There's long been a vibe for SUV, but Lexus ES might do magic on mid-size segments.
In any case, the Lexus ES is doing well. In fact, its Canadian sales remain relatively stable, the same goes for the United States. However, few Quebecers adopt it, as evidenced by a market share of only 10% across Canada.
The failure of this car here is explained by the lack of interest of Quebecers towards sedans of this kind, even more when they lack all-wheel drive. This is also an obstacle that does not seem to bother the American population, which procured in 2019 no less than 51,000 units of the Lexus ES. In Canada, 2,154 units were sold for the same period, of which only 236 were in La Belle Province.
Necessary, all-wheel drive?
Needless to say, after tasting all-wheel-drive, it's hard to do without it. That's why Subaru's customer base is so growing and very loyal. Now, a week spent driving this Lexus in the middle of winter has shown me that the combination of good tires and a particularly well-calibrated traction control system allows you to drive without any real constraints.
You will not, of course, take off at the green light as a Grand Cherokee SRT would do, but the typical clientele of this sedan obviously has nothing to do with it. I would also add that despite a power of 302 horsepower, this Lexus displays only a very low torque effect under acceleration, even on a slippery surface. This is another sign that testifies to its refinement and balance.
The people at Lexus are aware that an all-wheel-drive on this model could be an asset. And it's clear that with the addition of this feature on the Avalon and Camry 2021, Lexus may also be able to offer it on its ES sedan. Recall that the Avalon and Camry share their mechanical and structural elements with our subject, but that only the non-hybrid versions with a four-cylinder engine will have all-wheel drive.
Lexus is stingy with comments, mentioning that a majority of its products offer it. So yes, the option of all-wheel drive could technically be considered on the ES. However, considering the low sales volume, would it be financially viable for Lexus to offer it?
V6 in the foreground
Although the ES sedan is offered like the Camry with a hybrid engine, in its ES300h livery, the vast majority of customers favor the V6 engine option. A traditional choice, generally made by a relatively old clientele, who still appreciates the flexibility and softness of this kind of mechanics and that no four-cylinder turbocharged can claim.
Even if less than 5% of Camry buyers choose the V6, those who opt for the ES adopt it more than 70%. It must be said that in addition to showing remarkable smoothness and power, this engine also impresses with its fuel-efficiency which, on the road, fluctuates around 7 L / 100 km. Plan however about 9 L / 100 km by combining urban driving and highway.
The experience of the Lexus ES is unique. Felt down to the smallest detail, even if you opt for the F-Sport version, which fits 19-inch tires, the impact of which on our degraded roads is reduced by an adaptive suspension. Without being padded, the behavior of this sedan gives you an astonishing impression of control, also isolating you from the outside world.
A feeling that is both very pleasant and reassuring, since we do not seek to constantly correct its trajectory as with certain other traditional sedans.
Just closing the door of this sedan gives the impression of a vacuum-sealed environment! The soundproofing is exceptional, and worthy of a sedan sold at three times the price. Sitting in a seat with royal comfort, the driver has a very positive sensory experience on board. The materials are rich, meticulously assembled, and the contemporary presentation always pleases the eye.
In this case, our ES350 F Sport version offered red leather upholstery reflecting a certain youthful impulse. Sports seats, red stitching and metallic sconces were also part of the game to energize the environment, far from being trivial.
Although the graphic presentation of the driving position is beyond reproach, the same cannot be said of the ergonomics surrounding the multimedia screen. A complex menu, confusing, and controlled via a touchpad whose imprecision is amplified as the car gains speed. A system to completely overhaul, certainly one of the worst in the industry. But hey, Lexus had the decency to add Apple CarPlay to the equation in 2020…
The Lexus advantage
Faced with Lincoln MKZ, its closest rival, the Lexus clearly wins the round. Because even if Lincoln also offers the option of a hybrid version and the advantage of all-wheel drive, a warm scent of end of career emanates with the MKZ. It is also attributed to several wrinkles, which have not been refreshed for seven years now.
Above all, it's impossible to compare the quality of these two cars, Lexus winning long-term reliability and cost of ownership awards every year. Because it should also be mentioned that despite a drifting segment, the Lexus ES is the only car in its class to maintain enviable resale value.
Add to that an above-average after-sales service, maintenance costs below the competition, and there you have the explanation of the success of this sedan on a North American scale.
Thus, in the event that you can sidestep this radiator grille, capable of gagging the blind and that all-wheel drive isn't a need, this is an excellent car that can go with you reliably, for a long time.