As New ES Looms, Lexus Isn't Giving Up on That Gigantic Grille

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • RELove RELove on Apr 15, 2018

    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.

  • Victor Victor on Aug 26, 2022

    Lexus are great cars but the new front is ugly, it does not fit with the kind of cars Lexus are, the profile of most owners, it is an aberration. It like a scar on the car's body, a genetic flaw. I do not think there is any uglier car front. The new grille is like a girl with a beautiful body but walking with the mouth open and no front teeth.

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