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Lexus confirms ES return to Australia

Hybrid too: The Toyota Avalon-based Lexus ES is almost certain to get a hybrid powertrain option when it is reintroduced to the Australian market in late 2013.

Front-drive Lexus ES set to make a comeback after seven-year absence in Oz

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Lexus logo25 Feb 2013

LEXUS Australia has announced the return to Australia of its cruisy mid-size front-wheel-drive ES, completing a clean sweep of its luxury sedan line-up in little more than 18 months.

The sixth-generation ES is due locally in the fourth quarter of this year, slotting between the all-new rear-drive IS – which is scheduled for showrooms in the third quarter – and the larger GS that made its Australian debut in April last year.

The Australian branch of Toyota’s prestige brand has had its hand up for the new ES since it was revealed at last year’s New York motor show in April last year.

A decision by Toyota in Japan not to include the ES in its line-up threatened to skittle plans for a right-hand-drive version, but pressure from markets such as Australia and India convinced the powers that be in Nagoya to go ahead with such a variant, albeit more than a year later than the left-hand-drive version.

Now built on a platform shared with the American-inspired Toyota Avalon, the new Japanese-built ES will set about distancing itself from the “Camry with a bow tie” stigma that curtailed sales of previous generations of the model that was discontinued in Australia seven years ago.

Like the new rear-drive GS and IS, the ES has been redeveloped under the gaze of Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda with a view to shedding its perceived shortcomings while enhancing its strengths.

One of the strengths of the Commodore-sized ES has been its spaciousness, especially in the rear seat, and this has been taken to new levels on the stretched Avalon platform, mainly because of the ES’s role in China, where many such cars are chauffeur-driven.

The latest ES gets about an extra 100mm of rear legroom in a body stretched by about 50mm over the previous generation that was not sold here.

The 2820mm wheelbase is 45mm longer than that of the Camry, but the 1820mm overall width is 5mm narrower.

The ES also gains a hybrid variant, powered by the same 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder petrol engine/electric motor combination as the upcoming hybrid IS300h, but driving the front wheels through a planetary gear continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Lighter and more aerodynamic than the previous version, the new ES is said to be capable of 5.8 litres per 100km in hybrid form.

Lexus Australia has yet to confirm its ES model line-up, but a commitment to hybrid powertrains across its range would seem to make the ES300h a formality for local release.

The other model likely for Australia is the V6 ES350, powered by a 3.5-litre dual-VVTi V6, but again driving through the front wheels and returning fuel economy of about 9.8L/100km.

Lexus sold almost 7000 ES300s in Australia across four generations after it was introduced in 1992.

Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley said the return of ES to Australia had been driven by customer demand.

“Today we still have many loyal ES owners who refused to purchase anything other than an ES, and the great news is they won’t have to wait much longer for the exciting new model,” he said.

“This all-new ES is not only redesigned, re-engineered and with more power, it returns to Australia with a loyal customer base and in a form that will attract new customers to the Lexus family.

“The ES is unique in the luxury segment in offering a vehicle unmatched for space, comfort and quality – it is effectively peerless.”

By the time the new ES arrives, Lexus Australia will have totally rejuvenated its sedan line-up, starting with the GS last year, LS limousine in the past few weeks, and the IS in the third quarter.

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