If you’re someone like me, and until recently, I never gave Lexus much credit beyond being a Toyota in a fancy frock. My comments were, of course, largely unjustified but I made them regardless because underneath all the tech and gadgetry their cars couldn’t match the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes.
However I recently had a go in the Lexus IS350 and concluded that it wiped the floor with Audi, could comfortably hold its own against Merc and came near-as-makes-no-difference to matching BMW.
This week I was behind the wheel of another Lexus, the ES250 and could be forgiven for holding high hopes.
On the outside
The Lexus ES250 is an odd one; I say so because it is a larger car than the IS350, yet cheaper on the price lists. What this tells you is that it’s a ‘budget’ version. The Toyota of the Lexus range if you like and I think that is visually apparent. The car’s design is a lot simpler, devoid of the creases and sharp lines that have become a defining characteristic of the Lexus brand. This is not to say the Lexus ES250 is ugly; there is after all an element of elegance in simplicity, but this Lexus walks a tight line between elegance and simply looking like a barge.
On the inside
The interior appears somewhat more current however; mimicking the more expensive IS350 in layout and appearance with its twin level dashboard, centrally located multimedia screen and funny mouse like control toggle near the gear lever. It’s a nice place to sit, even if the mouse thingy takes some getting used to.
The larger dimensions of the ES give it an exceptionally spacious cabin. Huge in fact, especially for rear leg room and general all-round comfort. You could cruise to Cape Town with four adults and get out the other side without so much as a twinge in the knees or buttocks.
Behind the wheel
The secret to the Lexus ES250 is what lies beneath the skin. Lexus has traditionally been a proponent of rear-wheel-drive layouts, however break the mould with this one. Under the bonnet lies a rather old fashioned 2.5 litre four cylinder petrol motor from the old Toyota Rav4 and delivering power to the front wheels.
Mated to the motor is a six speed automatic box, which can only be described as pedestrian in its task of changing cogs. Modern day automatics change gear without so much as a hint of delay or disturbance. The same cannot be said here.
It’s no secret that the drivetrain was put together on a shoe string to keep the overall costs down. So it would be unfair to expect magic. The Lexus ES250 goes about its job of being a big, comfortable saloon that will get a move on if sufficiently coaxed – but it won’t enjoy the experience.
In my opinion the introduction of the ES is a confused one. Lexus has set itself on a great path with the IS350 and its offerings higher up the food chain, but the ES dilutes its apparent ethos. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad car and is perfect if you’re happy to bumble along in supreme comfort. It just doesn’t live up to the new benchmark.
Price: R449 000
Engine: 2.5 litre four cylinder petrol
Power: 135 kW
Torque: 235 Nm
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 9.8
Top Speed (km/h): 207
Consumption (l/100km): 8.0 (claimed)
First published in Autodealer KZN