By on April 11, 2018

Image: Lexus

It’s been fun watching the Lexus ES’ face evolve over the past couple of decades. While the upscale midsizer always offered a more reserved and staid body than its brash IS and GS siblings, its grille slowly expanded over time. The grille creep sped up when the sixth-generation model arrived for 2013, with the transformation becoming complete after a 2016 mid-cycle refresh.

The ES had became fully spindle-ized.

With a next-generation ES arriving for the 2019 model year, it’s clear Lexus has no plans to swap out the model’s gaping maw. It will change its platform, however.

Revealed by the automaker ahead of its April 25th Beijing auto show debut, the next-gen ES does not break from recent Lexus styling conventions. The spindle grille remains, though the horizontal slats seen in the previous model have given way to bolder vertical slats, squeezed tighter in the center. It’s an arguably subtler treatment than the collapsing-universe mesh seen on the new LS and other models in the Lexus stable. At the very least, it’s a way to tell the models apart with a glance at the nose.

We’ll have to wait to see if the rest of the car’s styling falls into the “evolutionary” category.

Lexus doesn’t have much to say about the new ES at this time, only that it will “radically transform the driving experience for luxury consumers all over the world.” Quite a promise. Certainly, the model’s driving dynamics stand to improve — for 2019, the ES moves to the TNGA platform shared by the Toyota Camry. Expect a slight lowering of the car’s ride height and an upgraded suspension.

The platform swap will surely bring about an increase in body stiffness, which Lexus engineers will capitalize on by increasing the cocoon quotient, isolating occupants from excess noise and vibration. There’s a high bar to clear before any transformation can be called radical, though. Powertrains remain a mystery, but we’ll likely see a return of the 3.5-liter V6 (ES 350) and eight-speed automatic, as well as a hybrid variant (ES 300h).

Though by no means an endangered model, the declining midsize passenger car market and ascent of premium SUVs means the ES no longer holds the same level of importance as in years past. Last year’s U.S. sales tally of 51,398 units was down significantly from a post-recession high of 72,581 vehicles in 2013. In March, the ES posted a 14.9 percent sales decline. Volume loss over the first three months of 2018 is less severe, however — compared to the same period in 2017, sales are off by 2.7 percent.

[Image: Lexus]

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31 Comments on “As New ES Looms, Lexus Isn’t Giving Up on That Gigantic Grille...”


  • avatar

    That grill makes the car ugly!

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I want to find an aftermarket version that substitutes the Tandy Corp. logo; it’d totally fit, and point out how stupid that grille design is.

    I think my wife was seriously considering a Lexus for her next ride, but she can’t get past that horrible corporate grille. She makes fun of it every time she sees one, and she’s not a “car person”.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The grille is reminiscent of the cowcatcher seen on early locomotives.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m conflicted on the Predator grill. It seems to work better on lower-slung designs, like the sedans, and particularly well on the LC coupe. It looks somewhat ridiculous on CUVs, which have a larger frontal area.

  • avatar
    Oldschool

    One of the worst grills (ugly) including the current crop of Toyota’s of all time.

    How and why Toyota/Lexus designers are allowed to get away with such horrible styling is beyond questionable.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    that nose is like most internet arguments. You don’t admit you’re wrong. You double down and turn up the volume to 11

    but hey, it sells. so i guess i’m the mentally challenged luddite

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      +1, mmreeses. Look how long Acura stuck with the deservedly maligned Bionic Beak.

      Q: Is this gen of ES gaining an F-Sport? The F-Sport spindle grilles are even worse than the normal spindle grilles; the one you see on websites usually is the F-Sport version. I don’t think the ES ever has been offered in F-Sport guise until, possibly, this generation.

      The NX, for example, never will win any beauty contests. Two saving graces, though, are that it looks less bad in person than it does in photos and that the standard grille doesn’t look as bad as the F-Sport’s.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      As far as sales – I think of it like I think of the Bangled BMW 7-series. It was the best selling 7-series to date, but think of how many they would have sold had it been a GOOD looking car.

      This is just hideous. And as someone previously pointed out – parking it in a big city is going to be a disaster, because it will simply get destroyed by the “park by feel” majority.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Now be fair, khrodes1. The the “park by feel” brigade isn’t the majority . . . , it’s just a minority that’s large enough to ruin everyone else’s car. ;-)

        I always get annoyed when I read comments to the effect of, “You don’t want your bumper scratched? Learn to park, idiot!” Um, I’m not the one who’s scratching it.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        To say nothing if you live in a state with a requirement for a front plate.

        Then again, that might improve things!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Stupid is as stupid does. Thanks Akio!

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    It’s a shame. Lexus is a brand I respect, but that speculum grille means “no sale” to me.

  • avatar
    Tennessee_Speed

    Judging from the next year’s Avalon concept that the ES will be based on, the luxury quotient will be raised a few notches over the previous ES. It will be interesting to see what Lexus can do about improving handling with a FWD chassis to match their description of the car.

    Regarding the grill: I know two very stylish women who are successful in different design fields that considered buying the Lexus RX SUV. Due to the design of the RX grill, one selected the BMW X5, the other bought the MBenz GLE.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    The Large Mouth Bass front grill that seems to be on every Lexus is ugly. There , I said it.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Another complete stinker from the obdurate overlords at Toyota. OK, so Toyota was founded on spinning looms a hundred years ago. Great, we get it, spindles were great for them. But surely to goodness, even the dumb asses that run the company must be vaguely aware their current styling direction is not generally appreciated and is costing them sales. But they mill around, hands over ears and just like Honda/Acura, none of these stupidly proud execs can acknowledge a misstep, much less do something about it. Instead they double down on rubbish and apparently grin ear-to-ear in proud delight. Out of touch hardly begins to describe them.

    I’m beginning to think it’s a Japanese trait to be so oblivious to comments on their committee-led product planning. They’re just so cocksure they’re right.

  • avatar
    Farhad

    FUGLY!

  • avatar
    orick

    I wonder if the new Supra will also have a similar grille. That would make me sad.

  • avatar
    James2

    Is this a “luxury” car, though? My parents have a current-gen ES (in fact, they bought every ES except the very first gen, so what do I know), and I don’t think it’s a luxurious car at all. I think the ES has actually gone downhill over time and the last-gen model was more comfy, with softer seats, better leather and a slightly better ride. Every body panel of this car sounds hollow and tinny, the trunk especially. The engineers have decontented the hell out of this car.

    No ES they’ve had was any good to drive. I forget which gen ES it was, but the steering felt like it was connected to the wheels with cooked spaghetti noodles. The current car is so clumsy to drive at low speeds and is merely Meh at highway speeds. The infotainment system is so bad not even Microsoft could do worse. The lane-keeping system is befuddled by the black glue the HI DOT poured into the cracks. The only thing I like about the current ES is the engine, though revving it… it sounds kind of odd.

    • 0 avatar
      RSF

      I’d rather own a Camry than an ES. I wish the GS would be the sedan that Lexus keeps.

    • 0 avatar
      W210Driver

      Agreed.

      I owned the first generation ES250 for a brief time and I found it to be actually rather sporty. It handled pretty sharply but at a cost; the suspension was rather sturdy and noisy. The steering feedback, while nothing exhilarating, provided enough feedback for you to know what the front wheels were up to.

      I found the subsequent ES models to be softer, less engaging and more boat-like.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Disagree and agree.

      The 2nd-gen XV10 ES 300 was a pretty good driver relative to the market as a whole. Relative to an out-and-out sports sedan? No, I wouldn’t argue that that was the case. But I think they occupied a nice middle ground of comfort and performance.

      I haven’t driven recent gens of ES, but based on other Lexus models, I agree with the notions that:
      – Lexus has cheapened the materials it’s using. I don’t think the general buying public has noticed yet, but I have. “Hollow and tinny” is not an accurate description of the vehicles I’ve been in. They’re still well-assembled, and they’re still quiet. The issue is that the materials are incrementally worse. And they’re are some design choices that obviously are made in the name of cost savings. E.g., the NX, at least pre-refresh, had two screws to hold the license plate instead of four. Depending on your plate and your license plate frame, it could be prone to rattling. OK, I guess we could file that under tinny, so maybe you’re right. :-)
      – Suspension tuning has gotten firmer, and the large wheel/low profile tire trend have done their vehicles no favors in terms of ride. And the quietness that remains is in spite of the wheel/tire combos.

  • avatar
    John

    The evolution of the Lexus grille mirrors the evolution of American women.

  • avatar
    RELove

    My wife has had her 2007 IS250 for eleven years now, and usually changes cars every ten years, but the car keeps plugging away with just one trip to the shop for a repair in 127K miles, (and it was simple) so Lexus is dear to her heart. But, as she has been paying more attention to what’s available for the eventual replacement, she can’t get over the huge spindle grill – and she really couldn’t care less about automotive styling – but that grill is making her look for options.


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