Lexus introduced the sixth-generation ES luxury sedan with an updated ES350 and the new ES300h hybrid. Both cars have a new “spindle” grille and more assertive contours to avoid the trending-toward-vanilla styling of the outgoing car.
The first Lexus ES hybrid has a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine that doesn’t use any drive belts. It has ES300h an electric water pump, electric power steering, and an integrated hybrid electric motor/generator instead. The ES300h has 200 horsepower and an estimated 40 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 39 mpg combined.
The ES 350 is powered by Toyota’s 3.5-liter V6 engine, familiar to Camry buyers, that delivers 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,700, with a six-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission. EPA-fuel economy estimates for the ES350 come in at 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.
Both cars feature a drive mode selector with normal, Eco, and Sport mode; the latter also increases steering responsiveness. On the ES 300h, Sport Mode changes the hybrid power monitor display to a tachometer. The ES300h adds EV mode, for driving short distances, at reduced speeds, powered by the hybrid battery pack alone.
Handling has been enhanced with some suspension changes, a stiffer body and a quicker steering gear ratio. The front suspension uses opposite-wound coil springs for better straight-line stability and revised rear suspension geometry and improved shock absorber damping enhance ride comfort. The steering gear ratio has been reduced from 16.1:1 to 14.8:1 for improved steering feel. Lexus used lightweight, high tensile strength steel, added bracing and more spot welds to improve body rigidity. Better under-car airflow management reduces drag, improving stability and fuel economy.
The ES will have standard 215/55R17 low rolling resistance tires on 17-inch alloy wheels. The ES350 will provide optional high-gloss 17-inch and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The new ES models come loaded with the latest bells and whistles. Customers can also join add the Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), which helps detect vehicles in side blind spots, including while backing out of a parking spot — an option now offered on mass-market compact cars as well. Lexus also sells a lane departure alert integrated with automatic high beam dimming technology.
The Pre-Collision System (Chrysler calls it “Forward Collision Warning”) uses sub-millimeter wave radar to detect certain obstructions ahead and prepare the vehicle for a potential collision. Nice, but how about helping the driver avoid the collision?