1996 Lexus ES 300 Long-Term Road Test

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Farewell, Old Friend

March 25, 2013

1996 Lexus ES 300

Our long-term 1996 Lexus ES 300 rode off into the sunset this week. An Edmunds employee bought it, and in the process, the car made a bit of Edmunds history.

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Bonding

March 22, 2013

1996 Lexus ES 300

I took this picture to riff on how small the mirrors are in this 1996 Lexus ES 300. But now it seems a fitting farewell photo as the car leaves our fleet.

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Jiffy Lube Vindicated

March 12, 2013

1996 Lexus ES 300

In our popular article "Stop Changing Your Oil," we were critical of Jiffy Lube for recommending too-frequent oil changes. We had heard that Jiffy Lube had changed; that its techs would give customers manufacturer recommended oil change intervals. Since we needed to get an oil change before getting a smog test — and needed that inspection before selling it — we decided to go back to Jiffy Lube and see how things had changed.

We even decided to try playing "gotcha journalism." Here's what happened.

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Sunny Greenhouse

February 11, 2013

1996 Lexus ES 300

Notice anything about our 1996 Lexus ES 300 besides the stunning gold kit? Look at all that glass in the rear window. While it might not be as safe in an accident, the increased visibility might actually help avoid collisions.

When I drive this car, lane changes are stress-free. That's because I don't feel like I'm looking out at the world through a peephole of a Sherman tank.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor, @ 153,358 miles

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1996 Lexus ES 300: New Headlight Bulb Impressions

December 21, 2012

1996 Lexus ES 300

We installed new headlight bulbs in our long-term 1996 Lexus ES 300 last month. The photo above shows the previous bulbs. I have a few impressions and photos of the new bulbs after the jump.

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Helmets Optional

December 06, 2012

es300_helmets_1600.jpg

Recently our 1996 Lexus ES 300 joined a convoy of long-term cars that, together, shuttled a small army of journalists to a local track day. Prior to one particular exercise the instructor infromed us, "There's no need for helmets on this one. Go ahead and set them down someplace."

I'm not one to point fingers, so when a nameless cohort walked over to our innocent ES 300 parked nearby and plopped his helmet on the trunk, we laughed. Then we followed suit. But I promise, it was done out of love and appreciation for its elegantly sweeping, but more importantly, flat trunk lid.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 151,970 miles

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1996 Lexus ES300: Silver Trumps Gold

November 23, 2012

lexus a.jpg 

I spent a few minutes the other day just admiring the lean silhouette of our Lexus. Muscular curves are all well and good, but there's something classic and elegant about this sedan's more slender, stretched-out approach to design.

Aesthetically, there's just one thing about the car's exterior that bugs me... 

...and it's this: its gold badging. Gold just strikes me as being on the garish side. And while I think the car's sheet metal still looks attractive and fairly current, the gold badging is the one aspect of the vehicle's appearance that screams "1990s." 

Are you a fan of gold badging?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor  

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Let There Be (Better) Light

November 19, 2012


ES 300 Headlights.jpg I was getting ready to put the Philips X-treme Power headlight bulbs into our 1996 Lexus ES 300 when I had a chance to take this picture. I parked the ES (left) next to Mark Holthoff's 1999 Mercedes-Benz CL500 with xenon headlights. The difference is pretty obvious. The ES's lights are yellowed while the Benz throws a nice clean white light.

Sunday afternoon I popped the new bulbs in with high hopes to rival Mark's beams. Here's what happened. 

First of all, I discovered one of the ES's high beams was burned out so I had to run down to the local auto parts story where I bought Sylvania Silver Star for $39 (minus one of those really irritating $15 mail in rebates). Then, I had to take out the battery to gain access to one of the low beam bulbs. But I was done in less than an hour with all four bulbs blazing away. 

Next time I get together with Mark I'll shoot an "after" picture. But I did drive the ES back up to the same location and eyeballed the result of the new bulbs. There is no question that they are brighter now but, because of the yellowed headlight lens, they now cast a brighter yellow light. So, as many of the commenters have said, need to clear the headlight lens too.  That will be the next DIY project. 

Philip Reed, Edmunds.com Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 151,763 miles

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Cataracts

November 12, 2012

1996_es300_det_toyota_lt_headlight.jpg 

Good thing the roads in California are lined with reflective markers, because otherwise I might have driven the Lexus ES 300 into the ocean last night.

I'm not saying the headlights are weak, but the last time I saw a light pattern like this, I was riding an ISDT-style Husqvarna dirt bike with a headlight the size of a baseball. If you wanted more light, you just revved the engine harder.

The Rontoya tells me that the Lexus had its headlight lenses cleared with a Mequiars kit about six months ago, but it seems like the plastic has become occluded again. Maybe another treatment is required? Or maybe the bulbs are toasted?  Or the little electron running around inside the ES have grown feeble?

Probably you wouldn't notice the headlights while driving around in the city, since there are plenty of other cars to light the road around you, not to mention streetlights.  But when it gets fully dark, the difference between the Lexus' headlights and new cars is dramatic.

We'll look into it.  Probably we'll be polishing the plastic again.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 151,022 miles

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1996 Lexus ES 300: The View

November 05, 2012

Lexus ES rear window.jpg

I noticed something different about our old Lexus ES 300 when I started merging into traffic the other day.

What was it? 

I could easily see out of it. 

The A- and B-pillars are very slim by current standards, making the front and side views positively airy. The C-pillar is also reasonably narrow, while the semi-wraparound rear window is huge. 

I'm not going to say it's as structurally safe as today's cars. But damn, there's something to be said for being able to easily see the cars around you.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 150,865 miles.

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1996 Lexus ES 300: A Couple Other Minor Issues

October 19, 2012

 es_300_needles.jpg In an earlier ES post, a commenter noted that our gauges were looking pretty bad. And true enough, they are.

Actually, I think they've gotten worse since we bought the car. Carroll took an earlier picture of them, and while the needles were always flickering/burned out in that picture and video, it seems the number illumination was fine. But now we've lost illumination for part of the speedometer. It's not a huge problem, but it can be annoying not being able to easily tell what speed you're going. (And in daylight, it's actually worse than the above photo would seem to indicate.)

Ron Montoya's done some basic research. The fix entails pulling out the gauge cluster, disassembling it, and installing new bulbs. It looks like we've lost two bulbs so far. (And while we'd be at it, we probably just replace all of them.) Alternately, we can pull out the cluster and ship it to a guy in Wisconsin who repairs them for $99. He can also put in LED bulbs if you want, and will also fix the needles.

We haven't decided what to do yet.

The other thing possibly needing attention: our ES has got a couple leaks (oil, I think). Not terrible, and not unexpected for a car of this age. But it's also something it might be worth checking out during its upcoming 150,000-mile service.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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