Lexus ES Review & Prices
The Lexus ES is a stunning alternative to the traditional German mainstream but its roomy cabin is let down by a confusing infotainment system
Find out more about the Lexus ES
The Lexus ES is a posh executive saloon that provides an eye-catching and unusual alternative to the likes of the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class. It replaces the old GS, but looks much more dramatic thanks to a whopping great grille, plenty of interesting creases and headlights sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel.
This means you won’t mistake the Lexus ES for a German saloon in the golf club car park. It looks meaner and more aggressive from every angle – especially in F Sport guise with its bigger alloy wheels and extra air intakes slashed into the front and rear bumpers.
Step inside, and the ES’ double-decker dashboard and brushed-metal trims look great and feel just as solid as anything you’ll find in a BMW, Audi or Mercedes. Sure, there are a few harder plastics buried down in the door bins and right up by the infotainment display which you won’t find in the Germans. But, this isn’t a deal-breaker.
Sadly, the Lexus ES’ infotainment system could be. The screen is nice and sharp, but the haphazard menus and irritating trackpad control are much harder to use than the touchscreens and scroll wheels. Good job it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.
There’s also the option to swap the ES’s door mirrors for cameras, which display their image on small screens inside. The cameras look great on the outside, but the screens look a bit aftermarket and the picture isn’t great at night in heavy rain.
You can’t fault the Lexus ES’ superbly comfy front seats, though. You get eight-way electric adjustment as standard and top-spec cars even come with 10-way adjustment and heating and cooling features. There’s ample space for tall drivers to stretch out too, and you get a good view out through the ES’ large windscreen and tall side windows.
Push it hard and the engine will be whining almost as much as you trying to operate its infotainment system, but overall the ES is a credible alternative to the German elite
These large windows also help make the back seats feel impressively roomy. Passengers get much more leg room than in the 5 Series, A6 and E-Class and the seats themselves are soft and supportive in all the right places. Very tall adults will struggle slightly for headroom, but at least the Lexus ES’ wide cabin comes with enough shoulder room and foot space to carry three adults side-by-side with ease.
Things aren’t quite as good when it comes to packing the boot, though. The ES’ luggage area is noticeably smaller than you get in a BMW, Audi or Mercedes, but at least it comes with a ski hatch for carrying long, thin items.
There’s less engine choice than you get in the A6, 5 Series and E-Class. In fact, there’s only one – a 2.5-litre petrol paired with a hybrid system. This means the Lexus ES can cruise around town using just electric power for short bursts so it’s dead quiet. It’s also pretty economical because the electric motors help the petrol deliver diesel-like economy on motorways.
Sadly, as soon as you give the accelerator a sharp prod, the car makes a loud whining noise. It feels relatively spritely for a large saloon, but it’s frustrating to have every surge forward accompanied by such an irritating drone.
Still, the Lexus ES is fairly quiet when cruising on motorways and wafts over all but the most heavily pockmarked roads. The steering is relatively light which is great when parking and the ES barely leans tight corners – especially F Sport models with their adjustable suspension. Despite this, you’d never call it sporty.
It is safe, though. The ES comes with loads of kit as standard that costs extra in German alternatives. And, you get automatic emergency braking that can even stop the car automatically in reverse
In fact, spec up a German alternative to the same level as the Lexus ES and you’d end up spending considerably more. As a result, it makes a very credible choice – providing you can get to grips with its peculiar infotainment system. Check out the latest Lexus ES deals from carwow to see how much you can save.
The Lexus ES has a RRP range of £40,000 to £56,365. However, with carwow you can save on average £4,991. Prices start at £35,914 if paying cash. Monthly payments start at £385. The price of a used Lexus ES on carwow starts at £19,700.
Our most popular versions of the Lexus ES are:
|Model version||carwow price from|
|300h 2.5 4dr CVT Premium Edition||£35,914||Compare offers|
The ES is really well priced. At first glance, it may not look that good. It’s a little more expensive, in its cheapest form, than the basic Audi A6 for example, and only slightly cheaper than the most affordable BMW 5 Series. But you’ve got to remember that the Lexus is only available as a hybrid, and when you start comparing the ES to plug-in hybrid versions of the BMW and Audi, suddenly you’re looking at a £10,000 advantage to the Lexus. OK, so it doesn’t have the all-electric range or tax savings of a plug-in hybrid, but it should be more efficient on a long journey…
Plus, the ES is seriously well-equipped. The basic Premium Edition comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, the big 12.3-inch touchscreen, wireless phone charging, a high-end Pioneer sound system and privacy glass.
Mostly comfy, but no appetite for corners
The ES has a nice, low dashboard so even though it’s quite a low-slung saloon, it’s a car with good forward visibility which gives you more confidence when moving around town. For the most part, the ride comfort is good, but on some rougher streets the ES can shimmy a bit from side to side, which isn’t so comfy. Sudden bumps or potholes can send a jolt up through the cabin too, which is less than ideal in such a refined car. A Mercedes E-Class has a much better ride quality. However, refinement is great — the hybrid drive means that you spend a lot of time at low speeds on electric power, so it’s a really relaxing car to drive. The brakes do feel a bit jerky, though with a bit of dead-travel at the top of the pedal movement. It’s to do with the regenerative braking.
The light steering, and the reversing camera (which also has a 360-degree ‘top-down’ view) really help with parking (although the picture quality for that camera is pretty dreadful). Plus, there’s an emergency braking system in reverse, so it should stop you accidentally backing into another car — or doing something much worse than that, as the system has been specifically designed to detect small children too, and it even works at night. It is a very long car, so mini-roundabouts can be a bit of a hold-your-breath moment.
On the motorway
One big thing in the ES’ favour on motorway runs is how comfortable its front seats are — they’re astonishingly good, possibly the most comfortable seats of any four-door saloon. You do get quite a lot of wind noise though, especially around the generously-sized door mirrors. You can replace those mirrors, optionally, with rear-facing cameras but the displays for those cameras look a bit toy-like and the picture quality ain’t great.
As is almost always the case with a hybrid, when you ask for full acceleration, you’ll get a big burst of engine noise as the CVT gearbox allows the engine to rev high and long to build up speed. It’s not so bad if you accelerate gently, but it can be really irritating. However, overall the ES is very refined, thanks to a huge amount of sound-absorbing material, while the wheels get some clever engineering to cut tyre noise.
On a twisty road
The ES isn’t a bad car to drive, but it really doesn’t like being pushed hard on a twisty road. It just ends up feeling a bit cumbersome and lumpen. The steering is quite light and artificial, and the front-wheel drive layout can’t compete on challenging roads with the inherently better rear-wheel drive balance of cars such as the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, and Jaguar XF. The ES is fine as long as you sit back and relax and don’t ask too much of it, but on a really twisty road it’s honestly not much fun at all.
A massive car that’s massively practical in the front, although rear room and boot space can’t match the best premium saloons
We like the range of adjustment in the ES’s steering wheel and seats, and the fact that the steering column adjusts electrically. Plus, there’s that lovely Lexus feature where the seat and steering wheel automatically retract when you park so that it’s easier to get in and out. Headroom is a little tight though, so you might struggle with that if you’re on the tall side. The door bins in the front are on the small side, but the single cupholder next to the driver, on the centre console, is so deep that putting a tall bottle in it won’t obstruct the gear selector. That cupholder actually has an extra flip-out shelf in it so that a small coffee cup doesn’t get lost down inside it. There’s another cupholder and storage area ahead of the gear shifter, and more storage space under the front armrest. That armrest has two hinges and two latches, so you can open it from either side — handy if your passenger wants to store anything. There’s a wireless phone charger under that armrest too, and two USB ports up front, next to the gear shifter where you’ll also find a slot to hold your mobile phone. The glovebox is shallow, but it goes back a long way so it’s pretty useful. One lovely touch is just how smooth and quiet the electric windows are — it's a movement that just oozes quality.
Space in the back seats
The ES is quite a long car and that translates into good legroom in the back, so even very tall rear seat passengers should have plenty of air between their knees and the backs of the front seats. The rear seat base is also quite deep so you get good under-thigh support in the back. However, the sloping rear roofline means that headroom is actually quite tight and you don’t have to be all that tall to find your noggin coming into regular contact with the roof. Anyone over six foot is going to feel pretty cramped. Worse, if you’re trying to carry three people in the back, the middle rear seat is raised up which makes the headroom issue even worse.
The way the sides of the roof slope inward at the back also means that three people in the rear seat will end up bashing their heads. And there’s no room for their feet, either. The Audi A6 is much more spacious in the back.
You do at least get a centre rear armrest with both storage and pop-out cupholders, and on ritzy versions you get electric rear seat adjustment too. There’s even a function that allows someone sat behind the front passenger seat to move that seat around to free up more legroom in the back.
There are ISOFIX anchors for the outer two rear seats, but not in the front passenger seat sadly. There are nice rear seat pockets though, along with two USB sockets and a 12-volt socket. The rear door bins are decent, too.
In isolation, 454 litres doesn’t sound too bad, but actually that means that the ES has less boot capacity than most of its big German rivals, although that needs a bit of qualifying. If you’re comparing the ES to its diesel rivals from BMW, Mercedes, and Audi then yes, it’s smaller in the boot. However, if you’re comparing it to the plug-in hybrid versions of the German cars, where the battery eats up luggage space, then it’s actually quite a bit bigger.
There is a bit of a load lip, but the upside is that the boot is actually quite deep so you can squeeze in a decent amount of luggage, shopping, or sports kit. There is a smidgen of under-floor storage, and you get hooks and tie-down points but there’s not even the option of having folding rear seats, so the little ‘ski-hatch’ for loading through long, skinny items is really your only option. The boot lid also makes a cheap clang when you shut it, and unlike its German rivals, there’s also no estate option for the ES, which is a shame.
Great quality, but a terrible touchscreen system
The quality of the ES’s cabin is really quite something. Aside from those wonderful front seats, you get really nice soft-touch leatherette covering the dashboard, and where you can see nice stitching that’s been done by hand, not by a machine. Even the door handles are made of real metal, not painted plastic.
The main digital dials only get a relatively small display, but they look good and they’re helped out by an optional heads-up display which projects onto the windscreen. However, it’s not all good — you don’t have to look too far to find some really cheap plastics which could have come from a base-model Toyota, and the touchscreen is awful. It’s big, at 12.3 inches, and it’s been moved back towards the driver a bit to make it easier to reach, which at least means you don’t have to use the god-awful laptop-style trackpad down on the centre console.
The software is still dreadful though, and looks old-fashioned not only next to what you get from BMW or Mercedes, but also compared to the new software that Lexus is using in the NX SUV. At least you can now connect your phone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, so that helps a bit.
The layout of the physical controls is also pretty confusing — why are some heating and ventilation controls up high, while the ones for the heated seats are down low? — but we do like the fact that the button to switch between Sport, Normal, and Eco modes is a big, tactile rotary controller mounted up high next to the instruments. Oh, don’t ever touch the metal strip on the dashboard — it picks up finger marks something chronic.
Officially you’ll get 48mpg out of the ES300h, and over a mixture of motorway, city, and country road driving that’s exactly what we managed to squeeze out of it. You might even do a bit better than that if you stick mostly to urban mileage.
The 2.5-litre, four-cylinder hybrid engine is good on emissions, too — 124g/km which means you’ll pay only £180 plus the £335 levy for cars over £40,000 for your first year’s road tax if you’re a private user. If you’re a company car user, then the ES300h falls into the 29 per cent tax category, which isn’t as good as its plug-in hybrid rivals, but beats any of the petrol or diesel alternatives.
The ES was last tested by Euro NCAP back in 2018, and it got a full five-star score with a really impressive 91% rating for adult occupant protection, and an 87% rating for child occupant protection. It also got a really good 90% rating for vulnerable road user protection, partly thanks to a bonnet that pops up automatically if you were unlucky enough to hit a pedestrian, which protects their head from impacting with the hard points of the chassis or engine.
The ES comes pretty well packed with safety kit, including the Lexus Safety System +. This is a package of safety features that includes radar-guided cruise control, steering that keeps you in the centre of your lane, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high-beam LED headlights, and rear cross traffic alert with an auto braking function which stops you backing out into an oncoming car. There’s also a blind spot monitor and road sign recognition feature.
Lexus’ reputation for reliability would be gold-plated, but gold is a soft, almost fragile metal so maybe it should be platinum-plated? Titanium plated? Whatever, Lexus makes impressively solid and reliable cars, all the way back to the original 1990 Lexus LS V8 saloon.
The ES has been recalled twice, though — for faulty brake booster pumps, and for problems with the automatic emergency calling system so they’re not 100% faultless.
Lexus offers a standard three-year, unlimited mileage warranty however if you keep your ES serviced every year at a main dealer, Lexus will keep extending that warranty for up to ten years, or for 100,000-miles which is pretty impressive.
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.