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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
September 26, 2003
Vehicle Overview The installation of a new 3.3-liter V-6 engine has transformed the midsize front-wheel-drive ES 300 sedan from Toyota’s luxury division into the ES 330. Power lumbar adjustment has been added to the front passenger seat, and the side-impact airbags have been enlarged. A maintenance indicator light is now installed, and the five-speed-automatic transmission has been modified.
Redesigned, enlarged and dubbed “all new” for the 2002 model year, the ES 300/ES 330 has been geared toward providing a passenger experience closer to that of the company’s more costly LS 430. Leather or fabric upholstery and genuine California walnut wood decorate the interior, which can be equipped with a DVD-based navigation system and an audiophile-quality Mark Levinson stereo setup with an in-dash six-CD changer.
In recent years, the ES model has been the company’s most popular passenger car by far. It once served as the hottest product in the Lexus lineup, but it’s been matched in popularity by the automaker’s sport utility vehicle, now called the RX 330. The ES 330 sedan’s main rival is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Exterior Sharp contour lines are evident up front, and chiseled character lines run down the bodysides. The ES 330 features sculpted hood lines and combination headlight clusters. The automatic-leveling high-intensity-discharge headlights include rain-sensing wipers and extend along the curve of the fender tops.
Narrow body gaps in the ES 330 add to the four-door’s precision appearance. Riding a 107.1-inch wheelbase, the sedan measures 191.1 inches long overall. Aluminum-alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires, and a one-touch power moonroof is standard. An optional Adaptive Variable Suspension continuously changes shock-absorber damping in response to road conditions, speed, steering, braking and vertical vehicle movement.
Interior Five people should have ample space inside the ES 330. 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 with air filtration, 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 and leather steering wheel, and DVD-based navigation system with a three-position tilt screen are optional. Heated front seats and power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedals are also available.
Under the Hood A new 225-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 engine that produces 240 pounds-feet of torque has replaced the prior 3.0-liter V-6. Lexus advises that the five-speed-automatic transmission operates with “intelligence.” The ES 330’s drive-by-wire throttle system was borrowed from the LS 430. The new V-6 engine meets ULEV-II (Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) standards.
Safety 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. Lexus’ Vehicle Skid Control electronic stability system, 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 emergency stops if the driver fails to apply sufficient pedal pressure.