We say it time and time again. Just because the demand for the sedan body shape has been dying a slow death alongside the global SUV uprising does not mean sedans can’t be decent cars.
Ironically, it is exactly the opposite. Sedans are now better than they have ever been… yet they are fighting a losing battle. With every year that goes by, the ugly stepchild is losing more ground to the SUV golden boy in global sale numbers.
At least over at the local Lexus stable, it seems that sanity is prevailing over trends. It will take a brave soul to guess that a sedan is Lexus’ best seller. Especially taken into account that the Toyota luxury division’s 10-model local line-up features four SUVs and just two sedans.
Lexus ES outsells SUVs
Over the previous six months, the Lexus ES sedan outsold its siblings and by some margin too. From September 2021 to February 2022, Lexus sold 97 new ES sedans. The second and third positions on this list belong to SUVs, with 59 of the RX and 56 of the UX being sold during this period.
A major contributing factor to the ES’ success is no doubt the fact that the 250 EX base model offers the gateway to the brand at R719,900. But price aside, it performs well for another reason. It is simply a damn fine product.
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The flagship Lexus ES 300h SE we recently had on test is at R948,400, substantially pricier than the base model. But if you are shopping in the mid-sized premium sedan bracket, even that amount translates into excellent value.
As far as price goes in the mid-sized premium sedan segment, the Lexus ES 300h SE’s rivals include the Mercedes-Benz E200 Avantgarde (R936,832), the BMW 520d/530i (R987,296/R989,642), Audi A6 40TDI (R986,000) and Volvo S90 B5 Inscription (R942,852). But being a self-charging hybrid puts the Japanese offering in a league of its own. Comparing it to mild-hybrid offerings at the heart of the E200 and S90 B5, diesel mills in the A6 and 5 Series and a petrol powerplant in the BMW simply wouldn’t be comparing apples to apples.
Styling, specification levels, craftsmanship and after sales backup are the areas direct comparisons would be more appropriate in.
There is no doubt that the exterior of the Lexus ES 300h SE shouts “I’ve arrived”! Highlighted by the updated signature Lexus spindle grille, slimmer LED headlights, a sloping roofline, chiselled rear and model-specific 18-inch alloy wheels, the car does make quite a statement.
On the inside, the show goes on. A splendid new Mauve trim insert option further enhances an expertly crafted cabin in typical elegant Lexus style.
The driver benefits from a 10-way adjustable seat, a heated steering wheel borrowed from the Lexus LS featuring wood trim and heated front seats. Other features included as a standard are a 12.3-inch widescreen infotainment system with touch functionality, 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, smartphone connectivity, Lexus Navigation EMV, twin-rear USB ports, rear-view camera with park distance control, adaptive cruise control and moonroof.
Due to a lower hip point and configured headlining, headroom in the back has not suffered as a result of the sloping roofline. Legroom has increased due to a longer wheelbase, while boot space measures at a healthy 454 litres.
An impressive list of safety equipment includes Lexus Safety System as standard. This comprises advanced systems like Lane Departure Alert, Pre-crash System, Lane Keep Assist and LED-Adaptive High-beam System.
As far as after sales backup goes, the ES comes standard with Lexus’ best-in-class seven-year/105 000km warranty and full maintenance plan.
Hybrid not for everyone
While there is no faulting the Lexus ES 300h SE’s driving comfort, finishing and specifications, the hybrid system is the one area which will not be to everyone’s liking. It combines a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol with an electric motor for a total system power output of 160kW. This is sent to the front wheels via ECVT transmission, an electronically controlled CVT system.
Very low CO2 emissions (104g/km), an excellent claimed fuel economy (4.6L/100km) and the benefit of pure electric driving are the hybrid’s main traits. But all of this is not going to sway those looking for sportier acceleration in their flashy sleek sedans. The claimed 8.9 seconds it takes the Lexus ES 300h SE from 0 to 100km/h ranges between half a second to as much as 2.5 seconds slower than its competitors.
You can extract adequate acceleration from the ES’ hybrid system. But this is done with rather audible engine noise that does not quite seem fitting in an otherwise splendidly quiet cabin. And pushing too hard is also a timely reminder that no matter what they put in front of CVT technology, droning is forever engrained in its DNA.
For those shopping with their heads, the Lexus ES 300h SE will offer a compelling package. It is stylish, elegant, spacious, economical, environment friendly and great value for money. Once they start adding up the optional extras in its competitors what is included as standard on the ES, it will make the value-proposition even bigger.
Those craving more oomph or a German badge might just end up regretting their decision once the petrol price does hit the R40-mark as predicted by some.
For more information on the Lexus ES 300h SE, click here.