The Lexus ES occupies an unusual spot in the formidable Japanese luxury brand’s lineup. Slotted between the popular IS and the venerable GS, the ES shares the midsize duties with the latter as a part of Lexus’s strategy to bank on what was — and still is — among America’s most popular segments: the midsize sedan. Unlike the BMW 5 Series, which pulls the weight for BMW’s midsize sedan, the ES splits its charges with the larger GS.
This inter-sibling rivalry sets up an interesting dynamic for the brand, one that’s about to become more intense: The ES has gone under the knife for 2016, and has emerged with sharper styling and a sportier demeanor that has, until now, largely been reserved for the GS.
Revealed in tandem with the hybrid ES 300h, the ES is bolder and more richly styled than the previous model. While the GS and LS are sharply aimed at the executive-class consumer, the ES — priced from about $37,000 for 2015 — is the sort of everyday quiet luxury vehicle that would appeal more to retirees and sleepy suburban families. That’s the biggest difference between it and the GS.
What will be interesting is to see if those same consumers will still be allured by the ES’s more dramatic styling. The spindle grille has been sharpened and expanded, and the fog light housings — pushed to the far corners of the front fascia — are unapologetically statement-making. Lexus’s hooked headlights make a bold declaration as well.
Though it was seriously polarizing initially, the new Lexus look has matured rather well, evidenced by the new ES. Though the grille still takes up some pretty impressive real estate, there’s a striking difference between the ES that was designed with the spindle in mind and the old one which had it added later. It’s sharpened front-end gives it a sort of land-shark look, and overall, the car is nice and proportional.
The new ES will be available in Premium, Luxury and Ultra Luxury trims, and it comes standard with a 268 horsepower 3.5 liter V6. For 2016, the ES adds the Lexus Safety System+ Package, which combines Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam lights, and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, the company said.
Inside, buyers can now choose from the new Dark Mocha wood or Illustrious Piano Black wood (which replaces Piano Black), and matte Bamboo finishes, as well as the Flaxen interior theme. For audiophiles, you have the option of a Mark Levinson Premium Sound system, and a panoramic sunroof is now available with all option packages.
The ES 300h carries the same powertrain over from the previous generation, with an Atkinson-cycle 2.5 liter four paired with an electric motor that serves up 40 miles per gallon combined. Though it won’t be winning any track meets, the 200 horsepower hybrid is now arguably one of the more exciting electrified vehicles in Toyota’s growing stable of green cars.
We’ll learn pricing info closer to launch, but it’s assured that the ES will retain its role of providing one of the best entry-level luxury values on the market, regardless of the packaging it comes in.