Touch of class from

Lexus newcomers

Lexus ES, 2019, front
Lexus ES, 2019, nose
Lexus ES, 2019, side
Lexus ES, 2019, rear
Lexus ES, 2019, interior
Lexus ES, 2019, rear seats
Lexus ES, 2019, engine
Lexus ES, 2019, boot
Lexus ES, 2019, badge
Lexus RC, 2019, front
Lexus RC, 2019, side
Lexus RC, 2019, rear
Lexus RC, 2019, interior
Lexus RC, 2019, dashboard
Lexus RC, 2019, instrument panel

LEXUS is making a play for a bigger share of the premium car market with a new saloon and an updated coupe.

Both will be on the road in April and for the ES saloon it is the front-wheel-drive model's debut in the UK.

The other newcomer is a facelifted RC coupe which now comes with even more features from the super-stylish Lexus LC flagship.

Together they form part of a spearhead of new models that the Japanese car maker hopes will boost British sales by more than 20 per cent this year.

In 2018 Lexus took 19 per cent of the luxury car sector with some 12,000 sales putting it in fourth place behind the German triumvirate of BMW, Audi and Mercedes.

The ES will be charged with making up much of the growth and as a replacement for the GS saloon it comes with corporate appeal.

At 14ft 3ins long the new ES is some 20-inches shorter than the GS but with a relatively long wheelbase, room inside is almost on par and boot space is a fraction more at 454 litres.

The ES sits on the same global architecture platform Lexus first used on its new LS limousine last year and although it may be new to Britain the model name has been used around the world since Lexus first arrived in 1989 and is the brand's top seller with more than two million accounted for.

The new car is actually the seventh generation and points the way for Lexuses of the future.

There's a new look interior which can include a 12.3-inch touchscreen, a seven-inch TFT screen in the instrument panel, a head up display and super-comfortable seats with just a millimetre less legroom in the rear than on the much larger LS.

Outside, it features Lexus's new face and muscular design creating a sleek profile that is nicely upmarket while underneath there is the company's latest hybrid powertrain - the fourth Lexus has created.

It uses a 2.5-litre, four cylinder petrol engine and a 640-volt electric motor which together develop 215bhp giving the ES a 0 to 60 acceleration of 8.9 seconds and top speed of 112mph.

Being a Lexus hybrid - which means it charges on the move and does not need to be plugged in - the ES is fitted with a CVT gearbox which has been given six step points for manual shifting if required.

That can be done via the gear lever or steering wheel mounted paddles and in sportier drive modes - there are two as well as an eco setting - the ES has improved handling and feels positive to drive.

Three trims will be offered with prices starting from £35,150 and topping out at £43.650 for high specification Takumi models.

In between is an F Sport version priced from £38,150 which comes with its own steering and suspension settings that firm up the ride.

While all three are top value for money and include a full set of safety systems as standard, the F Sport handles much more sweetly than the others which lend themselves more to long distance comfort.

Fit the F Sport with a £4,000 Takumi option pack and a £750 Tech pack and you get a head up display, an upgraded sound system and the likes of a heated steering wheel, powered boot lid operation and a larger display screen.

As such the ES lacks for little and while not as dynamic as the German alternatives it dares to be different.

So does the latest RC coupe although in a more overt fashion.

The new RC is priced almost as before with four models running from £38,800 to £43,800.

Performance is similar to that of the ES with a 0 to 60 time of 8.6 seconds, a maximum of 118mph and the new car has retuned suspension for a much improved ride.

The hybrid system used in the RC develops slightly more power than in the ES at 220bhp but fuel economy is down at 47.5mpg with emissions of 114g/km compared to the 59.3 and 100g/km at best from the new set up in the ES.

Real world returns on our drives were 44 to the gallon in the ES F Sport and 35mpg for the RC.

The RC now looks sharper and that's down to some aerodynamic tweaks especially in the bumpers front and rear while inside there are improvements to the trim and the addition of an analogue clock in the display panel akin to that of the LC and also the ES.

Both the ES and RC come with impressive sound insulation taking that Lexus trait to new levels of refinement - albeit at the expense of exhaust note thrill.

The RC is rear-wheel-drive and delivers a good sporty drive and while not as quick as some alternatives it has its own rewards which make it a sublime tourer.

In the coupe league its looks are unmissable and the RC has sensational styling now enhanced to make it even more akin to the LC.

Like the ES it is high on value and in the coupe niche it is a stand out model which on looks alone make it as pure as they come.

Together the new models demonstrate Lexus's intention to put style at the top of its hybrid agenda with magnificently equipped cars already electrified for the future.

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