Livelier Rear Axle Coming to Lexus ES?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
livelier rear axle coming to lexus es

Far be it for us to foist accolades on a modern production car, but the current-generation Lexus ES is a taut, well-behaved sedan that feels like a quality item. It’s also front-wheel drive, which might be a no-go proposition in your books.

If those rear wheels aided in propelling the ES forward, would it change the equation? Because that’s what Lexus might have in mind. It’s a big might.

This tidbit of news, garnered from Lexus Enthusiast via Motor Authority, comes after the test drive of an ES300h prototype test drive offered to Japanese media. The vehicle in question came equipped with all-wheel drive.

Before you get too excited, it’s worth knowing that the rear axle of the ES300h driven in Japan has no mechanical connection to the engine. This is an E-axle affair, where a battery supplies power to an electric motor that motivates the rear wheels independent of the front wheels. It’s become an increasingly common presence in Toyota products of late, found on the RAV4 Hybrid, the Lexus UX, and even the Prius, which recently sought to boost its flagging popularity with a feature coveted in Snow Belt regions.

This is not a feature that offers drift opportunities and a 50:50 torque split; rather, it works up to a set speed to simply get a vehicle moving in low-grip conditions. Power supplied to the rear axle pales in comparison to even a hybrid’s downsized powerplant.

That said, there’s precious few details about the ES300h prototype’s AWD setup. The brand could choose to pack on the power in the aims of fielding a green sports sedan, or not. You won’t find a hybrid ES with the F Sport package, not that that addition brings AWD into the picture.

Nor is the ES or its Toyota Avalon sibling a very sporting vehicle in hybrid guise. Competent, smooth, and efficient, yes, but hardly a powerhouse. Adding ponies to the rear axle could help the model kick up its heels a bit, but given Toyota’s product direction, it would seem that any E-axle inclusion would lean more towards all-weather capability and general appeal, not thrills.

Lexus itself poured icy water on speculation of an AWD ES, claiming in an email to Motor Authority that the Lexus sedan was being employed as a test mule for electric drive technology. That’s still no guarantee that a future E-axle setup won’t appear in the large-ish midsizer.

Through the end of October, ES sales are up 7.4 percent in the U.S.

[Image: Steph Willems/TTAC]

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  • DeadWeight DeadWeight on Nov 12, 2019

    Toyota/Lexus, Honda, Hyundai, Volkswagen, KIA, and. Others continues to thank Guangzhou-Guadalajara Motors (GM) and Hackett-led Ford for nearly completely ceding this space to them, now, and in future years (when sedan sales march back up).

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Nov 14, 2019

    If it isn't RWD based, it's dead to me. Never.

  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
  • ToolGuy 2019 had better comments than 2023 😉
  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down.
  • Bobby D'Oppo Great sound and smooth power delivery in a heavier RWD or AWD vehicle is a nice blend, but current V8 pickup trucks deliver an unsophisticated driving experience. I think a modern full-size pickup could be very well suited to a manual transmission.In reality, old school, revvy atmo engines pair best with manual transmissions because it's so rewarding to keep them in the power band on a winding road. Modern turbo engines have flattened the torque curve and often make changing gears feel more like a chore.
  • Chuck Norton For those worried about a complex power train-What vehicle doesn't have one? I drive a twin turbo F-150 (3.5) Talk about complexity.. It seems reliability based on the number of F-150s sold is a non-issue. As with many other makes/models. I mean how many operations are handle by micro today's vehicles?