With its CO2-focused regulation driving consumers towards diesel, Europe has traditionally had a tricky relationship with hybrids. But, after 20 years, the stars are starting to align in favor of the earliest adopters. New technology is delivering better driveability and improved fuel economy at motorway speeds for the less initial outlay, just as regulatory pressure and consumer attitudes turn on diesel. But, while 99% of Lexus’s UK sales last year were hybrids, the ES still has a tough task on its hands.
The executive saloon segment might be technology-rich, and arguably less focused on pounds-and-pence running costs than smaller cars, but it’s a conservative part of the market and Lexus isn’t following the crowd. The ES is replacing the GS in the UK, going head-to-head with the mostly diesel-powered Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and doing so with only a petrol-hybrid drivetrain. Aggressively priced and free from the tax burdens of the diesel engines this segment still tends to default to, Lexus is aiming to sell 1,000 units per year in the UK – relatively small, but twice the volume of its predecessor.
Western Europe has never been offered the ES before, but this is a 30-year-old component of the Lexus range and a focus on new markets means it’s bigger and more upmarket than previous versions. It’s a striking car, remarkably long and low in silhouette and, in the expected best-selling F-Sport trim, almost concept-like on its 19-inch wheels and spindle grille made up of interlocking L shapes. While hybridization might once have been a later add-on, for the ES it’s a foundation – enabling