When you hear the name Lexus, the first thing that comes to mind is a Camry for luxury-minded, three-piece suit cladded corporate executives.
But test-drive the Lexus ES 250 and you will soon change your mind. Not all of us can afford refined, luxury cars but the first thing that puts the 2015 Lexus ES 250 within the reach of many people is the attractive price of N$468 500.
And after you have experienced the comfort in an ergonomic cockpit separated clearly into display and operation zones that minimise driver eye movement, you will want it even more.
Before you have even pushed the button to start up the rather old-fashioned 2,5-litre, four-cylinder engine that develops 135 kW and 235 N.m at 4 100 r/min, you realise everything you touch exudes luxury from the leather-covered steering wheel to the eye-catching stitching detail that juxtapose with finely lacquered inlay and an impressive centre console.
In terms of price, it slots in below the GS executive saloon and IS compact executive. Think of the ES as an icon reimagined, a Camry with a veneer of Lexus. It’s excellent value for money, comfortable and spacious.
The ES250 is the only Lexus in our market to be powered solely via the front wheels. Ostensibly, this is to kerb excessive fuel consumption. The result is a claimed 8,0 litres/100 km, which considering the technology of the engine and the size of the ES seems more than acceptable.
Power is sent to the wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. As there are no steering wheel-mounted paddles to shift gears, the aim of the car is clearly for the driver to leave it to its own devices.
On my test strip it still managed to dip below the 10-second barrier and achieved an acceleration run to 100 km/h in 9,72 seconds.
If Lexus had to fit a more fuel-efficient and modern engine in the ES, it would not have been able to offer the car at this price.
The ES rides rather well on its generous 17-inch wheels.
I drove it extensively in town as well as on a stretch of open country road and it was particularly impressive in its absorption of bumps and irregularities.
Needless to say, it’s not the type of car you push too hard through corners, but never does it encourage such behaviour anyway.
These days, you rarely experience a small-displacement naturally aspirated engine in a car of the ES’s size.
There is a reason for this, namely acceleration – especially through the gears – and fuel consumption. When you want to overtake traffic in the ES, there’s no other option than to press the throttle to the floor. This experience is even more prominent once at highway speeds.
Relax behind the wheel, though, and you soon start to appreciate the spacious cabin and how well Lexus has succeeded in keeping it quiet in almost any scenario.
On the topic of the car’s interior, it’s not only spacious at the front (although the “transmission tunnel” is somewhat intrusive), but is especially roomy for rear-seat passengers; even occupants as tall as 1,9 metres have enough headroom.
Knee room isn’t a problem either; in fact, according to my measurements it has more space in the second row than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The boot space is at least on par with the Volkswagen Passat’s.
Although the ES slots in below the smaller IS, the cabin offers a mix of the latter’s and the pricier GS’s design elements and functions. The flow of the dashboard, the thick-rimmed steering wheel and stitching throughout the cabin are highlights that we’ve become used to seeing in Lexus models.
Dual-zone air conditioning, park-distance control, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, a sunroof, a reverse camera and an infotainment screen with satellite navigation all form part of the car’s extensive list of standard specification.
In terms of its drivetrain, the ES250 might not offer the latest technology, but it ticks enough boxes to make it a convincing package. It offers a very comfortable ride and easily swallows five adults and their weekend luggage. With an impressive standard level of specification – including 10 airbags – and a great price, the ES250 will definitely appeal to family-focused buyers, retirees and companies that are looking for an affordable luxury car to shuttle VIPs.