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Should Lexus Offer An Entry-Level ES In The United States?

Opinion

It may help reinvigorate sedan sales.

The Lexus ES has always been an intriguing option in the mid-size luxury sedan segment. Whereas most European luxury sedans use a rear-wheel-drive layout with sporty driving characteristics, the ES uses a front-wheel-drive platform geared towards maximum luxury. Enthusiasts have historically mocked the ES for being no more than a gussied up Camry (now an Avalon), but buyers who don't care about RWD burnouts and 0-60 mph times love the ES because it's cheaper than most of its European and fellow Japanese competitors.

But what if the ES was even more affordable? Would that help it sell more cars? The Japanese automaker has already sold 4,741 units of the ES through May of 2019, putting it just ahead of the NX as the company's second best-selling model (and far behind the RX's 8,782 sales). But if Lexus wants the ES to sell even better, we think it should offer an entry-level version.

Lexus introduced the seventh-generation ES for the 2019 model year, bringing in massive improvements over the sixth-generation model. The starting price for the base ES 350 is $39,500 plus a $1,025 destination charge. If you want the more efficient ES 300h hybrid model, it starts at $41,310. The base powertrain in the ES 350 is a 3.5-liter V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic producing 302 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid is far less powerful, with just 215 hp, but it makes up for it by achieving 44-mpg combined.

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We enjoyed the base V6 engine when we tested a 2019 ES 350, but there are plenty of buyers out there who would sacrifice the smooth passing power for a lower base price if Lexus were to make such a model. If it did, the automaker even has an engine it could fit into this hypothetical entry-level ES. In other markets, the company sells an ES 250 powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 204 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. If Lexus brought that engine to the American ES, it would put the sedan on par with the base Acura TLX, which has a lower starting price of just $33,000. In a market obsessed with having a luxury badge at the lowest possible monthly payment, we think Lexus could increase sales by offering the ES 250 in the US.

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