1997 Lexus ES 300 Review

Pros & Cons

  • Beautiful new shape, more powerful engine, more interior space, and higher levels of luxury than the previous model.
  • Traction control isn't standard.
Other years
List Price Estimate
$740 - $1,785

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

Lexus makes some of the world's finest automobiles. The LS400 set the benchmark for luxury sedans when it was introduced, and the rest of the world is just now catching up. In fact, the totally redesigned Infiniti Q45, a very fine automobile, was compared in our favorite enthusiast magazine to a first generation LS400. The implication was that to even reach that standard required enormous effort.

The ES300, on the other hand, was considered a weak link in the mighty Lexus chain. Many automotive publications, including this one, called the ES300 a "Lexus for those who can't afford a real Lexus", or a "very nice Toyota Camry". This was not meant as an insult to the Camry, but there really wasn't much to distinguish the two vehicles.

Until this year. Both the Camry and the ES300 have been totally redesigned for 1997. Thankfully, they take divergent paths when it comes to sheetmetal and styling. The result for Lexus, is that they finally have an ES300 that doesn't look out of place when parked between and SC400 and GS300; it's actually part of the family.

The ES300's signature styling can be seen in its aggressive snout, with a low air dam that has integrated fog lamps. The ES300's character lines, on the hood and along the sides, work well with this car's increased size; giving the ES300 a presence that the former model was lacking.

The interior of the ES300 is improved by more standard features and greater space. Luxury touches like the optional in-dash CD changer, two-position memory seats, power lumbar support, and handsome burled wood apliques will make BMW 328i owners wonder why they put up with Spartan plastic and a cramped fit. The ES300 has neither.

Horsepower and torque are both improved in this year's ES300. The engine is strong, but this is not the type of car that people buy for serious sport driving. The suspension is a bit soft, despite the computer-controlled active damping suspension, and the heavy front weight bias makes the car too slow in the corners. Nevertheless, people who like goosing the go-pedal every now and then will not be disappointed.

It's nice to see the people at Lexus taking their entry-level car seriously. Now, we can too. If luxury and a bit of performance are what you are looking for, consider the ES300. It's a nice car, and it costs less than last year's model.

1997 Highlights

The entry-level Lexus has been totally redesigned this year, growing in nearly every dimension. Lexus manages to eke out more power from the ES 300's 3.0-liter V6 engine. No longer just a dressed-up Camry, the ES 300 has finally come into its own.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1997 Lexus ES 300.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Best Car Ever!
packagemaster,03/24/2011
4dr Sedan
I bought a '97 in spring of 06, with 150k miles already on it. I travel 110 miles per day, and I wanted a reliable comfortable, but cheap ride. Because of the miles, I got mine cheap. Fast forward, 2011. Now the car has 330k miles, and let me tell you, this car has been rock solid. This is list of everything I did for the car. (from my log book) 1 set of tires. 2 batteries. 8 sets of wiper blades. Oil change every 6-8k miles. (that's right) 4 air filters. 2 windshields. (rocks fly in Interstate) Front and rear Struts. 2 sets of brake pads for front, 1 set in back, 1 set of front rotors. 6 Headlight bulbs.. I'm looking forward to the next 180k miles. I know this car will make it.
Excellent, Excellent, Excellent car to own!
vijay,08/19/2015
4dr Sedan
Mine is Canadian car that I purchased in year 2006 with ODO reading at 210K. Current reading is 345K. Excellent, excellent, excellent car. I have used it over longer distances non-stop, nearly 1000 miles, as well as daily city use without any issue. The car is so smooth and reliable that I don't ever wish to leave it. Now it is my son's car and he is equally happy with it. It will stay in our family until it dies, we will not sell it. Issues and solutions till date are as follows: 1. Radio LCD display (faded); bought the part and replaced it myself (easy fix). 2. Serpentine belt changed at 215K. 3. Time belt and water pump changed at 310K. 4. Brakes, rotors and emergency brake at 315K. 5. The car trunk stopped responding to the remote or the internal button in the cabin. Sprayed WD40 through keyhole on the trunk, and in a few minutes the issue was resolved. 6. Rattling sound. Found rusty lose covers under the fuel tank and catalytic converter/exhaust pipe area. Got them removed. 7. Front shockers sound. Sprayed WD-40 at top of both shockers, sound gone. 8. Front leather seat stitch opened up while the leather was still in very good shape. Found a $17 leather patch being sold on Amazon. Applied this leather patch over the stitched area, and the seat is looking fantastic, and the ugly look of the opened stitch is gone. 9. Transmission shifting issues, which started after a transmission oil change. Put in a bottle of Lucas and continued to use the car with problems. Though the transmission will die eventually, however it recovered in about a month's time, and has been running smooth ever since. This issue happened at about 230K odometer reading. 10. some sound starting to come from the rear wheels at about 340K occasionally. On my own inspection, I found that dust cover plates behind the rear disc brakes were completely rusted, rotten and hanging loose. My car mechanic removed them completely and I have no intention to put new ones back on. That sound is gone now. All the issues above were so minor, and mostly I was able to find a solution and fix it on my own. Besides above, the only other issue was that at about 280K the rear valve cover started a minor leak. I do not intend to fix it as I know mechanics will open the engine and create more issues (I will run this car as long as the engine and transmission work). The car has developed rust on both sides of the rear wheels, as well as the clear top is peeling on the front driver's side too. The paint all over the rest of the car's body still is shiny new. I had it fixed for $900 (kind of new metal on the rusted area and nearly the whole car painted except the rooftop). After few days of painting, did apply "NuFinish" coat and it is mirror shining the black paint. Great car to own, drive and maintain.
The best car i have owned
Moses,11/01/2015
4dr Sedan
I bought the 1997 ES 300 model in IL 2 years ago. I have driven to Dallas, Kansas and Oklahoma on different occasions and it's simply the best. The engine is so quiet someone on the will find it hard to believe that you were driving. The fuel economy is about 20 mpg in the city and upto 28mpg on the freeway. Leather seats (heated) are an absolute steal.
the best luxury car you'll find ever
iantyler112,10/09/2014
4dr Sedan
it will take u places with no props it's powerful u can feel it and enjoy life and go places have fun with class with comfort

Safety

IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    0

More about the 1997 Lexus ES 300

Used 1997 Lexus ES 300 Overview

The Used 1997 Lexus ES 300 is offered in the following submodels: ES 300 Sedan. Available styles include 4dr Sedan. The Used 1997 Lexus ES 300 comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 4-speed automatic.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Lexus ES 300?

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Which used 1997 Lexus ES 300s are available in my area?

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Can't find a used 1997 Lexus ES 300s you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Lexus ES 300 for sale - 6 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $17,907.

Find a used Lexus for sale - 2 great deals out of 10 listings starting at $22,398.

Find a used certified pre-owned Lexus ES 300 for sale - 3 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $10,677.

Find a used certified pre-owned Lexus for sale - 12 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $11,740.

Should I lease or buy a 1997 Lexus ES 300?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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