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2001 Lexus ES 300 Road Test

By CharlesOfria

Category: $30,000 to $35,000 Near Luxury Sedan
Who should buy this car: A person who is looking for a mid-sized sedan that is a cut above the average sedan is styling, comfort, luxury and performance.
Comparable cars in this class: Acura 3.2 TL,  BMW 3 Series, Cadillac Catera, Chrysler 300M, Infiniti I30, Lexus IS300, Lincoln LS, Mercedes C Class, Oldsmobile Aurora, Saab 9-5, 

ver fall in love with a car?  If you are looking for acomfortable, good looking sedan withroom for five and you like to drive, this could be the one that does it for you. When Lexus introduced the ES 300 in 1991 as a '92 model, it helped create a newmarket segment called "Near Luxury Sedan", which it has dominated ever since.  This market segment has steadily grown over the years andcurrently has almost a dozen excellent cars to choose from.  In fact, oneof those cars is another, equally priced Lexus called the IS300. These two models from Lexus cater to opposite driver personalities.  The ES300 is acomfortable smooth, quiet, front-wheel drive luxury sedan while the IS300 is a fast,small, crisp handling rear-wheel drive sports sedan. Both cars have a startingprice of around $31,000. Click here forthe road test of the Lexus IS300 Sports Sedan

From the clean attractive style to the well laid out cabin to the world-classfit and finish, the ES300 seems to have it all.  On the road, it manages tocombine a smooth and comfortable ride with impeccable road manners.  Go power comes from a 210 HP 3.0L V6 enginehooked up to a 4-speedelectronically controlled automatic transmission driving the front wheels while whoapower is handled by 4-wheel disk brakes with Anti-Lock and Electronic BrakeAssist.  In fact, the only fault that I could find is that the ES300 shares its body structure and mechanicals with the Toyota Camry.  It's notthat the Camry is a bad car, quite the contrary, the Camry is an excellentplatform for any car to be based on.  The only problem is that, in somepeople's minds, the associationwith the mundane Camry dilutes the exclusivity that normally goes with the Lexusnameplate.

The$5,000 premium over the price of a top-of-the-line Camry XLE V6 gives you a fewadditional goodies besides the more exclusive Lexus badge and the right topatronize the award-winning Lexus service centers.  You get a more powerfulV6 engine with VVTi (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) and a wonderful sounding 3-way bypassexhaust system,  Other features over the Camry include: better sound deadening, The clear,easy-to-read Lexus instrument cluster,  Automatic Climate Control AirConditioning and 10 way driver and 8 way front passenger power seats.  Infact, when you sit behind the wheel, there isn't a hint of its Camryorigins.  Thisis a well appointed, comfortable, friendly interior with high-quality leather,real California Walnut wood trim, perfect placement of the controls and gauges and the impeccable fit and finish that is so typical of Lexus.

Driving this car, I had a sense of control that was both reassuring and enjoyable.On winding, undulating roads the ES300 handled nimbly and felt smaller than itactually was while the ride remained luxury car smooth and quiet, adifficult combination to achieve.  Noise isolation was exceptional withminimal wind noise and only the wonderfully rich but muffled engine sound comingthrough during hardacceleration.  Computer controls allow the 3.0L V6 engine to run fine onregular fuel but would take advantage of the extra octane if filled withhi-test.  Acceleration from 0 to 60 on premium gas takes 8.3 seconds, aboutaverage for this class.

The ES300 caters to the driver who justwants to go, stop and steer and let the car do everything elseautomatically.  To that end, there are no sport shift patterns orperformance ranges on the four speed automatic, you just put it in Drive andgo. This is a smooth cruiser that cocoons you and feels right in yourhands, obeying every input accurately and predictably with a minimum of effort. If it's driver involvement that you want, then look at the LexusIS300 instead.  

Traction during high-speed cornering was excellent due to the optional V speed-rated16" all season tires.  The optional Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) system(which includes Brake Assist) also helped as did the adaptive variable suspension system.  VSC helps maintain vehicle stability on slippery or dry road surfaces by detecting andthen correcting understeer and oversteerconditions.  It works by applying individual brakes and reducing enginepower in order to bring the vehicle backunder control.  Brake Assist determines if the driver is attempting emergency braking, and, if the driver hasnot stepped hard enough on the brake pedal, the system adds the force needed toengage ABS on all four wheels. Adaptive Variable Suspension uses a computerto adjust the shocks as you drive thereby improving the ride as well as thestability.  The ridestays soft when you are cruising but can instantly stiffen up if you startproducing G-forces on your favorite winding road.

The only problem that I noticed as I flung this car through its paces was that the seats weren't shaped to hold youin place during hard cornering, and to make matters worse, the leather wasquite slippery causing me to struggle to keep myself planted behind the wheel. Of course, the ES300 was not designed to be a race car, it is a luxury sportsedan with the emphasis on comfort and that is the characteristic that most owners will appreciateover everything else. 

In my opinion, this is one of the nicest looking sedans on the road with clean,flowing lines and excellent proportions when viewed from any angle.  Behindthe wheel, it felt like an old friend who was ready to do my bidding, noquestions asked. Another important point is that the ES300 has a reputation for being one of themost reliable cars on the road.  Like a certain pink bunny, it keeps goingand....  Well,you get the idea.

The ES300 has been on my favorites list since it was introduced in model year1992.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting acquainted with this car and was sorrywhen it came time to give it back.

Do you have any feedback on the Lexus ES300?  Any opinions or experiencesof your own?  We would love to hear from you. 
Clickhere to send us your comments

Clickhere for more pictures of the ES-300

How would I improve this car?

  • Lexus should think about adding a navigation system which is becoming a popular option on other cars in this class.
  • Dual zone climate control would be nice. 
  • Not much else 

How does the ES-300 fit yourdriving style? 

Conservative drivers Smooth, comfortable and quiet, easy to control and predictable inany driving situation.  You will betempted to keep this car after the lease is up.  It's thatgood.  

Sporty drivers will love the way this car handles winding country roads, it seems to read your mind.

Fast drivers With the optional 16" V-rated tires, cornering grip is tenacious,  Thiscar seems to be ideal for all three driving styles.  As I have said, it seems to do everything right.


Engine Type 3-liter DOHC V6, Cast aluminum block and  heads. Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i).  
Compression Ratio 10.5 : 1
Horsepower 210 @ 5,800 RPM
Torque 220 @ 4,400 RPM
Fuel Recommended Premium 91 Octane Unleaded.  Regular fuel can be used with reduced performance
Transmission Four Speed Electronically Controlled Automatic
Tires - Standard
No-charge option
P205/65R15   V-speed rated High Performance summer tires
P205/60R16 V-speed rated High Performance All Season tires
Overall Length 190.2"
Wheelbase 105.1
Width 70.5"
Turning Diameter 36.7 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 3,373
Fuel Tank 18.5 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 20, hwy 28. 
Acceleration 0 to 60 8.3 Seconds
Top Track Speed 140 mph
Base Sticker Price $31,505 + 495 destination charge

Standard Equipment
Lexus ES-300 Front Wheel Drive Sport Sedan

  • 3.0-liter V6-cylinder engine, 210 HP, 220 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Four-speed electronic automatic transmission
  • Front ventilated and rear solid disk brakes
  • 15" x 6.0" alloy wheels with 205/65 R15 tires
  • 10-way power driver's seat and eight-way power passenger seat 
  • Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
  • Traction Control (TRAC) 
  • Alarm with immobilizer, and in-key remote control
  • Automatic climate control Air Conditioning
  • Cruise control
  • 195-watt, seven-speaker premium audio system with cassette player 
  • Auto-dimming electrochromic inside rear-view and driver's side-view mirrors
  • Tilt-adjustable steering wheel
  • Power windows with driver and  front passenger one-touch up/down
  • UV and infrared-filter tinted glass
  • Daytime running lights
  • Genuine California walnut trim
  • Leather-covered steering wheel
  • Trunk pass-through
  • Tool kit
  • First aid kit 

Major Available Options

  • Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS)
  • Vehicle Skid Control (VSC)
  • Gold Emblem Kit
  • Heated Front Seats
  • High Intensity Discharge (HID) Headlamps 
  • Leather Trim Package (includes driver seat memory system)
  • Nakamichi Premium Audio System
  •  Lexus In-Dash 6 CD Auto-Changer
  • Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof with Sunshade 
  • Wood Steering Wheel
  • Tires: 16"
  • Chrome Wheels

For more information on the ES 300, visit

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