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How Lexus turns up the spindle grill on new 2016 ES 350

Lexus is finding customers prefer the spindle grill and is making the most of it.

When we began reporting the spindle grill on new Lexus designs it was in relation to the new Lexus IS 350 and IS 250. Comments from readers ran about 100 to 1 saying how much the spindle grill was ugly, and anyone would be crazy to drive such an ugly car. Then sales literally doubled on the IS line. Then Lexus applied the spindle to the GS 350 and sales again leapt. Same engines, same transmissions, new styling and sales went bonkers.

Ahh, but Lexus is a conservative company (like many Japanese companies). On its top-seller, it sort of played it safe and went easy on the spindle enhancement. Sales were still very strong and continued up. So for 2016, the ES 350 and its greener twin the ES 300h will get the full-whammy chromed spindle grill. The letter-writers don’t spend a lot of dough at Lexus dealers it turns out and the people that didn’t write letters were too busy buying cars to write in and say they loved it.

The new 2016 Lexus ES also gets more bling in the form of standard LED headlights. The new Lexus Safety System Plus with forward collision prevention, now at a more affordable price point is also coming to the line. When we have a chance to see the new car live or test it will do a deeper dive on the new refresh. For now, if you see and angry ES and like the look, it is the new 2016.


Ken (not verified)    March 9, 2016 - 9:26PM

I said ugly to myself when I 1st saw it months ago and find it funny how its got so much attention, its like its a movement, rarely do we get together on an ugly car feature. Lexux will eventually see drop in sales or returns. Imagine showing your friends your new car and they all see front and say thats ugly, you might take it back, especially if it is your girl friend who said its ugly, or worse; say you surprise your wife or husband with a brand new car "Happy Birthday Dear" ug, hun the front is kinda ugly :( Lexus you ruined our celebration with your ugly front end, so now we are gonna go get a vette :)

Collette (not verified)    March 23, 2016 - 8:57PM

As a former Lexus owners, my husband and I have been anxiously waiting for Lexus to get rid of that UGLY screaming front grill so we can buy a new one. But NOOOO! It isn't happening. What is the fascination with a wide mouthed front grill that looks like an Ad for a Bass Pro Shop? They've changed the beautifully proportioned look of the Lexus with something that IS far out and horrid. It's a shame.

John Goreham    March 24, 2016 - 8:57AM

In reply to by Collette (not verified)

Your opinion is as valid as anyone's, but it hard to argue the change was not a huge success. The IS doubled in sales when the change was made. The New NX is now at the top of the market with sales with the same design competing against conservative Audi and BMW designs.

IMO (not verified)    April 27, 2017 - 8:26AM

In reply to by John Goreham

I think there may be more to the sales stories of the IS and NX. Both of those cars target a younger demographic of which may appreciate the new look. I doubt too many families are buying either of those smaller cars. When looking at the lineup, and trying to find one that looks acceptable, these two have to be near the top, because of their size, and proportions. Style is a personal thing, of course and not everyone will like the same thing. Its too bad that the same style was applied to all of their cars.

Beyond the style there are practical reasons that make the current designs less desirable. ANY contact with the front grills will now cause damage. Having the luxury to withstand a 5mph or less bump is always nice, especially in a parking lot or when parallel parking. It seems to be an unfortunate trend as I've seen other brands now doing the same thing.

I can't help but think that there sales numbers would be up considerably if they would have toned down the other vehicles, or added additional choices that weren't so "aggressive".

Suze (not verified)    March 28, 2016 - 5:32PM

I have owned Lexus RXs since 2000, first when we lived in Europe and the three more cars when we moved back to the States. Well, that ended today when I took delivery of my MB GLC SUV. I just couldn't stomach the combination of the ugly-as-sin grill and additional 10 inches length of the new RX. Really wanted to stay with Lexus, but just couldn't.

John Goreham    March 28, 2016 - 8:51PM

In reply to by Suze (not verified)

We have something in common. I have a 2007 Highlander on the shorter wheelbase that I love. Toyota bloated the Highlander to a size I don't want anymore either. I am looking closely at a Forester 2.5i Premium. Looks are not high on my priority list, but the Forester's simplicity and similar size and shape to the Highlander and its affordability have me considering leaving the family too. BTW, I am keeping the Highlander for my son and trading in a Lexus IS 350C. Enjoy the GLC. A great vehicle.

mlmcgee (not verified)    June 20, 2016 - 10:30AM

I personally love the look of the spindle grill....Gives the car a fresh. modern, distinctive, muscular aggressive look. Only hope that it can survive minor front end bumps like the real bumper it replaces.

my2cents (not verified)    July 11, 2016 - 3:40AM

The IS sales likely increased because the cars target audience is a younger demographic, as is the NX. The larger vehicles ES, RX, etc... have a different audience. It sure seems like Lexus would be more successful offering a broader range of styling choices, rather than assuming all buyers would prefer a radically different design on all of their choices. Also, it seems that styling has taken a front seat to any form of practicality. Whats the cost to fix that grill if you bump something at few miles an hour? There is nothing to prevent damage.

Milton (not verified)    July 11, 2016 - 11:42AM

In reply to by my2cents (not verified)

I can't see a company as conservative as Toyota putting anything on any of their cars that was not safe. I believe the spindle grill is stronger than it appears. Cars still have to pass minimum bumper impact tests. I drive the LS version of the spindle and I love it. However, the LS does have a suedo bumper on its version of the spindle. There is no outwardly visible bumper on the newer models though. It has to be somehow reinforced to sustain minor bumps. I personally do everything possible not to bump anything with my car. I only hope that everyone else exercises the same level of caution by not bumping me. So far, I've been lucky.

Tracy (not verified)    January 3, 2017 - 3:16AM

I ran across this article while doing research on when Lexus would change their grill design. I would love to buy a Lexus, but won't with the current design.. Too unattractive. Change is good, but was this design really the best choice? Really?. It is interesting that I have not read a single post which supports the attractiveness of the spindle grill. Buyers are accepting it, but sales would be higher with a much more appealing design.... no doubt. In the meantime, I will wait on the sidelines.

Ron (not verified)    January 27, 2017 - 7:25PM

I have owned 6 different Lexus vehicles, but the ugly grill is keeping me from buying another. I hate to leave to another brand because I love every Lexus that I have owned, but I can't get myself to purchase a fugly that I have to look at every day.

Bernard chan (not verified)    February 5, 2017 - 5:54AM

Have been with RX since 1999 till 2013 model due to how lovely when it be seen. Nut, last month, just bought a new Macan since new RX's grill are resemblance to deep-sea creature.

Peggy (not verified)    February 25, 2017 - 2:26PM

I bought a new house last year and with that I was going to upgrade from my 2010 RX 350 to a new 2017, after I closed escrow. I was in the showroom and could not believe what I was seeing. It's the ugliest front end I've ever seen. I kept going around the car as if something were going to change but of course it didn't. In my head I thought someone needs to be fired. So I decided to fire myself from Lexus and now I'm the proud owner of a new Cad XT5. BYE Lexus I have never had such a guttural reaction to something that looks like it's been fatal car crash and your trying to replace the front end with the cheapest and ugliest material you could find.

Joseph (not verified)    June 1, 2017 - 5:35PM

There is a difference in designing an automobile or a carnival ride. The new RX is as much a carnival ride in looks as the ridiculous Nissan Juke. Over all ridiculous from every angle. No class.

J. Cap (not verified)    August 27, 2017 - 7:08AM

Grill on Camry and Lexus models is patterned after the Darth Vader helmet. Or could it be something else. My son calls them, "the inter-galactic insect grills." Either way, they were created by designers who probably knew better but caved to the demands of bean counters. They can repent with good designs in future models.

Brian Rombough (not verified)    September 23, 2017 - 12:06PM

Have owned lexus cars before and currently own a 2010 RX350 which both my wife and I enjoy. Also own a 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee with diesel engine which keeps running like the battery bunny. Would like to purchase a new lexus but won't until they change the ugly grille. I am looking at the Audi Q5 or Q7 which are outstanding vehicles. Wake up Lexus..

edwin schwartz (not verified)    July 15, 2018 - 1:25PM

the new grill is plain dumb ugly

If it is making great sales, good for Lexus, but the grill is still ugly.

James Peters (not verified)    November 12, 2018 - 10:49AM

My Lexus GX was one of the best cars I have ever owned, however when it was time to replace it I could not get past the "cow catcher" ugly grill. I replaced it with a new BMW X5 50i and am sorry I kept the Lexus so long. The BMW is great.

Roxanne Harding (not verified)    May 16, 2021 - 9:27PM

Wanted to buy a new Lexus but I don't like the look of the new grill so I won't. Looks like the mouth of a manatee or nurse shark.

Marianne L Hockema (not verified)    December 28, 2023 - 6:11PM

In reply to by Roxanne Harding (not verified)

Hideous, hideous, hideous. Designers either have phallic insecurities themselves or are watching too many video games. Looks like cow catchers on early trains . . or an adolescent boy with buck teeth. I have a 2015 lexus and love it . but cannot abide spending so much money on another whose snout is a major, major eyesore. Wondering if there is an after market "kit" that could be used to cover the damn nose up. What are they thinking??????????????????