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New Lexus 5-Series rival goes front-wheel drive. Image by Lexus.

New Lexus 5-Series rival goes front-wheel drive
GS is renamed ES and sends drive to the front wheels instead of the rear.
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2018-05-11: Lexus reveals more on ES saloon

What's this then?

This is the new Lexus ES.

Looks like an LS.

It does, doesn't it? And presumably that's no accident as Lexus is looking to make a splash with its new four-door saloon, and really try to take the fight to the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6.

Is it an LS underneath, but smaller?

You would think so, given that the outgoing GS saloon (which the ES will replace later this year) was basically a shrunken LS, but no - this one is more closely related to the US-market Toyota Camry, and for that matter the C-HR crossover and the new Auris hatchback, because it uses an up-sized version of Toyota's TNGA (Toyota New Generation Architecture) for its chassis. Which also means it's going to be front-wheel drive.

That's a bit risky for a posh saloon isn't it?

Well, it never harmed the Audi A6 much, but the likelihood is that the more powerful versions (which will be based around the same V6 hybrid setup as seen in the RX 450h SUV) will probably use four-wheel drive, by mounting an electric motor on the rear axle. You can expect more basic four-cylinder hybrid versions to be front-drive, and while the existing 2.5-litre 300h hybrid powertrain should carry over from the current GS 300h, there may also be a fleet-user baiting basic model, with the new 180hp 2.0-litre hybrid, taken from the incoming new RAV4 and Auris.

When can I have one?

Lexus will give the ES a full launch at the Beijing Motor Show (at which point we'll get much more in the way of technical details) and it should be on sale in the UK by the end of this year. Will it be able to do what the GS never could, and seriously take the sales fight to the Germans? We shall see...

Neil Briscoe - 18 Apr 2018

2018 Lexus ES preview. Image by Lexus.       - Lexus road tests
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