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2016 Lexus ES First Look

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 4/20/2015 Kelly Pleskot

If you compare the outgoing Lexus ES to the 2016 model, you'll notice both cars have a similar spindle grille and overall design. But somehow the new ES looks a lot sharper, adopting more aggressive styling cues from its little brother, the IS.

Exactly what about the redesigned Lexus ES is different? A newly designed grille, framed by bright satin chrome, connects high up to the hood for a more fluid look. Narrow headlights with LED projectors complement bolder L-shaped arrowhead DRLs that extend outward toward the grille. Four paint options—Amber, Nightfall Mica, Caviar, and Eminent White Pearl—are new, and like the six other paint colors available on the model, the new hues have self-healing technologies to protect the car from light damage.

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Look for a bit more personality inside the cabin, including a sportier steering wheel. The seats are embossed and are offered in four neutral colors. Buyers can choose from semi-aniline leather, regular leather, and Lexus NuLuxe synthetic material, which in our experience feels just like the real thing. A number of different trim options are available, including piano black, Shimamoku wood ornamentation, and bamboo with a matte finish.

2016 Lexus ES 300H Front Three Quarter© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Lexus ES 300H Front Three Quarter

Under the hood, the Lexus ES gets a new 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine—but not for the U.S. market. We'll stick with the 268-hp 3.5-liter V-6 as well as the gasoline-hybrid version. Fortunately, all ES sedans benefit from a retuned chassis that promises better handling and improved ride quality. This idea, Lexus said, was inspired by the IS sports sedan that was redesigned for the 2014 model year. Lexus also added extra sound insulation behind the dashboard so that the engine sounds a bit quieter to those inside the cabin.

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The Lexus Safety System+ debuts as well, bringing a number of safety technologies into one neat and clean package. A pre-collision system detects other vehicles and pedestrians, and if the driver gets too close, it will initiate automated braking in the ES. Lane departure warning zaps drifting drivers with a steering wheel vibration, while radar cruise control detects the speed and lane changes of other vehicles for smoother acceleration and deceleration control. Automatic high beams sense headlights from oncoming traffic and taillights from cars up front, adjusting high- and low-beam settings to improve visibility depending on the situation.

The 2016 Lexus ES makes its official debut at the Shanghai auto show alongside the RX 200t utility vehicle.

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