WE’VE come to respect Lexus as a brand that delivers comfort and refinement in luxurious cars.

If there was one area where it could be found lacking it was in driving dynamics and the subdued nature of the exterior design. With the Lexus ES mid-size saloon, for example, three decades of production may have seen it enjoy considerable sales success without the dynamics of other premium brands. Time to put things right.

The seventh generation of the ES 300h sees it not only grow in appeal for company car drivers but also take a more ambitious path.

There’s an all-new chassis, for starters, and a design for the bodywork that is genuinely exciting to view and rather daring. It certainly means business.

But the virtues on which Lexus has built its reputation remain just as strong too. The new ES is more spacious, quieter and safer than ever.

As the brand’s most popular saloon, having amassed more than 2.3 million cumulative global sales, this is the first ES to be introduced to the UK, following on from the LS flagship saloon and LC coupe.

You will have noticed the ‘h’ in the name. This indicates that the ES 300h is powered by a new self-charging hybrid system, matched to a 2.5-litre petrol engine and CVT automatic transmission. The ES is only available in the UK with this drivetrain, although there is a choice of three trim grades – a standard version, F-Sport and top-of-the-range Takumi.

Ergonomically excellent, the driver-focused cockpit, has all the controls within easy reach. There’s a central display screen, clear instrument panel and superb head-up display. The colour display is the largest in the luxury car class. In addition to basic functionality, such as speed, fuel level and shift position, the display can also present speed limit signs and navigation directions.

The driving position in the ES has been refined with a more natural steering wheel angle, revised pedal positions and even a 10-way adjustable seat as standard. Heated front seats are also standard for the driver and front passenger.

Rear passenger comfort has long been a hallmark of the ES and the new model upholds this quality, in spite of the sleeker, sloping exterior roof line, by providing undisputed class leadership in spaciousness.

The ES takes on-board quietness to a higher level, using new technologies and design features first seen in the LS to enhance its established reputation as one of the most serene models in its class.

There’s also a new, fourth-generation self-charging Lexus hybrid drive system that produces 215hp and achieves a creditable fuel economy figure of between 48.5 and 53.5mpg.

The nickel-metal hydride battery that powers the electric motor has been relocated from the boot to underneath the back seat. This was made possible by a 120mm reduction in the height of the battery and the adoption of a more compact cooling system. Moving the battery under the seat not only frees up extra boot space, it also improves the car’s front-to-rear weight distribution for better handling.

Several new features have been incorporated into the ES 300h to improve overall driving satisfaction and engagement. The hybrid control system is designed to deliver a more linear acceleration. Engaging the Sport drive mode further enhances acceleration by boosting torque at lower speeds, while paddle shifts can be used to move through six simulated gears for more precise control.

Lexus knew that this ES had to feel responsive and easy to drive and it has achieved this with aplomb.

The ES 300h is available in three versions: the entry-level ES, the F Sport and the top-of-the range Takumi. It will probably not lure many drivers from the more exciting BMW 5 Series or other more powerful premium brand saloons, but that’s not to say that those who do make the switch will be disappointed by this super package of refined motoring.

The lowdown

Lexus ES300h Takumi

Price: £45,655 (range from £35,165)

Engine: Four-cylinder 2.5-litre petrol with self-charging hybrid system producing total output of 215bhp

Transmission: Electric CVT

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 8.9 seconds; top speed 112mph.

Economy: 52.9 to 59.3mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 103g/km

Star ratings

Performance: ****

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: *****

Value For Money: ****