1996 Lexus ES 300 Long Term Road Test

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Vegas Road Trip

May 16, 2012

 Lexus in Vegas.JPG

Last month, I drove our long-term Lexus ES300 to Las Vegas to attend a Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) Dealer convention, at the organization’s invitation. This BHPH convention was a gathering of dealers to discuss best practices and to get a feel for where the industry stands at the moment.

It was actually the second Vegas run the car made after we purchased it, but I’ll leave the story of that trip to Phil Reed, our senior consumer advice editor, who is on sabbatical until July.

As we discussed our convention visit with one of the dealer association’s representatives, he questioned whether an average buyer could find a reliable and inexpensive used car in our target $3,500 price range, since it was tough for the dealers themselves to find anything decent for under $5,000.

Buying our Lexus wasn't a cakewalk, but it was certainly doable, and we found one for much less than $5K. Since the convention was being held in the far corner of the Caesar's Palace, I didn't have the chance to show off the car to the convention attendees. But I took comfort in knowing that the car made it to Vegas and back without any issues.

As for the trip itself, I found the Lexus to be very comfortable to drive in long stretches. The cruise control and auto climate control both work and I used them for most of the way. I drove a total of about 600 miles and I was pretty consistent with my driving style. My first tank on the way to Vegas, and a portion of the return trip, I averaged 27.4 mpg. I drove less miles on the return tank and also averaged 27.4 mpg. This is almost 1.5 more mpg than the EPA's highway estimate.

For entertainment our Lexus has a tape deck in the front and a multi-disc CD changer in the trunk. My colleagues suggested I get a tape adapter so I could listen to the full music collection on my iPhone, rather than be limited to a few CDs. But I went with something more modern. I have a portable Bluetooth speaker that I placed on the front seat. This device has great sound quality for music, and also has a microphone so I could take calls. I kept my iPhone’s battery topped off with a car charger that plugged into the cigarette lighter.

This setup was working well enough until I realized I couldn't turn off the speaker. Sitting in the sun had fused the speaker’s power button into a permanent "on" position. I'm hoping it's still under warranty.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor @ 137,464 miles

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