By Sala Masindane
Growing up, well this is many moons ago for me, Toyota was considered a luxury brand and still is today. The perception had always been there was nothing better, economical or greater than the Toyota Corolla in my neighbourhood of Vryheid and again that probably has not changed. An that’s exactly what I think the flagship brand of Toyota, Lexus, has always suffered from in South Africa as its always been perceived as just expensive version of a Toyota and not for what it is. I recently tested the seventh-generation Lexus ES250 model to see if all the perceptions are justified or maybe its just a matter of a “soul whose intentions are good but is just misunderstood”, to quote late great songstress Nina Simone.
Exterior and boot space
Standing in front of the ES250 you are met by the classical Lexus spindle grille, which looks great and at times you wish as if you could remove the front number plates for an even more imposing look. Not only that, but also the sharp slant daytime headlights and the chrome detailing on the vents across the front-end evokes emotions of, “look at me I am in a premium Lexus”! It works purely well, and it is not overdone as some manufactures fall into the trap of overdoing these things. The ES250 does appear larger than most of the cars in its segment and it’s more like a limousine. The slopping roof line works well with the side view of the ES250, while at the back, there’s continuation of the sleek sharp lights, and a chrome strip across the back and the bottom of the bumper. With the ES250 being longer by 65mm and wider by 45mm than its predecessor, you would expect the boot space to be decent or large. You won’t be disappointed as it is the latter. We took a trip to Kuruman with two deejays and a live producer. The boot swallowed up the keyboard and mixers and there was still space for all our overnight backpacks.
The boot is not the only spacious space, the rear passengers also have generous legroom, and we could have fitted one more adult with relative ease. This was also the case for the driver’s and the front passenger’s seating space. We had ample space upfront. Looking at the dash, the multi-surface upfront is well designed and good, but some may not like it as it is a mix of modern and retro design. Quality will not be an issue though as Lexus has ensured that soft touch quality materials are used. That is where the ES may be strong as the quality is closer to the Germans than it has been the case previously much to the disappointment of some who would like to give the brand a chance. As a matter of emphasis of the quality, some materials are hand stitched for more detailing. The list of driver comfort creatures are plenty. There is dual climate zone air conditioner and front heated seats. Also coming standard is the 12.3-inch multimedia display which looks great but gets slightly let down by the Remote Touch touchpad that is used with it as it is not the easiest to use and may require more attention which might mean your eyes are off the road. However, you can also it operate most of the systems using the normal dials below the infotainment screen or the controls on the leather multifunctional steering wheel. From a connectivity point of view, there’s 4 USB ports (front and rear), Auxiliary and CD for more entertainment connectivity or charging for everyone in the car. All this is rounded off by the sunroof for those warm days. We would have liked to see the navigation on this model but understand that may have hiked the pricing. Seeing the car is a bit long, we thought blind spot monitoring should not have been dropped. We also would have liked to see the boot opening all the way as it means you have to lift the lid to place items and then close it again. This is unnecessary and takes away from the practicality of the car.
Part of our test saw us driving the ES250 to Kuruman. The ES250 is powered by a new direct-injection 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol that is capable of power outputs of 152kW and 243Nm of torque. This engine is paired with an 8 speed gearbox. The road to Kuruman was even and smooth with a bit of bumps here and there and the comfortable ES250 had no problem ironing out. There was also wind but the large ES250 remained stable and composed on the road. The noise cancellation does need some work however as at times, the outside road noise could be heard in the vehicle more than it should in an offering of this calibre. We kept an average fuel consumption of 7.1 litres/100km on the long-distance driving and 7.5 litres/100km on the city driving which is not far off from the claimed 6.6 litres/100km. Daily driving of the larger than life ES250 was made simpler by the standard cruise control and the Park Distance Control with Camera (rear and front). At R593,300 there’s a lot that is offered on the ES250 and may be a bargain, but the lack of a turbo and depreciation may be deal breaker for some. However, it is worth considering if you are looking at investing in a midsized sedan with a best-in-class 7-year/105 000km warranty and full maintenance plan, you may hold onto to it for longer than the competitors thus off-setting any depreciation concerns.
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