“We were cheetahs, lions and those who will replace us will be jackals and hyenas” (The Prince, Il Gattopardo 1963)
“I can’t find it,” he said to me in anguish as he paced around the house raising his head and sniffing every corner. “The what,” I said a little wearily, although I did not expect a reasonable explanation, I had been wandering around in this irritating way for days but I had never asked him until now, I suppose out of courtesy. “A smell, I’m lost.” It was always the same with his outbursts of irrationality that he had endured day after day since we left home. But this time there was something in his eyes that irretrievably dragged me to tenderness. Dammit. Is that why I was with him? An existential vertigo was mixed with curiosity and incipient empathy. But with an affectionate good sense locked up, he overcame doubt.
Then I started helping him find that … smell. The first thing we discarded were the most unpleasant smells to get rid of them. And I discovered with surprise that there were things that for me were stinky and that for him were not so unpleasant, some even liked. The aromas of spices took us a whole week and we bought some that we did not have at home but were at her mother’s house. Then detergents, sheets, perfumes, soaps, makeup, all parts of my body patiently inspected. But nothing. The obsession grew at times and would not let him sleep. Then one day they delivered to us by mistake. In a fit of rage he kept the package. It was a book and as soon as she opened the plastic she began to cry. And he told me about his first time in a bookstore.
A car is an instrument that facilitates our movements but at the same time it is an environment in which we could say that we stayed during them. And since the duration of these trips can be large or very frequent, being comfortable in a car is very important. And then there are the next steps to comfort like the feel of the materials, the smell of the interior, the acoustic insulation and finally the luxury.
And precisely luxury is a concept that is associated with certain brands of cars. Aware of this and as we have commented on other occasions, Toyota set out to launch an independent brand to compete in the United States with the major luxury brands, especially German ones, and that is how Lexus was born. Over time this Japanese brand also made the transition that the original brand undertook towards hybrid mechanics, so currently Lexus is not only synonymous with exclusivity but also with this type of engine.
In this test we have had the opportunity to analyze the Lexus ES, a model that like few others represents that combination of luxury and hybrid efficiency, a mixture that this manufacturer successfully combines and that we have been able to have in our hands. It is a car that although it has been on the market for two years but that has certainly not been outdated either by technology or by design as we will see later.
The exterior appearance of the ES is impressive, it is almost five meters of vehicle with a modern and dynamic design that is not conservative. At the front an imposing grille occupies almost the entire front of the car in the shape of an arrow, escorted by two sharp and sunken light groups on the sides with a complex and attractive polygonal design. Below two elongated boomerang-shaped air intakes are inserted into the bumper.
The rear is made up of a generous overhang that configures the trunk and which is topped by a large spoiler that gives another touch of sportiness to the Japanese saloon. The optical groups in the back are large but with a more conventional design than what can be seen in the front. A large chrome trim divides the lights on the trunk and spoiler.
The profile of the car boldly seeks dynamism and improved aerodynamic performance (achieves a Cx of 0.26), some lines that descend in the rear, partially compromising the habitability and ease of access to the rear seats. But it is the usual difficult balance: dynamism and aerodynamics against rear habitability, and even so the ES is not as damaged as a smaller model would be.
If luxury can be guessed in the design and materials of the exterior (we have loved the very good quality spoke wheels, for example), it is in the interior where a car of these characteristics really plays its exclusive mark. It’s where homeowners are going to spend more time, and any off-site details or inferior materials can ruin that image.
But Lexus has a lot of experience on this point, what’s more, it manages even in its most reasonably priced models to give that impression of luxury and good finishes that competes with competitive vehicles with higher prices. In the case of the ES we are at a higher level than the most basic models of the brand and this we have been able to notice in different details of the interior and in general in the care of the finishes.
Thanks to its nearly five meters there is plenty of legroom both in the front and in the back. The driving position is comfortable despite the space eaten by the central tunnel on which the gear lever is located. There are details of the interior with a more classic taste compared to other models such as imitation wood inserts that we find on the inside of the steering wheel or in some points of the dashboard.
On the other hand, its design is quite modern with an abundance of buttons to access the main air conditioning and sound functions. The steering wheel is quite bulky and has a large number of buttons too, in this case to control the on-board computer and other options of the driving systems. The indicator behind the steering wheel consists of a single dial that indicates the speed and performance of the hybrid system (load, echo, power).
As in other models Lexus has chosen to have a haptic-type touch sensor next to the gear lever to control certain functions of the car’s information and entertainment system. It also has buttons to directly access the map, the menu, return to the previous or main menu. It requires a certain adaptation and is uncomfortable for some functions for which if we want to access them we have to open successive menus.
The seats are very comfortable although the lateral support is not very effective, making them somewhat less effective for sporty driving. Otherwise the driving position is excellent: everything at your fingertips, the steering wheel in the ideal position as well as the pedals and the display of the information and entertainment system in an elevated position so as not to take your eyes off the road too far. In addition the ES can equip a HUD system that projects information on the windshield.
In the back as we have advanced there is a generous space with the previous row so it is quite comfortable. The width is also enough for three people to travel without too many problems, even the occupant of the central plaza who will not find a bulky transmission tunnel that hinders the placement of the feet. The only gap in these really comfortable rear seats is the height, as we anticipated when talking about the profile of the car.
As for the boot, the shape of the car does not help it to have a large capacity either. It is not a small trunk, it has 454 liters of cargo, but cars of a similar size boast the possibility of loading a larger volume. And that for this model Lexus has dispensed with the placement of the battery of the hybrid system in the trunk to arrange it under the bench seat of the rear seats.
From the point of view of the finishes, the car borders on the quality and luxury of its competitors, but maintains a rationality in general that makes it somewhat less exclusive. Although it must be taken into account also that within its category it is not one of the most expensive. But luxury starts with convenience and comfort and as we have pointed out the ES is a very comfortable and comfortable car both with the car stopped and, as we will see, when it is running.
Testing the horses
And in fact it is time to test the hybrid system of 218 horses that we could already test in the Toyota Rav4, although this car has a totally different philosophy. As in general with hybrid models, the quiet ride both urban and on roads with few challenges require little of the engine that is kept in practically absolute silence. This combined with good soundproofing makes driving the ES in those more peaceful circumstances a pleasure.
At the moment we demand more nerve is when, despite its 218 horses, the ES is a bit shy. We found it even somewhat less spirited than the RAV4 (although the Toyota model is heavier) perhaps because a quieter ride has prevailed in the design and configuration of the gear and engine assembly. This does not mean that it is not a fast car since it reaches 100 kilometers per hour from a standstill in less than nine seconds but here, on paper, the Toyota wins and no less than eight tenths.
He has also been calmer than aggressive in road driving tests, especially in rough terrain. While transmitting sensations but with some good parsimony for a trip without frights but not very stimulating if you are looking for sensations. At the same time, one lets oneself be invaded by the personality of the car and renounces the search for tickling and starts enjoying the music of the excellent sound system and the comfort of suspensions designed more for comfort than for immediate reactions.
The Lexus personality and its proposal of luxury and technology are especially present in this ES, with all its virtues and the truth, few defects. Finishes and comfort are not only the result of good materials but of the careful design of the interior elements and finishes with a modern touch that is unmistakable as an imprint of the Japanese brand. What stands out most is comfort, although somewhat clouded by the hybrid system when it revs, the car is almost always silent.
As for the behavior, the ES does not fully respond to what its dynamic and aggressive exterior can suggest, it is calmer than we could imagine before opening the door. As we have already mentioned, it is not a slow car but it is more concerned with the comfort of the passengers than with their emotions. In this sense, a car with a philosophy that is more from the USA than from Europe, but which is very interesting for anyone looking for this type of comfort.
The ES is a saloon with many details, both luxurious and technological, with a powerful and rational hybrid system that still leaves something to be desired in terms of sports performance if its horsepower is taken into account