CHATHAM, Mass. – When Lexus burst upon the U.S. automotive scene in the late 80s the German-competitor LS400 sedan led the charge, garnering most of the fanfare and raves, while its entry-level ES 250 stablemate was portrayed by the media as being a luxed-out Toyota Camry created to give the dealers a second model to sell.
That was six generations ago. Today, the refreshed, facelifted-for-2022 ES family represents a range of sophisticated mid-size modern luxury sedans featuring gas or gas/hybrid-electric powertrains in front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
These are luxury sedans which stand – perform – on their own merit, living up to the Lexus brand. We recently drove a 2022 Lexus ES 250 AWD F Sport which showcase how far the range had progressed.
Driver-assistance systems part of the package
Standard across the ES range for 2022 are a comprehensive collection of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) starting with the enhanced Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 (LSS+ 2.5) which adds capabilities over the previous LSS+ 2.0 version.
The Pre-Collision System (PCS), which includes Frontal Collision Warning (FCW), Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection and Bicyclist Detection, features an enhancement to the lens camera and millimeter-wave radar elements to expand the response range.
An update to the PCS on LSS+ 2.5 includes Intersection Turning Assist. At intersections, the system has the capability under certain conditions to recognize an oncoming vehicle when performing a left-hand turn, or a pedestrian when performing left and right-hand turns, and is designed to activate typical PCS functions if needed. Additional new PCS functions include Emergency Steering Assist (ESA), which is designed to enhance vehicle stability and help prevent lane departure as cued by the driver during an emergency evasive steering maneuver.
Other features include All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Curve Speed Reduction, which can automatically reduce vehicle speed, if needed, through certain types of curves; Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Lane Tracing Assist; Intelligent High Beams, and Road Sign Assist.
Also added as standard for 2022 across the range is Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
Technically not considered part of the ADAS, but surely a boon to safer, more satisfying driving in all conditions, is the optional ($500) head-up display which projects significant driving information on the windshield ahead of the driver so he/she does not have to look away from the road for information like vehicle speed.
All the systems work as advertised. I still find it slightly disconcerting when the ES urges me to maintain my lane position when the cruise control is running. But none of the alerts, warnings or “help” is overly intrusive – they do their jobs in an orderly, almost respectful manner, which means drivers are less likely to turn them off (which would be a mistake; they make driving safer, more relaxing).
Luxury throughout the cabin
Providing a safe, secure environment provides the foundation for the Lexus ES luxury. Soft, perforated NuLuxe®* interior trim covered surfaces greet driver and passengers upon entering the ES 250.
The F Sport bolstered seats feature 10-way electric adjustability (the driver’s with memory and lumbar adjustment) and the steering wheel is leather covered and heated.
The heated steering wheel is part of the ($180) option package which also includes windshield deicer and fast-response interior heater – which we did not need to try during our week in the ES. The overall environmental responsibility rests with the dual-zone automatic climate control system.
A 12.3-inch color touch screen, part of the Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio Package ($2,900) provides the operating heart of the infotainment system which includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility; AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio/streaming audio sources. These all play through the 17-speaker, 1,800-Watt Mark Levinson Pure Play Surround Sound Audio System which sounds terrific, whether listening to classic rock or a sports-talk show!
Drivers can operate the navigation/infotainment system through the touch screen, on-dash knobs and buttons, voice commands or the Lexus laptop-like console-mounted touchpad. I found the combination of the dash controls with the touchscreen the most intuitive and simple way to get the job done.
Capping off the interior is a one-touch open/close, power tilt/slide moonroof.
The efficient 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine provides 203 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel drive system. Performance was more than adequate for all driving situations, regardless of whether I was merging onto the highway, carving through traffic on the Mid-Cape Highway (U.S. Route 6) or driving down from the coastal hills outside Truro.
And it did this while returning 30.4 miles per gallon, well above the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 28 mpg overall rating (25 city, 34 highway), the reason for my calling it an “efficient” powertrain.
This ES features the F Sport tuned chassis with MacPherson-type struts up front and trailing wishbone-type independent setup in the rear. Performance dampers work at all four corners as part of the F Sport tuning.
The four-channel, four-sensor anti-lock braking system (ABS) includes discs at all four corners, the fronts ventilated 12.0-inche and the rears sold 11.1 in. ones.
The 19x8J split-five-spoke alloy wheels with gloss black finish wore 235/40R19 all-season tires.
Tailoring the ES to any luxury need
There are 12 basic trim versions within the Lexus ES family allowing those looking for a mid-sized luxury sedan to find just the right combination of performance, luxury and technology. The prices range from $40,800 for either the ES 250 AWD or ES 350 (a front-wheel driver with more power) to the ES 300h Ultra Luxury hybrid at $51.080.
The very well-equipped Lexus ES 250 AWD F Sport we sampled had a base price of $45,450. Options, like those described and others, along with the $1,075 delivery, processing & handling fee, brought the bottom line to $53,210.
This price puts the Lexus ES 250 AWD F Sport right in the mix with other luxury vehicles of this size and capability. This would be a solid choice – the Lexus name stands for luxury, reliability and quality – this car lives up to the brand’s reputation.