safety to the driver and passengers.

One such feature is daytime cyclist detection which is part of the comprehensive pre-collision system (PCS). Already capable of detecting oncoming vehicles and pedestrians, the PCS’s ability to detect cyclists addresses one of the most common accident scenarios on the road today. PCS has also been enhanced to better detect pedestrians at night by increasing the radar’s sensitivity and dynamic range.

There’s also a two-stage adaptive high beam system that can turn the high beams on and off automatically. Its 24 individual LED light array is capable of adapting the light pattern to provide enhanced illumination while reducing glare for oncoming drivers.

Staying connected is done through multiple ways, allowing engagement with technology in a safe and convenient manner. This ES is the first Lexus product to offer Apple CarPlay phone functionality, enabling drivers to control their iPhones through the dashboard display screen or with Siri Eyes Free voice control. Wifi is also available while the navigation system displays maps and information on a 12.3-inch wide dashboard display. Some variants may also have an 8-inch display with all interactions will be controlled through the Remote Touch Interface trackpad.

To go on sale in global markets later this year, the new ES, like the flagship LS, aims to engage a broader range of customers. It combines everything that traditional Lexus buyers would expect along with elements that the company hopes will draw in those who haven’t considered the brand before.

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[Chips Yap]

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