Used 1996 Lexus ES 300 Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

Two new colors are available.

Vehicle overview

Based on the hugely successful Toyota Camry, the ES 300 is the 'entry-level' Lexus. Priced at about the same level as larger, more plush premium American sedans, the smaller ES 300 is more nimble, solid and refined, and is as reliable rain in Seattle.

The only options available on this car are leather trim, a sunroof, heated front seats and a CD player. Everything else is standard. A 3.0-liter twin-cam V6 powers the front wheels, providing swift acceleration. Four-wheel antilock brakes haul the ES down from 60 mph in short order, and your choice of Goodyear, Dunlop or Firestone V-rated tires keep the ES 300 glued to the road.

The cabin is well insulated from the buzz of the outside world, and a premium Nakamichi sound system does a fair impression of the Boston Pops performing at the Hollywood Bowl. The optional leather seats are well bolstered and provide an excellent seating position. Ergonomics, in the Lexus tradition, are unbeatable.

For 1995, the ES has undergone a slight revision of the front and rear fascias, and chrome wheels are optional. The ES 300 is a remarkable car, but we have a difficult time justifying buying one. The Toyota Camry XLE V6, outfitted with leather and all the trimmings, is powered by the same drivetrain and rides on many of the same underpinnings for thousands less. If a Lexus badge really means that much to you, the ES 300 is a great car, but we'll opt for the less prestigious Camry and use the savings to go white water rafting or something.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.