Lexus says its engineers toiled for three years to ensure the ES’s cabin made for a quiet and tranquil driving environment, using the flagship LS limousine as a benchmark. But when we road tested the LS last year, we found it wanting in some respects for refinement. The same is true for the smaller ES. At motorway speeds, it’s not engine noise you’ll notice in the cabin; the four-cylinder motor is very demure at a relaxed cruise.
But the by-product of this is that wind noise and tyre roar become more conspicuous. Not to the point of warranting serious criticism, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that at a 70mph cruise our sound gear recorded cabin noise at 65dB in the ES – making it no quieter than the Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI we tested in 2018. As for real-world performance and drivability, the hybrid powertrain is the usual mixed bag we’re used to from Lexus.
It’s at its most effective at urban speeds, when the electric motor’s 149lb ft of instantly available torque provides a useful initial punch of acceleration before the petrol engine wholeheartedly comes into play. It makes for a car that feels responsive and fairly light on its feet in traffic; one that’s capable of capitalising on gaps in between other cars when they present themselves.