Changes are few for the 2003 version of the midsize front-wheel-drive ES 300 sedan from Toyotas luxury division. Power-adjustable accelerator and brake pedals can now be installed, but those are the only notable revisions for the four-door thats been the companys most popular passenger car.
Redesigned, enlarged and dubbed all new for the 2002 model year, the ES 300 is geared toward providing a passenger experience closer to that of the companys more costly LS 430. Leather upholstery and walnut wood decorate the interior, which can be equipped with a DVD-based navigation system and an audiophile-quality Mark Levinson stereo setup.
The ES 300 once served as the hottest product in the Lexus lineup, but its been eclipsed in popularity by the RX 300 sport utility vehicle and to a lesser extent the sporty rear-wheel-drive IS 300 sedan. The ES 300 sedans main rival is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Sharp contour lines are evident up front, and chiseled character lines run down the bodysides. The ES 300 features sculpted hood lines and combination headlight clusters. Automatic-leveling high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights that include rain-sensing wipers and extend along the curve of the fender tops are available.
Lexus claims that body gaps in the ES 300 are even narrower than in the prior generation, which add to the sedans precision appearance. The sedans wheelbase is 107.1 inches, and it measures 191.1 inches long overall. Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires, and a power moonroof is standard. An Adaptive Variable Suspension is optional.
Five occupants should have ample space inside the ES 300. 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 powered rear sunshade, wood steering wheel and DVD-based navigation system with a three-position tilt screen are optional. Heated front seats and adjustable brake and accelerator pedals are also available.
Under the Hood
The 210-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 is the same engine used in the previous ES 300 generation. It teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission that Lexus says operates with intelligence. A drive-by-wire throttle system was borrowed from the LS 430. The ES 300 meets Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) standards.
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 aid in stabilizing the vehicle, is optional. The system includes a Brake Assist feature that applies full braking force in a manner thats faster than the driver could in emergency stops.