The ES series is one of the longest-running series of compact executive class cars from Toyota's luxury division, Lexus. Launched to accompany the flagship LS 400, the ES series were based on existing Toyota platforms, namely the Camry for the first five generations then later moving on to the Avalon's platform.
As an "Executive Sedan", the ES series was envisioned by Lexus to provide a more affordable alternative to the full-size LS 400 but still maintain the luxury, comfort, quietness and excellent ride quality that have always been the goals set by Toyota in creating the Lexus brand.
The ES series has been the best-selling Lexus sedan since its inception up to the present and is one of the main factors in Lexus thriving in the global automobile market and competing with long-established luxury car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar.
First Generation ES, ES 250 (V20), 1989-1991
The ES 250 was the first ES-badged Lexus and was only sold in the US to accompany the release of the LS 400 as the first models for the introduction of the Lexus brand. The ES 250 was very similar to the Camry but differed with its redesigned grille, bigger taillights, chrome trims, and frameless windows. The interior was enhanced with leather interiors and real wood trims, setting it apart from its Japanese counterpart.
It is powered by a 2.5L 2VZ-FE V6 producing 119kW of power at 5,800 rpm and torque rated at 216 N⋅m at 4,600 rpm. Transmission options were either a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual gearbox. Most of the ES 250 sold had an automatic, making the manual gearbox versions very rare.
The ES 250 did not sell as well as the LS 400 possibly since buyers mostly viewed it as a rebadged Camry. As a result, it had a brief production run.
Second Generation ES, ES 300 (XV10), 1991-1996
Following the inception of the Lexus brand, a front-wheel-drive sedan was also being developed alongside the LS 400 – the ES 300. However, it did not make it in time for the Lexus brand launching. Though based on the Camry Prominent, the ES 300 was a completely new design. The interior was fitted out with leather seats, California walnut trim for the centre console, keyless entry, eight-speaker sound system, and a completely different styling than the Camry.
Suspension systems and insulation from outside noise were also significantly improved in keeping with the Lexus objectives. The ES 300 was sold in Japan as the Toyota Windom since Toyota only brought the Lexus brand to its home market in 2005.
A 3.0L 3VZ-FE V6 engine capable of 138 kW of power and 264 N⋅m torque powered the ES 300 from 1991 to 1994. After which, the US-spec ES 300 received a new engine, the 3.0L 1MZ-FE V6 (150 kW/ 290 N⋅m). Most other countries, however, retained the 3VZ-FE engine or were offered the new engine late into the generation's life cycle. The 1MZ-FE-powered vehicles were designated as the MCV-10 series.
The ES 300 was the first ES series Lexus that was sold in Australia and other countries outside the US but not in Europe owing to similar Toyota models offered at the time. The ES 300 was widely received, and sales averaged around 40,000 units annually worldwide for every model year.
Third Generation ES, ES 300 (MCV20), 1996-2001
Still designed based on the Camry, the third-generation ES 300 shared many mechanical components with the Camry, but the interior and exterior were completely different. The interior was equipped with the new Lexus Electrolumiscent Optitron instrument cluster and the now-familiar walnut trims and leather seats. The new models incorporated numerous other features like a powered moonroof and a premium Nakamichi sound system.
The 3.0L MZ-FE V6 powered this generation, driving power to the wheels through the 4-speed A541E automatic transmission. The combined city and highway consumption was advertised as 9.15 L/100km.
In 1999, the ES 300 received a mid-cycle refresh in the form of clear taillights and turn signals. Also incorporated was a new fascia that featured a new grille, headlights, lower bumper with fog lights and larger diameter alloy wheels.
Fourth Generation ES, ES 300 (MCV30), 2001-2006
With the Lexus IS being introduced a year earlier and was now the entry-level Lexus model, the ES series was now designed to be a sportier and more luxurious midsize sedan. The interior also received better appointments with leather upholstery for seats and doors.
Now offered as standard were an electric rear sunblind, automatic rearview mirrors, and floor-well lighting. Safety systems were updated with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and electronic stability and traction control systems.
It was powered by an upgraded 1MZ-FE V6 that now produced 158 kW of power and torque of 299 N⋅m, coupled to a 5-speed U151E automatic transmission. A 3.3L 3MZ-FE V6 (168 kW/ 325 N⋅m) was introduced in 2003 and was sold in the US and other select countries and was designated as the ES 330 with the MCV31 code.
The ES series received a facelift in 2005 that incorporated redesigns of the front and rear fascia, headlights and grille. The interior also received upgrades in the form of steering-wheel-mounted controls, power-adjustable pedals, heated and ventilated front seats.
Although the US market stopped selling the ES 300 in 2006, this was still being sold worldwide until 2008 (including Australia), since the fifth generation was only offered as a left-hand-drive car.
Fifth Generation ES, ES 350 (GSV40), 2006-2012
Unveiled in the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, the fifth-generation ES was now called the ES 350, a reference to its higher-capacity 3.5L engine. Initially, this was only produced as a left-hand-drive car and was eventually exported exclusively to countries using this configuration. A version powered by a lower-displacement 2.4L engine (thus named ES 240) was also released for select Asian markets. This model was the first Lexus to enter Japan not as a Toyota rebadge but as a Lexus.
The ES 350 was powered by the 3.5L 2GR-FE V6 (220 kW/ 336 N⋅m) while the ES 240 was equipped with the 2.4L 2AZ-FE I4 (119 kW/ 220 N⋅m). Both were coupled to the new U660E 6-speed automatic.
Safety features on the ES 350 now included dual front airbags, knee airbags, side torso airbags, and curtain airbags. Standard equipment also included vehicle stability control, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution. An optional package offered for further safety was the pre-collision system together with the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system.
A mid-cycle refresh was incorporated in 2009 that featured a revised grille, lower bumper and taillights. Other standard features now included rain-sensing windshield wipers, rear-mounted side-impact airbags and memory preset for the seats.
Sixth Generation ES, ES 350 & ES 300H, 2012-2018
Two models were introduced as the sixth-generation for the ES series, the ES 350 and the Hybrid ES 300H. This generation still shared the Camry platform, but the ES shared more components with the Toyota Avalon that used a longer wheelbase than the Camry.
A third model for the Asian market, particularly for China is the ES 250, which was sold alongside the ES 350 and ES 300H as a more affordable alternative. The ES 350 was equipped with the 3.5L 2GR-FE with power transmitted through a 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode. The ES 250 was powered by the 2AR-FE I4 (126 kW/ 226 N⋅m).
The ES 300H Hybrid was powered by the 2AR-FXE I4 (118 kW/ 213 N⋅m) and came with a continuously variable transmission. The ES 300H was manufactured exclusively in Toyota's Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan plant. The base hybrid was sold at a price lower than the ES 350. However, it did need to compromise boot space to give way to the batteries.
Seventh Generation ES, ES 350, ES 300H, 2018-Present
The seventh and current generation of the Lexus ES series now uses the GA-K platform. All models now come standard with the collision avoidance system called the Lexus Safety System +2. The exterior is still very similar to the facelifted sixth-generation but with numerous upgrades in safety, mechanical and electronic systems.
The ES 350 is now equipped with the 2DR-FKS V6 (204 kW/ 346 N⋅m) with an 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode. The ES 300H is powered by the 2.5L A25A-FXS I4 with electric motor (131 kW/ 221 N⋅m) and comes with a CVT.
It is, so far, the most luxurious ES and the first to be available in an F-sport trim. Several trim packages are offered for this current generation which includes the F Sport, Luxury and Sports Luxury. The US market also has Ultra Luxury model.
The Lexus ES in the Used Car Market
Although in a niche lower than the flagship LS 400, the ES series nevertheless has lived up to the Lexus reputation of providing luxurious, comfortable, roomy and fun-to-drive cars at a more affordable price. Starting from the second generation, the first ones sold in Australia, the ES series has always had a place for buyers wanting the extras that have been standard on Lexus models but were only available in higher-priced Toyota counterparts.
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