Road rage. It’s everywhere. Every other day you read a newspaper article about how some guy went nuclear at an intersection in Fourways, or a bunch of cyclists who laid into a driver in Cape Town. And, thanks to the advent of smartphones and cheap Chinese dashboard cameras, the newspaper reports are often accompanied by a YouTube clip of the perpetrator in action.
People would then call for his public crucifixion and, after the person had handed himself in due to the incredible guilt, 702 Talk Radio would spend the week chatting to various psychologists about how to curb this unspeakable behaviour.
At that point I would turn the radio off, because I know what the cure is: the Lexus ES250. This is possibly the most soothing saloon car on the planet today. Unlike an Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series, it doesn’t care much for speed or sharp handling. It just wants you to chill, maaaan, so its sole focus is on the art of refinement.
Slip inside this machine’s vast interior, shut the door, and the madness of the modern world is suddenly reduced to a manageable level. Seriously, it’s like an upmarket isolation tank: an acoustically insulated cocoon that distances you from noise and chaos and the incessant hooting of unroadworthy minibuses.
Then there’s the luxury. Lexus has equipped the ES250 with some of the most ergonomically perfect seats I have ever had the pleasure of planting my rear on. They are heated and electronically adjustable and as good, if not better, than the seats in some much more expensive Mercedes-Benz models.
And almost every conceivable surface has been covered in supple, padded leather. The door panels, the centre console armrest, the mouse-like control for the infotainment system — everything your limbs come into contact with coveys a feeling of cosy reassurance.
Then there’s the way it drives. Just like the late, great blues rocker, Howlin’ Wolf, this Lexus is clearly built for comfort, not speed. Its suspension system works hard at sucking up the bumps and keeping its occupants unflustered. Which is great when you live in a city such as Johannesburg.
In a sportier, more driver-focused Audi or BMW, one can quickly become annoyed by the asphalt irregularities covering the road network. But in this Lexus you simply don’t notice them. The trade-off, of course, is that you’re left with a car that is not much fun to pilot in anger.
Get too carried away with the accelerator pedal and the ES250 will pitch and roll like an out-of-control schooner caught in the middle of some terrible thunderstorm. So you quickly learn to rein in your frustrated Formula One inner racer at the door and adopt a much more relaxed approach when traveling. The same can be said about the drivetrain. The pairing of a lethargic, normally aspirated engine to a droning CVT transmission means that the ES250 lumbers along with no great sense of urgency.
It’s OK out on the highway — when you eventually get up to speed — but around town, in stop/start driving conditions, it feels woefully asthmatic —especially when compared to any one of its turbocharged German rivals.
It’s noticeably heavy on fuel too. Even when I dialled the Lexus drive mode select system to eco (normal and sport are the other options), I was unable to see less than 12.0l/100km when commuting around town. So you tend to make the most of the low-down torque and cultivate a driving style skewed towards grace rather than pace.
Yeah, think of the ES250 as the automotive equivalent a middle management executive who knows what to do and where he is going in life — but isn’t in too much of a hurry about getting there. And it’s exactly this attitude that helps keep tempers in check.
Traffic. Wayward taxis. People continuously breathing down your back bumper. Inside the anodyne ES250 you simply shrug these irritations off, move into the slow lane and enjoy the generous cache of standard features. Cruise control. Satellite navigation. An excellent eight-speaker audio system with full Bluetooth connectivity. A sunroof. These and many more gizmos are included as standard, which makes the car a high-value proposition.
It’s neither the quickest car in its class, nor the most dynamic, but as a leisurely cruiser big on opulence and interior space, this ES250 is an impressive package. One gets the feeling that if Lexus sold more of them our road network might be a friendlier place.
Engine: 2494cc, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 135kW at 600rpm
Torque: 235Nm at 4100rpm
0-100km/h: 9.8 seconds
Top Speed: 207km/h
Fuel Consumption: 12l/100km (Achieved)
Price: R462 500