The most powerful ES in the car’s global range uses a 302bhp 3.5-litre V6, but in the UK this new model is to be available in ES 300h form only, with Lexus’s rather less potent fourth-generation Hybrid Drive system. That comprises a new 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle DOHC engine – said to be the most thermally efficient production unit in the world, at 41% – paired with an economically packaged hybrid transaxle transmission.

The latter consists of an e-CVT, a smaller starter-generator motor and an 118bhp primary electric drive motor fed by a 245V nickel-metal-hydride battery that previously dwelt in the boot but now sits beneath the rear bench. All in, this powertrain delivers 215bhp and a combined 53.6mpg on the WLTP economy test cycle.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Pinched grille is expansive at its base and distances the ES from German rivals. Standard and Takumi models feature striking chrome bars, the F Sport gets a black crosshatch design

Lexus claims the ES now accelerates in more linear fashion by aligning engine speed with road speed, with Sport mode boosting torque at lower speeds. The awkward ‘rubber band’ effect of older hybrid drivetrains has been vanquished, they say, and there are paddles that shift through the car’s six simulated gears for a sense of involvement.

The car’s chassis shares some metalwork with that of the Camry, but other areas are different – as are the techniques used to join them. The all-new Global Architecture-K platform underpins both cars. MacPherson struts serve as suspension at the front axle with a new multi-link design at the rear, though modifications such as a V-brace behind the rear seats mean the ES’s body stiffness is alleged to match that of the LC coupé.

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To improve stability, the ES’s suspension has seen increases in both castor angle and trail, and the angles of the struts are now also better aligned to absorb energy from road features. In addition, a new swing-valve shock absorber design (not fitted to the sportier F Sport models) is said to yield unprecedented comfort over even low-impact inputs.

These promising developments come in a package notably longer (65mm), wider (45mm) but lower (5mm) than the previous ES, though the car’s wheelbase still trails that of its principal rival – the Mercedes E-Class – by almost 70mm.

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