1996 Lexus ES 300 Long Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

1996 Lexus ES 300 Long Term Road Test

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Tape Player Review

February 5, 2013

1996 Lexus ES 300

As Phil noted in a previous post, the cassette player doesn't eject tapes. It takes a bit of timing to finally dislodge a tape, hitting the eject button, then quickly lifting the cassette with a narrow fingertip to clear the opening. Not a big deal, especially since I'm one of the few on staff that still uses period-correct mixtapes.

The player itself is pretty good, I must admit. I was assuming that it would have an auto-detect feature for metal tapes, just like our NSX had, and I was right. I popped in a TDK MA-XG and up came a "METAL" indicator on the LCD display. Sweet.

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Broken CD Changer

December 25, 2012

1996 Lexus ES 300

The trunk-mounted CD changer in our 1996 Lexus ES 300 is broken. Well, it's not broken per se, but it doesn't play CDs so it may as well be broken.

Oh, and there's a cassette stuck in that player so it's nothing but silence and the sweet, soothing grinding of a 152,000-mile V6. Terrestrial radio is 100% unacceptable.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 152,854 miles

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Wayback Machine

July 12, 2012

ES 300 entertain 1.jpg

Here are the entertainment system controls in our ES 300. Some would call this setup primitive, but it's actually not bad, and well thought out, ergonomically speaking. Everything you need to control the radio and tape player are within easy reach. Same goes for the CD player, provided you loaded the changer in the trunk before you left.

I like the FM 1/2 selector -- no one needs more than 12 stations -- and the three rocker buttons for changing them. I also like having the audio controls right where you can see them, rather than buried deep in an electronic menu.

On the way to work today, I played music that's 22 years older than this car. Joni Mitchell's "Court and Spark" sounded just fine on my old homemade cassette, even with the pop and hiss picked up from the LP. It conjured up a long solo Highway1 drive I made years ago, when Mitchell's moody songs played out before me,"breaking like the waves at Malibu," to borrow her phrase.

What's your favorite vintage album for vintage-car drive?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @146,319 miles

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1996 Lexus ES 300: The Rontoya Replies

July 05, 2012


The Lexus ES 300 has become the unofficial responsibility of Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate, Edmunds.com. Montoya has bought and sold all of our long-term test cars (including this one), and this has made him the master of all things practical about automobiles in general. He is the speaker of automotive truth -- the Rontoya.

So when anyone is about to take the key to the ES 300, they inevitably ask Montoya, "Do you think the Lexus will make it all the way to (insert name of destination)?"

Utterly practical as always, the Rontoya inevitably responds, "If it made it across the country and back -- 7,200 miles -- it will get you to (insert name of destination)."

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 146,180 miles   

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1996 Lexus ES 300: A Nagging Problem Fixed

June 18, 2012

Lexus Colorado.jpg 

I've been holding off writing about this because I wanted to have some resolution before I said anything. The first day of driving cross-country the check engine light came on. My approach to CELs is to see if there are any sudden new noises, weird smells, a change in performance or a drop off in fuel economy. If the answer to all these things is no, then reading the code can wait. Since none of these warning signs were present, I decided to look for the first chance to read the code but kept driving.

The next day the CEL went off. And then the following day the CEL came on again. Since it was going on and off it seemed that whatever was triggering the light was borderline.

When I reached my father's house in Barre, Mass., I used his code reader and got a code of P0401. A quick Google search showed that this was caused by the EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve. I found a wonderful little how-to about fixing the EGR valve, which showed me how to locate it on the top of the engine. I was pleased with what I found.

 A small hose was lying unconnected on top of the EGR valve (near the yellow tip of the pen I set on it). The hose may have inadvertently been knocked off when other work was done on the engine. It was a simple matter to push it back into place. I used the code reader to clear the code and, 1,500 miles later, it hasn't reappeared. And I've made it all the way to Colorado where I'm staying with my brother in the mountains above Denver.  

Wouldn't it be nice if all repairs were this easy?

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 145,690 miles

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Peace of Mind

June 08, 2012


I'm fully prepared to deal with any medical emergencies that might arise on my cross country trip, I'll quickly go to the trunk and use first aid kit which has been resting there, undisturbed since the car was purchased some time in 1995 (note vintage bandages).

Just under the first-aid kit you'll notice an equally ancient CD changer. Before leaving, I got three hefty books on tape to take me across country and back. Stephen King's novel 11/22/63 has 30 discs! I loaded up the cartridge. When I pressed play all I got was an error message. At first I thought it was going to be an awfully long trip. But then I remembered something. When I first started working at Edmunds I used a similar cartridge and the discs had to go in upside down. At the next rest area I flipped all of my discs and -- success! Now have a gripping tale to help me pass the time as I drive.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 140,866 miles

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Zydeco Speedo

May 29, 2012

zydeco speedo still.jpg

I've driven our ES300 a half-dozen times since we acquired it, and have taken advantage of its cassette player to dust off and listen to some old mix tapes, a bit of Windham Hill and some Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Ah, youth.

As I was playing a Cajun/zydeco compilation a couple weeks ago, I realized I wasn't the only one who liked the Louisiana groove. Hit the jump to watch our car's speedometer dance along.

Maybe we should take it down on the bayou for some crawfish etouffee.


Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor

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1996 Lexus ES300: 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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