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Lexus sweats on ES decision for Oz

Still in the wings: The new-generation Lexus ES could arrive in Australia by the end of next year.

Return of front-drive Lexus ES in 2013 still hanging in the balance for Australia

21 May 2012

LEXUS Australia says it is still awaiting approval from head office for the return of the mid-sized Lexus ES to Australia, even though the right-hand-drive version of the luxury sedan has been given the green light for production next year.

Local Lexus CEO Tony Cramb has made no bones about his desire to restore the front-drive ES to Aussie showrooms, slotted between the smaller IS and larger GS, both of which sit on rear-drive platforms.

The proposal seemed in peril when Japan – one of the world’s biggest right-hand-drive markets – decided against taking the ES, despite the fact that it is manufactured in Japan for global markets.

But collective pressure from other RHD markets – including India – ensured that cars with the steering wheel on the right would be restored to the range and manufactured alongside the left-hand-drive model that is primarily aimed at North America.

In Australia, the ES was squeezed out of the range in 2005 with the advent of the IS and GS, with Lexus Australia skipping a generation.

31 center imageThe latest ES was unveiled at the New York motor show in April, with production for the US set to start in the third quarter of this year.

Despite the fact that the new-generation ES was designed for right-hand drive from the outset, that version is not expected to go into production until the second half of 2013.

Lexus Australia product planning manager Ben Tillott told GoAuto that Lexus Australia was still awaiting word from head office in Japan on the prospects for ES for Australia.

He said Lexus Australia was keen to include the latest ES, as it believed the car would appeal to a different demographic to either the IS or the GS.

For the first time, the ES gets a hybrid alternative – the ES300h – using a version of the 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine from the Camry Hybrid.

Like the GS350, the petrol-only ES350 is powered by a 3.5-litre dual-VVTi V6, but driving through the front wheels like the Camry.

The ES sits on a stretched 2820mm wheelbase – 45mm longer than the Camry wheelbase – helping to deliver more rear-seat legroom than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

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