Review: Very likable Lexus ES 250 EX

As motoring pundits we often try not to get too personal with a car and for the most part, that holds up. And though the sphere of ‘motor journalists’ expanded the last couple of years with the inclusion of Instagram and other social media platforms, the traditionalists’ stick to their guns and report on vehicles with truth and objection.

The inclusion of social influencers, as they’re known, is very often associated with beautiful words that automakers will love.

They’re an extension of the automakers’ PR and marketing teams and the beautifully crafted words are very often recycled for a next vehicle. And the motor journalist? Well, we try to be as objective as possible by giving a just review; devoid of ‘PR talk’ and the need for wanting to be ‘liked’.

But sometimes we review a car that, by all intends and purposes, is truly good at what it does. No fancy gimmicks to win you over, no upmarket vocabulary needed to describe it. Just a car that excels in its purpose.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

ES 250 takes aim

The ES is one of three sedans Lexus offers in South Africa and this 250 is one of two cars in the ES range; the other being the 300 hybrid.

The ES 250 is not afraid to tackle the market head on. It offers a good, value-for-money package (very important!) that can’t be overlooked. At R593 300 it is one of the gems sitting on the right side of R600k, yet it warrants its position time and again.

Taking a leaf out of social influencers’ books, albeit with ample adjustment, the ES 250 is an amazing car. It literally is the personification of an honest vehicle. [Ouch, it hurt just typing it!]

Coming in as the entry-level car to Lexus’ sedans, the ES 250 is quite big. To start off with, it measures nearly 5m in length and is 1.8m wide. The dimensions of the car are large and it is supported by a weight of 1660kg. It is by no means light, but Lexus managed to do enough to mask, and hide, the size when pushing on. It is further supported by an engaging design that has onlookers fixing their eyes on it.

Though it does not have an exuberant design that screams for attention, the sedated look and oversized grille does enough to demand respect on the road. Funny enough, a few “Ben10s” in their spruced up Citi Golfs wanted a reaction out of me, but I wasn’t keen on having this car feature on some Instagram drag race. Not on my watch.

Car Choice,lexus,es 250 ex,lexus es 250
Image: Charlen Raymond

Upmarket interior

Low and behold, one of the grandest and most beautifully crafted interiors you’d find anywhere. No really: you don’t have to be a social influencer to use such words, because it’s the truth. Lexus pulled no punches when constructing this interior and adorned it with leather, soft-touch materials and panels, electric seats, and space. Room enough for five adults and their bulky bodies.

The steering wheel plays home to cruise control and buttons to control the on-board computer and media devices. In front of the driver is an instrument cluster that is very easy to read, and to your left, in the middle of the centre console, is an even larger screen from which you can access more technologies and features. Lexus even added a sunroof to the package to just enhance that premium feel.

In a bid to maintain my credibility and not just sprinkle beautifully crafted words on a really impressive car, I have to point out a few things. For starters, the boot is a generous 420L in size but cannot expand because of the rear seats do not fold flat. Of course, it’s highly probable that your average ES owner will own a bakkie or SUV, too.

Another issue with the interior is the touch pad used to control the centrally mounted screen. The device is similar to what you’d find in a laptop, but use thereof can be a bit sensitive. Though Lexus did improve the usability of the touchpad and decreased its sensitivity, right-handed users may find this a touch uncomfortable.

You do get used to it, but it takes time.

Car Choice,lexus,es 250 ex,lexus es 250
Image: Charlen Raymond

Enjoyable drive

The ES 250 EX is adorned with an utterly amazing ride quality that could challenge the best of the super sedans. Granted, there is some wind noise and the 17-inch tyres can be heard whispering to the road, but nothing serious that will irk you up the wrong way.

The front-wheel driven ES is powered by a 2.5-litre petrol engine and is power sent to the wheels via a CVT gearbox. The 152kW and 243Nm of torque is channeled in a smooth manner, but the lack of turbocharger can be felt. Because of the weight, the engine needs to be spooled up before the power kicks in, and did I find it best to drive the car as if going to church.

Driving modes, such as Normal, Eco, and Sport, do add their respective traits to the drive, but the differences between them are not very impactful. A serious qualm about the gearbox is that even though a CVT ‘box has only one linear gear with artificial gears added in, the unit in the ES 250 is not very truthful in its operation.

When changing gears manually, from fifth for instance, and engine revolutions are at a set speed, the on-board computer will show that gears six, seven and eight have been engaged, but engine revolutions will not drop and climb; as we’ve come to expect when gears are changed.

If you read or saw a video of some influencer telling you that the gearbox is the best, remember what we spoke about at the beginning. Don’t get me wrong: the ‘box does wonders at lower speeds and when accelerating sedately, but it’s far from amazing.

Car Choice,lexus,es 250 ex,lexus es 250
Image: Charlen Raymond

In summary

The Lexus ES 250 EX is a brilliant car. Done. I can forgive the gearbox, because the car makes up more than for it in its drive. I can forgive the lack of a turbocharger, because there is adequate punch from the engine when needed.

I can overlook the not-so-sensitive-anymore touchpad, because I’m seated in the lap of luxury. There are plenty of cars to be had for under R600 000, but you’d really have to look hard to find something as special as this. To find something as well-kitted as the Lexus ES 250 EX.

Now if I’m having an objective field day with what I deem to be a near-perfect car, can you imagine how automakers will love a social influencer’s opinion! #Blessed #BlessedLife