The Lexus ES has always been an underrated model in the Japanese carmaker's luxurious lineup. It doesn’t have the grandeur of the flagship LS nor the sportiness of the GS, and it has always had to stave off the stigma that it’s merely a glorified Toyota Camry. It doesn’t help that the ES lineage began as a mere companion to the LS when the Lexus brand was launched in 1989, and the very first one was only in production for two years before the next generation arrived.
But as time passed, Lexus improved and refined the ES, so much so that when the brand arrived here in 2009, the fifth-generation ES we test-drove then was already a plush cruiser with sublime comfort. All that was lacking was a bit of excitement.
In 2012, the sixth-generation ES (with spindle grille) was introduced. It finally sported the new, more aggressive design direction that Lexus was embracing. And it grew significantly; its legroom was already on a par with the full-size model of a competing German brand (Lexus Manila declined to name which one).
And now the updated ES has debuted its most striking visage in its model history. It still has the spindle grille, now more prominent than ever, framed by satin chrome. Redesigned headlights with LED projectors are on either side, while L-shaped daytime running lights are nestled just below the headlamps. At the back, the taillights and the chrome license plate garnish have also been restyled. One of our favorite improvements are the chrome-tipped rectangular exhaust ports.
There are four new exterior colors to be had for the refreshed ES: Amber, Deep Blue, Graphite Black and Sonic Quartz. These feature the fascinating self-restoring coat, a technology that allows the paint’s clear coat to restore itself even from light damage.
The plush cabin, a place you have to experience to fully know what a Lexus is, has also been given new options. The seats are now offered in four colors: Topaz Brown, Ivory, Moonstone and Black in embossed leather. New interior trim choices have also been added in addition to the Bird’s Eye Maple: matte-finished Bamboo and Shimamoku ornamentation.
The steering wheel now has a sportier design and a better view of the instrument panel. And a larger 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display shows vehicle and route statistics front and center.
To match the sporty refinements, Lexus engineers have beefed up the chassis with structural reinforcements for added stiffness. This kind of tuning was adapted from our favorite IS sports sedan. Lastly, an additional sound-reducing layer has been added behind the dashboard to further isolate engine noise.
There is, of course, a minor price increase with these improvements. The ES350 now costs P3,658,000, a price bump of over P100,000 from the previous model. But for the comfort, the luxury and the looks you get compared to competitors in a similar price bracket, it’s still good value for money.
Photos by Tracy Carpena