Lexus has unveiled the 2022 Lexus ES facelift at Auto Shanghai 2021. The premium brand’s long-standing model line first appeared with the launch of the first-generation LS flagship sedan back in 1989, and cumulative sales are around 2.65 million units in more than 80 countries – the ES is a very important model for Lexus.

When you think of Lexus, what comes to mind? Of late, they’ve been big on bold design. Plush materials and attention to detail is what I’d expect too. But quietness and ride comfort are the original qualities of the brand; this is described as the “origin of Lexus” and further enhancements have been made to the seventh-generation ES in this regard, as well as in “high-quality overall comfort”. This facelift is more about under the skin improvements then.

Lexus says that a proprietary method was employed to increase the rigidity of the rear suspension member braces for better steering stability in situations such as high-speed lane changes. The switch from a single sheet structure to dual sheets has increased rigidity, while torsional and lateral rigidity has been improved. This pays dividends in ride comfort and a driving sensation that is more linear and faithful to the driver’s intentions, Lexus says.

In the F Sport version, there’s a new advanced linear-solenoid adaptive variable suspension (AVS) system that uses a new actuator. It expands the flow path of the hydraulic control solenoid’s oil flow control valve, is responsive to low damping forces, and achieves both good ride comfort while improving steering response and stability by reducing the damping force and expanding the variable range.

The brakes have been retuned for better controllability. For petrol versions, the idle stroke of the brake pedal was reduced by improving the internal structures of the master cylinder and booster, while for the hybrid, they changed the control constants of the electronically controlled braking system.

The contact area for the driver’s foot has also been expanded by changing the shape of the brake pedal pad, and Lexus also gave the pedal a more solid feel by improving the mounting method for the internal bushing of the brake pedal link configuration. That’s all for the hardware enhancements – it’s all about improving comfort and feel. No mention of the powertrain, so that department is carried over.

The 2022 Lexus ES looks very familiar and changes to the seventh-generation ES’ “junior LS” looks are minimal. There’s a new mesh pattern for the spindle grille, consisting of an ensemble of L-shaped components that “emphasise lateral flow”.

Flanking the signature grille are new headlamps. Models with monocular lamps feature new, compact lamp units, while triple-beam lamps feature BladeScan AHS (Adaptive High-beam System) for improved functionality, while the use of new slender lamp units provide a sharper stare.

There are also new wheels. The base 17-inch items get thicker spoke ends that emphasise the shine of machined surfaces. They are layered in “V” formations for a sporty look. Multi-axis spokes on the 18-inch rims contrast the shine of machined surfaces and black paint – this gives a luxury look. The F Sport rides on exclusive 19-inch wheels that are gloss black to match the front grille finish. Two new body colours are available – Sonic Iridium and Sonic Chrome.

Inside, there’s a new Hazel colour option and newly developed Mauve, described as a brown, grayish-tone. The F Sport now comes in white, with seat cushions in a white and Flare Red colour scheme combined with seatbacks in black. In the trim department, there’s walnut material and the new Sumi Black and Dark Brown colours. Hairline ornamentation is done in hairlines etched one at a time using a laser process.

Lexus is never known for ease of use when it comes to multimedia systems, but there are some improvements here. A touch screen, for one. Now that you can touch it, the glass screen has been moved closer to the driver by over 100 mm, and tilted around five degrees. This means that even the outlying corners of the screen is within easy reach, Lexus claims. The steering wheel controls have also been consolidated.

The ES facelift gets the latest Lexus Safety System+ driver assist pack. While retaining the single-lens camera and millimetre-wave radar set-up, Lexus has added functions such as Emergency Steering Assist and has improved the system’s lane recognition performance, among other things such as expanding the response range of the Pre-Collision System and the use of AI tech to boost the assist range for Lane Tracing Assist (LTA). The latter delivers smoother and more-continuous steering assist, it is claimed.

A curve speed-control function that slows down the car in advance according to the size of an approaching curve has been added to Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Available only in Japan, the Emergency Driving Stop System supports the driver through audio and visual alerts and gentle deceleration if the driver continues to be non responsive during use of LTA.

This safeguard then activates the vehicle’s hazard lamps and horn to alert those outside the car, while slowing and eventually stopping the vehicle within its lane. After the car is stopped, it unlocks the doors and activates an automatic Helpnet connection for a rescue request. This might be a lifesaver in the case when a driver blacks out or is incapacitated.

Elswhere, the cameras of the digital side-view monitors (introduced in 2018) and digital rear-view mirror have been updated – the annoyance caused by LED flickering has been “significantly reduced” and image quality has been improved thanks to noise-reduction processing.

The ES joins the RX and LS in the use of BladeScan AHS, which is an advanced adaptive high-beam system where LED-sourced light shines onto blade mirrors spinning at high speed and is transferred to a lens to illuminate the road ahead. A residual image effect prevents the light from appearing to be moving, and BladeScan AHS precisely controls light distribution by synchronising the rotation of the blade mirrors and switching the LED lights on and off.

That sounds terribly complicated but Lexus says that BladeScan AHS is capable of more-delicate shielding of light than the conventional AHS; it broadens the range of high beam illumination, enabling the driver to recognise pedestrians and road signs without affecting other drivers.

Lastly, the Chinese market will get a digital key. This allows the ES to be locked/unlocked and started with a smartphone installed with a dedicated app. What do you think of the enhanced Lexus ES – still looks good, doesn’t it?