Calling its ES 300 all new, Lexus has redesigned the midsize front-drive sedan. We wanted to bring the passenger experience much closer to the Lexus flagship, the LS 430, says David VandeLinde, Lexus vehicle distribution manager for the central region. The ES 300s main rival is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Lexus expects to sell about 50,000 units per year.
Built on a new platform, the 2002 model is 2.5 inches longer than its predecessor and rides a wheelbase thats 2 inches longer than before. Sharp contour lines are evident up front, with chiseled character lines down the bodysides. Automatic-leveling high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights extend along the curve of the fender tops.
Although the horsepower rating of the 3.0-liter V-6 is unchanged, it promises better acceleration and gas mileage. The ES 300 also meets Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) standards. A new drive-by-wire throttle system is borrowed from the LS 430.
Suspension geometry has been modified, and an Adaptive Variable Suspension remains available. Lexus electronic stability system, called Vehicle Skid Control, is an option. New curtain-type airbags augment the seat-mounted side-impact airbags. Leather upholstery and walnut wood decorate the interior, which can be equipped with a DVD-based navigation system and a Mark Levinson stereo setup.
Once the hottest product in the Lexus lineup and drawing customers toward Toyotas luxury brand, the ES 300 has been eclipsed in popularity by the RX 300 sport utility vehicle and to a lesser extent the newer, sporty rear-drive IS 300 sedan.
Wearing a bigger body than before, the latest ES 300 features sculpted hood lines and combination headlight clusters. Lexus claims that body gaps are even narrower than before, which adds to the four-door sedans precision appearance. Wheelbase has increased to 107.1 inches, and overall length is 191.1 inches long. The new model is 57.3 inches high and 2.4 inches taller than the previous model. Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires, and a power moonroof is standard.
Increased exterior dimensions should translate to more space inside the five-passenger cabin. California walnut trim is used on the center console and all four doors. Both front seats are power-adjustable.
Standard equipment includes auto-dimming heated power mirrors, automatic dual-zone climate control, one-touch up/down power windows, a premium stereo with CD and cassette players, and a HomeLink programmable garage door opener. A power rear sunshade, seat/mirror memory system and DVD-based navigation system with a three-position tilt screen are optional. Adjustable brake and accelerator pedals may become optional early in 2002.
Under the Hood
The 210-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 is the same engine used in the previous generation. It teams with a new five-speed-automatic transmission that Lexus says operates with intelligence.
Antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, side-impact airbags for the front seats, and front and rear curtain-type airbags are standard. All seating positions have three-point seat belts. Vehicle Skid Control, which controls wheel slippage to help stabilize the vehicle, is still optional. It includes a Brake Assist feature that applies full braking force, faster than the driver could in emergency stops.