Lexus ES interior
The Lexus ES’ cabin looks and feels just as posh as anything you’ll find in a German alternative, but the infotainment system is unintuitive at best and infuriating most of the time
The Lexus ES’ interior borrows plenty of design features from the uber-luxurious LS saloon. You get a similar sweeping dashboard with intricate inlays, swathes of hand-stitched leather and some lovely solid-metal door handles that feel every bit as posh as in the flagship Lexus LS. Every surface above the electric-window switches feels fabulously soft and squidgy, and all the buttons and switches operate with a pleasingly solid feel.
The dashboard features a similar infotainment display to the BMW 5 Series, but it sits in a slanted frame that leans towards a second screen where you’d usually find a set of analogue dials. These two units are bright, colourful and look especially flashy when you press the button to start the engine and a vivid welcome animation plays across them simultaneously.
Elsewhere on the dashboard, you get a simple, intuitive row of buttons for the heating and ventilation controls and a few shortcut buttons and a volume knob for the radio. Annoyingly, the controls for the heated (and in Takumi versions, cooled) seats are tucked down by the centre console under the CD player.
The centre console itself is raised higher than in the likes of the Audi A6 so you feel slightly more cocooned in the Lexus ES. Similarly, the staggered dashboard design makes it feel as though your sitting in a low-slung sports saloon, even with the seat raised up high.
Pick an F Sport model, and the trim piece that divides these two dashboard sections comes with a ribbed aluminium finish that mimics the construction of a traditional Japanese sword. These models also come with some more supportive front seats with either black or red upholstery and a set of aluminium pedal trims.
Go for a high-spec Takumi model, and you get varnished wood trims, leather seats, a bigger central infotainment screen and an upgraded stereo. You can have leather seats fitted to the standard car as part of the Premium Pack, while the Optional Takumi pack for F Sport models adds the stereo and infotainment upgrades, but not leather seats.
Forget IQ tests, if you want to join MENSA you should try wrapping your head around the Lexus ES’ infotainment system…
Every Lexus ES comes with a pair of digital displays – one 8.0-inch unit on the dashboard and a second 7.0-inch screen front of the steering wheel which replaces conventional dials. Both are bright, sharp and colourful, but the central display can be difficult to read during the evening when low sun produces a fair amount of glare.
The digital driver’s display is controlled using buttons on the steering wheel, while the central screen is operated using a number of shortcut buttons on the dashboard and a laptop-like trackpad on the centre console. Unfortunately, the radio and media playback buttons are fitted up on the dashboard, but the sat-nav shortcut is mounted far down on the centre console by the trackpad.
On the subject of the trackpad, using it to move the on-screen cursor between icons takes a fair amount of concentration and it’s all too easy to accidentally swipe wildly across the screen while you’re driving. The menus aren’t laid out particularly sensibly either – the icons are scattered either side of the sat-nav display, for example – but at least there’s a physical menu button to rescue you if you end up buried in some of the Lexus ES’ more detailed settings by mistake. It’s much more difficult to use than the touchscreen you get in a BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 or the scroll wheel arrangement you’ll find in a Mercedes E-Class.
At least it comes with satellite navigation as standard. This is relatively easy to program – once you’ve got used to the awkward trackpad, that is – and it delivers clear directions on maps with simple, crisp graphics. Unfortunately, unlike in an Audi A6, the system can’t display any maps on the digital driver’s display.
You can’t mirror your phone’s navigation apps through the central screen like in most German alternatives, but you can connect using Bluetooth and play music through the car’s stereo.
On the subject of stereos, you get a 10-speaker Pioneer unit as standard that sounds punchy enough, but it’s not a patch on the optional 17-speaker Mark Levinson unit. This 1,800W system comes as standard in Takumi versions and sounds absolutely fantastic.