In ditching the rear-drive format of the old GS in favour of this new front-driven GA-K architecture, Lexus has clearly decided that its days of pitching its mid-sized executive saloon against the BMW 5 Series for driver appeal are behind it. There’s a resolutely unsporting sense of indifference about the way the ES goes down the road.

However, an effort has evidently been made to place distinguishing ride comfort and isolation at the forefront of the ES’s driving experience – and it’s not been wasted. At open-road speeds, the suspension deals with undulating surfaces in a calm and relaxed fashion; compressions are smoothly ironed out while upwards vertical travel over crests is kept closely, calmly in check. The same primary ride qualities are present when trundling along at town speeds, too.

Simon Davis

Simon Davis

Road tester
Directional changes emphasise the Lexus’s mass. While you can feel the weight shifting about, you don’t get the sense that the front axle will press into understeer

However, without adaptive dampers in its suspension specification (these are saved for F Sport trim), the ES retains this softer edge when Sport mode is selected. The mode does add a degree of heft to the steering but, through faster bends, the car’s weight and comfort bias does make itself felt, and so the car never corners quite as neatly or tidily as some might prefer.

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There’s more than enough front-end grip for the average road user, but you don’t have to be particularly enthusiastic with your corner entry speeds to entice the ES’s nose to begin to push on into understeer, before its electronic aids wake up to quell the phenomenon. That said, the steering is pleasingly accurate and consistent in its response, and you can at least feel through your fingertips the moment when your right toe has inadvertently given that driven front axle slightly too much to do.

The ES’s ability to deal with sharper lumps and ruts in the road could be slightly better; which, given the brief, is perhaps more of a disappointment than the aforementioned shortage of outright handling poise.

The car’s ride isolation is by no means poor but, around town and even at motorway speeds, the car’s suspension does struggle slightly with certain smaller imperfections, which find their way through to the cabin with the odd distant fiddle or shudder. So it’s a shame that such a sophisticated primary ride wasn’t combined with an equally impressive secondary one.

Despite having been tuned with a more comfortable style of motoring in mind, the ES 300h holds its own on Millbrook’s challenging Hill Route.

In Sport mode, the artificially weighty steering is reasonably confidence-inspiring, making it easy to allow the car to flow between bends. But at all times, you’re aware that it has a limited amount of outright lateral grip and traction and, because of the front-wheel drive, you’re often trading one for the other.

And so, while there’s no alarming shortage of front-end grip, you don’t have to push too hard to reach the limit of the Dunlop Sport Maxx 050’s grip – at which point the ES’s electronic stability systems step in with a fairly heavy hand.

The ES 300h’s weight makes itself felt on track. While body roll around the lateral axis is impressively progressive, you constantly feel like you’re at the wheel of a rather portly car; which isn’t true in outright terms, of course.

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