1996 Lexus ES 300 Long Term Road Test

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Driving Without Shame

August 07, 2012

1996_les300_r34_lexus_callaway.jpg

We’re trying not to be ashamed of driving an old used car.  We take it places, and we’re trying hard not to think of the Lexus as something second-rate.

For example, I drove it to the big grand opening of the Callaway Cars facility here in Santa Ana, California. As you can imagine, it didn’t exactly fit in with all the 500-hp Corvettes. At least the Lexus has chrome wheels.

As we’re all learning, it takes some courage to drive an old used car without shame. That’s because your fellow motorists treat you badly.

For example, there’s always some bright spark cutting you off on the freeway or squeezing in front of you in the middle of commute traffic. You’re going to get the second-best guy at the car wash, and he might forget to dry the mirrors. People will park very close at the big box store and not leave room enough for you to squeeze into the driver side door.  And in latitudes where brakes are apparently rendered inoperative and so instead your fellow motorists use the car horn to clear their path, you will get honked at with surprising frequency.

The Lexus helps me remember that the automobile is pretty much the way most of us represent ourselves to the people around us, and if you’re wearing the automotive equivalent of a haircut from the 1980s (all of which were bad, no matter which gender), you’re going to be treated like some kind of particularly loathsome catfish.

But we’re trying to cope without the automotive intimidation factor that is such a useful aspect of driving a new car.  (If you don’t believe vehicles are styled to intimidate, you should take a long look at the grilles of German luxury sedans and American pickup trucks.)

Personally I’m trying to be a bit more elbows-out in traffic. And when it comes to events like that at Callaway Cars, I simply remind people that this Lexus is a well-preserved example of the finest Toyota Camry ever built.

It’s not just an old used car.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 147,351 miles

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