1998 Lexus ES 300 Review

Pros & Cons

  • Attractive, roomy and powerful sedan is a bargain compared to comparable BMW and Mercedes-Benz models.
  • The model we tested had some build quality problems.
Other years
List Price Estimate
$1,143 - $2,755

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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-sedan excellence when it was introduced, and the rest of the world is just now catching up. The SC300 and SC400 sport coupes have likewise set the automotive world on its ear by blowing the doors off of traditional luxury sport coupes like the Cadillac Eldorado and Mercury Mark VIII in terms of refinement and elegance. The Lexus ES300, on the other hand, was always considered a weak link in the mighty Lexus chain. Many automotive publications, including this one, have called the ES300 a Lexus for those who can't afford the GS300, or a very nice Toyota Camry.

All of that changed in 1997 when the Camry and ES300 underwent significant redesigns. Thankfully Toyota decided that the Camry and ES300 should take divergent paths as far as styling and orientation were concerned. The result means that Lexus is finally blessed with an entry-level vehicle that deserves to wear the Lexus badge.

The most prominent feature of the ES300 has to be its aggressive snout, which juts forward with a large lower air dam and prominent fog lamps. The ES300's deep character lines along the hood and door panels work well, giving this car a distinguished appearance that the former model was lacking.

The interior of the ES300 is a nice place to spend time thanks to a high level of refinement and an abundance of standard equipment. Fine luxury touches such as the optional Nakamichi stereo, fine leather upholstery, attractive walnut interior trim pieces and two-position memory seats will make BMW 3-Series owners wonder why they put up with cheap plastic and a tight fit.

Changes to the 1998 ES300 include the introduction of side-impact airbags and depowered side-impact airbags to the standard equipment roster. The ES300 also gets an engine immobilizer anti-theft system and the newly optional Nakamichi sound system that audiophiles have raved about in the LS400 for so long.

Driving the ES300 is fun because of the car's ample horsepower and torque. The heavy front weight bias and soft suspension make the ES300 feel unstable while driving aggressively, but in most situations the car does fine.

It's nice to see the people at Lexus taking their entry-level car seriously. If luxury with a touch of performance are what you are looking for, consider the ES300. It's a nice car that costs less than much of the competition in the near-luxury market.

1998 Highlights

Side-impact airbags debut on Lexus's entry-level car, as does an engine immobilizer anti-theft system and an optional Nakamichi audio system. Reduced force front airbags are also new on all 1998 Lexus models.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1998 Lexus ES 300.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Takes a licking and keeps ticking
Very are money nice and reliable car other the oil changes, replace brake calipers at 180K. Hit two deer in six months rebuilt just like new, mine has every option available, and everything works just fine, will drive it till the wheels fall off, i figure about 500k miles or more, Mercedes E class move over there's a new kid in town.
Probably the Most Reliable Ever Built!
Drove confidently from NV to IL with just under 199K purring like a kitten (and still purrs). Had to replace front struts and control arms, that's about it. Went through over 3 dozen new and used cars (BMW, Acura, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, GM, Dodge, Mazda, VW, Saab), but none, NONE like the ES300. This is car is ultra reliable and it can probably go for another 100K. This is really why many are loyal to the Toyota/Lexus brand. It's hard to beat it's quality and reliability combination. The engine will most often outlast the body and suspension. If there is a need for used car, this is the best one to get.
1998 Lexus still on the move!
4dr Sedan
Update: Still driving the car with ZERO problems. It has 313,000 miles on it, I service it at the local Toyota dealership and get the oil changed there every 3,000 miles even though they say you can go 5,000 miles. I love this car...I can't believe it's been over 3 years already. I might have to gift this car to someone, because it's that good of a car. I am looking forward to purchasing a Toyota Highlander Hybrid in the next year or so. I bought this car used about 2 1/2 yrs ago with 210,000 miles on it. I was not deterred with the mileage at that point, because I knew it would last about 3 yrs and I was completely fine with that and the price point at $1500 asking $2,300 (but it needed a few minor repairs, so price was lowered). I've been driving this car about 20k miles a year and I have had no problems with the car itself. It has been the best car I've ever owned and with significantly less miles. The car is so quite and runs like a champ. I could drive it another 2 yrs. at least before setting aside for a newer car and I will still keep it as a back-up car, it's too good of a car to sell. If people are having mechanical issues with the car, it's probably a lack of maintenance on the car. I was guilty of that on my old car (Altima). I drove this car on long trips several times, which I was a little worried that something might happen but nothing at least 300 miles + road trips one way. I replace the oil every 3000k miles, burns zero oil and if the oil was low it was 1/4 of a quart low, but I found that to be the quality of oil not the car. I used to use Valvoline oil but recently started going the Toyota dealership and using Mobil 1 5000 (5000 mileage) and I had clean oil and it was full. I would highly recommend this car to anyone looking for a $2000 car and even it you put $500 in the car for minor repairs it will pay for itself over and over. My repair shop said they would buy the car if I did not want it when I had it inspected to purchase :) Update: Still driving the car, I just hit a new milestone 300k miles on the car! Just had the car serviced at Toyota and zero problems!! Love the car...I will keep it another year and upgrade to a Toyota Highlander hybrid 😀
Best Car I Ever Had! Never Selling!
Rafee Ahmed,09/09/2015
4dr Sedan
I've owned this car for 12 and have never had any problems. Just had a regular oil change and a battery died on me once (completely natural). The sleek design of this model is so much better than the "sportier" design newer one. Sound system sounds great and I like how you can easily adjust the sound settings. Seats are extremely comfortable. Traveled to chicago and new york from virginia with no problem. Trunk is also big enough for all of my junk. There's no way I'll ever part with this car. I'm keeping it for the rest of it's life. Only wish that this had better cup holders. I've noticed thats a common complaint with this generation. One other extremely minor annoyance is that no matter what I try to to do, the check engine sign won't go away. Although there hasn't been any problems with the engine so far. And this is the car I use for everything.

Features & Specs

17 city / 25 hwy
Seats 0
4-speed automatic
200 hp @ 5200 rpm
See all Used 1998 Lexus ES 300 features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
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

More about the 1998 Lexus ES 300

Used 1998 Lexus ES 300 Overview

The Used 1998 Lexus ES 300 is offered in the following submodels: ES 300 Sedan. Available styles include 4dr Sedan.

What's a good price on a Used 1998 Lexus ES 300?

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Should I lease or buy a 1998 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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