The ES 300 used to be the hottest item in the Lexus lineup by posting the highest annual sales and, as the entry-level model, drawing new customers to Toyotas luxury brand.
Now, however, the RX 300 sport utility vehicle is the most popular Lexus model, and the company is trying to create a more youthful, vigorous image with a new entry-level model: the sporty, rear-drive IS 300 sedan.
Where does that leave the front-drive ES 300 sedan that is based on the Toyota Camry? The ES 300 is in a holding pattern until the 2002 or 03 model year, when a redesigned model will arrive again sharing components with the Camry.
The ES 300 has the same 105-inch wheelbase as the Camry but is about 2 inches longer at 190 overall. The only exterior panels the two share are the rocker panels the body parts below the doors.
The ES 300 has the usual seats for five and standard cloth upholstery. The optional leather is the same kind used in the flagship LS 430 sedan. Like the LS 430, the ES has genuine wood trim and a richly furnished interior with a similar look.
Automatic climate control, power front seats, remote keyless entry and a theft-deterrent system are standard.
Under the Hood
The 3.0-liter V-6 engine is the same one available in the Camry, but it produces 10 horsepower more at 210 in the ES 300 because of different intake and exhaust systems. A four-speed automatic is the only transmission choice.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats, antilock brakes and traction control are standard. Vehicle Skid Control, which controls wheel slip to help stabilize the vehicle, is optional. It includes a brake assist feature that applies full braking force faster than the driver can in emergency stops.
The ES 300 is everything people like about the Camry, plus it has more amenities, a more luxurious interior and the extra service that comes with the Lexus brand. It is smooth, quiet, luxurious and practically bulletproof in its reliability and durability.
Compared to Audis and BMWs, however, it lacks spirit and a sporting flair. The ES 300 has all the right features and impeccable quality, but it doesnt stir emotions the way some rivals do, which is why Lexus added the IS 300 to its lineup.