Next-Generation Lexus ES to Replace the GS as Global Mid-Size Sedan?

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Rumors have been swirling about Lexus discontinuing the GS sedan, and now Japan’s Mag-X has thrown more wood on the fire — the magazine claims the ES will become the brand’s global mid-size sedan, replacing the GS completely.

This would be a dramatic change for Lexus, which has kept the ES to specific markets — North America, Russia, and China are among the only regions to offer the front-wheel drive sedan. The GS, on the other hand, is offered nearly everywhere Lexus sells vehicles.

It would be fine to write this off as rumor-mongering, after all, the GX SUV has been on the verge of cancellation for much of this decade. But here’s the kicker. I think this might be a good idea.


Let me preface this — I have no insider information about what Lexus is planning. I don’t ask, they don’t tell.

Since the introduction of the third-generation GS in 2005, Lexus has struggled to separate the two sedans where both are available — they are roughly the same size and offer the same options, but are nowhere close to the same cost. The ES is an entry-level model with a focus on comfort, making it a very good fit for most people looking for a luxury car. On the other hand, the GS has become an experimental playground for Lexus — the sedan has introduced the last two design movements (L-Finesse & Spindle Grille), and has struggled to follow up on the very successful second-generation GS 300 & GS 430.

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Having two mid-size sedans in the lineup is confusing, and it’s been made worse by the gradual elevation of the ES — this is not the late 1990’s, when the ES 300 had a 190 horsepower V6 with the bare luxury necessities and the GS 430 was a monster pushing out 300 horsepower. The line in the sand that existed between the two models has eroded to a simple question of preference. And most people’s preference is to save the $10,000 price difference.

Now if you work from the assumption that the market is moving towards SUVs and can no longer support two mid-size sedans, Lexus could very well decide to cancel either the ES or GS. Here’s where it gets dicey — despite the brand’s focus on performance, there’s no way Lexus is going to abandon their best selling car in the USA for a underperforming RWD sports sedan. This is the sad truth, but it’s the same decision that any business would make.

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So why do I think cancelling the GS might be a good idea? Because I look at the Audi A6 with its advanced AWD system. I see BMW making the 5-Series into a highway cruiser, and Toyota transforming the Camry into a car that’s fun to drive.

For this to work, Lexus would have to make changes to the ES — changes that may sacrifice a portion of the sedan’s existing buyers. Handling would have to be revamped and a power boost would be necessary, along with an AWD system for better power distribution and regions that need four-wheel traction. Lexus may also have to shrink the current model somewhat, perhaps introducing a long-wheelbase version for the Chinese market. But it’s not totally inconceivable that Lexus could approximate the GS experience using the ES, with a starting price that will undercut the majority of its competitors. More importantly, it’s a move that would simplify the lineup and bring sharper definition to each car.

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My theory is going to start collapsing under the weight of all my assumptions. There’s been no official word that the GS will be cancelled, or that the ES will become a global model. This is going to be a hot button topic, but let’s keep calm — what if Lexus cancelled the GS and replaced it with the ES?