Countless internet forum posts and reams of magazine newsprint have been spent in speculating about Lexus’s entry into the Indian market over the years, with nothing but disappointment to show for it. Toyota’s luxury marque had put off its Indian plans all this while because of the domination of diesel power trains in the luxury segment in India, not exactly a Lexus forte. But a few days ago, Lexus has imported an ES300H into India, for certification purposes, which might be an indication that they are readying to launch the brand in India.
It is interesting to see Lexus has choosen (or might choose) the ES to start off their Indian innings, and not one their SUVs or their bigger sedans, like the GS or LS. The ES is a mid-sized executive sedan, competing against the Audi A6 and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Dimension-wise, it is closer to the size of an Audi A6, while the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is slightly bigger than the ES. This is the sixth generation ES, launched way back in 2012, but had a styling update for the 2016 model year. What the update has done is to further exaggerate the ‘Spindle design’ of the grille to bring it in-line with the new Lexus corporate look, LFA-styled rear view mirrors, slashes and cuts in the front bumper and L-shaped LEDs for the rear tail lights. The freshening up of the looks cannot hide the fact that the original design is over half a decade old, although the overall smooth and understated looks goes well with the original Lexus design ethos.
This is the same story with the interior too. Yes, Lexus will probably offer the finest of leathers, beautifully crafted wood trim and high quality aluminium, but the multitude of buttons, small central display screen and analog dials can be looked upon as almost archaic, compared to some its competition. But again, it’s tastefully designed with soft curving lines, flat panels and with a touch of minimalism. But not everything is as old school as it seems. The central 4.2 inch TFT screen houses the latest infotainment system software controlled by a touchpad on the central console and the ES comes with a panaromic sunroof, mood lighting , 10-way adjustable seats, a 15 speaker Mark Levinson system and a voice activated navigation system
A 2.5-litre turbocharged inline-4 powers the ES300h, along with a electric motor with the total system delivering 197 bhp. The hybrid drive seamlessly combines the power from both the sources, and powers the front wheels. The Es300h can also be driven in purely electric mode as long as the batteries last. Other mechanical bits include a CVT gearbox and independent Macpherson struts and dual link Macpherson struts for the front and rear suspension respectively. According to claimed figures, the ES300h can hit 100 kph from zero in 8.1 seconds.
Over the years, the price difference between petrol and diesel has narrowed, and with a hybrid powertrain, the ES300h is fairly fuel efficient too (17 kpl according to the brochure). Lexus might not get an opportunity like this, with buyers willing to look beyond the German trio, huge growth in the luxury segment and the increased acceptance of expensive petrol cars. Lets hope they take the cue.