2001 Lexus ES 300 Review

Pros & Cons

  • Nice array of luxury and convenience features, strong and silent V6, slick safety technology is either standard or available.
  • Many desirable features are optional, no GPS navigation system offered, shares too much with the pedestrian Camry to truly impart luxury.
Other years
List Price Estimate
$997 - $2,397

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Edmunds' Expert Review

A car that coddles but makes no attempt to invigorate.

Vehicle overview

Starting this year, Lexus offers buyers with between $30,000 and $40,000 burning a hole in their pocket two decidedly different choices in the entry-luxury sedan arena. For those who love to drive, but not so much they'd like to shift their own gears, there is the small but stunning IS 300. For those who want what amounts to a high-quality Buick Regal with decent brand cachet, there is this Camry-based ES 300. The IS is hard-edged and muscular, while the ES is soft and pudgy around the middle. We predict that buyers of either car will likely resemble those remarks.

Fortunately, Lexus has done a much better job of masking the ES 300's lineage than Infiniti has done with the Maxima-derived I30. From the outside, you need to look deep beyond the ES 300's stylish duds to see the dowdy Toyota hiding in the structural framework. Inside, it's easier to tell that the Lexus is made of Toyota parts, thanks to shared switchgear between the two models. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, as Toyotas are generally solid, reliable, and refined. It just isn't different or better, making it harder to justify the extra premium over a loaded Camry XLE V6.

But then, you take a gander at the specifications sheet. The more powerful ES 300's smooth and silent 3.0-liter V6 produces 210 horsepower and 220 foot-pounds of torque, thanks in part to its Variable Valve Timing with intelligence system (VVT-i). The engine is capable of making 80 percent of peak torque available at 1,600 rpm, resulting in zero-to-60 runs of 8.3 seconds, according to Lexus. A slick-shifting four-speed automatic transmission sends power to the front wheels. Standard goodies include multi-adjustable power front seats, automatic climate control, real California walnut wood trim, and a first-aid kit. A seven-speaker audio system with 195 watts of amplification is included, and a 230-watt Nakamichi sound system with an in-dash CD changer is optional. Notable available features include leather upholstery, a one-touch-open moonroof, upgraded 16-inch wheels and tires, an adaptive variable suspension system, high-intensity discharge headlights, and heat for the seats and exterior mirrors.

On the safety front, Lexus includes front and side airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, daytime running lights, and ALR/ELR, force-limiting three-point safety belts in all seating locations. Optional on ES 300 is Vehicle Skid Control (VSC), a stability control system that includes Brake Assist (a computerized controller that applies maximum braking force in panic stops quicker than the driver can). For 2001, Lexus has added a glow-in-the-dark release handle inside the trunk, as well as interior tether anchors for child safety seats.

Though the ES 300 is now the duller of the company's entry-luxury offerings in terms of raw performance, it perfectly suits those who want a comfortable, cushy cruiser that goes fast in a straight line, stops quickly, and looks good doing it.

2001 Highlights

A glow-in-the-dark emergency trunk release handle is now located in the cargo compartment, while child seat-tether anchors have been added inside.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2001 Lexus ES 300.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

UPDATE: Still Happy After All These Years
I wanted to follow up on my ownership experience; My previous post was listed by "W." and posted on 4/26/10. After having purchased this car back in Oct. 2009, it still runs beautifully and has not left me stranded once. I have put almost 40,000 miles on the car (now @ 136.5k miles) since my last post, and I still love it! I use my car for courier work (lots of stop and go driving), and it never hesitates. I had an O2 sensor replaced, which ran about $300; other than this one repair and basic upkeep (tires, oil changes, brake pads, tune-up), this car has been the most reliable vehicle I have ever owned. I recommend high-mileage rated synthetic oil to keep the engine at peak performance.
Bought It For Transportation, Kept It For Love
Andrew Nguyen,08/29/2015
4dr Sedan (3.0L 6cyl 4A)
This car, and brand, has a solid reputation for: comfort, quality, and luxury. I however, never cared for this Lexus nor the ES300 because I just thought it was a hopped up and pretty version of a Toyota Camry. Boy was I ever more wrong. My story with this car started when I had too many problems trying to share a car with my dad because my sister took my 1999 Toyota Camry. I have a busy schedule - multiple jobs and school, so I am rarely home and constantly on the road. Finding a time slot available for me to take the Honda Passport we were sharing, to go out and do my business, was becoming increasingly difficult. Not to mention, my dad had a knack for being late on returning the car. So, I was on Cragislist 24/7 looking for a reliable and smart choice as my first car. I had searched and researched the reviews on all potential candidates (this website is great for reviews by the way). The Lexus ES300 of this generation was my first choice, the problem was finding a good example that was good according to my standards. Roughly 4 months later, I found one that was acceptable. Owners had supposedly maintained the car, its been garaged, and it had lower mileage than the Camry I was about to buy. Long story short, with one text, led to me seeing and handing over $5,000 in cash. So, how is the car? It rides great! I mean, it's supple, it's buttery smooth, and yet, it still corners well. This car surprised me with how fast I can take it around a bend. Oh, and it's quiet too, of course. As a matter of fact, I'd have to say, this is the best riding car in terms of comfort and performance (for what it is) I've ridden in. The acceleration is plenty (has more torque than top speed). The previous owner loved bragging to me how she could take it to 100mph and still have room for more. It's no drag racer, but for daily driving around town, its got enough to dodge traffic with ease. The transmission, is so smooth. Well, I take that back. It was smooth, but after I did a transmission flush, it is butter smooth. Brakes are well, good. Not much I can say since I'm not taking this car to the track to test its limits. Steering is direct, but smooth and light. Not too light though, not like newer Toyota's where it feels like there's no resistance, the ES300 has the perfect feel for daily driving around town (or freeway too) all while giving great feel. Interior wise, for its time, just oozes quality. I mean, the wood trim is beautiful, the controls are solid, and nothing feels cheap. Except for the cup holders. Coming from a previous Toyota Camry of same generation, this is worlds apart in terms of handling and quality. I've spent time in a 2008 BMW 3-Series, and truthfully, my 2001 Lexus ES300 feels higher quality (everything is solid, not loose), looks higher quality (materials), and will last longer. Almost forgot, gas mileage. Now from my calculations, I'm getting a combined figure around 18.5mpg, not exactly great by today's standards. Although, I live in a city where things are closer, so the last time I filled up, was a month ago! Under smooth driving of course. What started off as just a smart choice for a A-to-B car, turned out to be a car I love so much and grew a new found love for Lexus and their engineering excellence. Awesome side note: my first 2 weeks of ownership, I kept getting compliments from friends, family, even strangers on how nice my car is! Just last week of the time of this writing, a person walking downtown told me I had a nice car. Not bad for a Lexus from 2001, huh? 8/31/2016 UPDATE: I've now had some good time with this car under my belt. I've pushed it to its limits now. A few quick points: 1. I've discovered the braking limits of the car (70 to 0 in rush hour). The car brakes well from about 45mph, but at 70, the car struggles to shed off speed for an emergency stop. That's not to say it failed me, as the braking capabilities did stop me from an accident, but it could be better. 2. Fuel economy is still okay at best. With me driving it 5 days a week at 70mph, I fill up every 3 weeks if I don't go out on the weekends. 3. Ride quality has dramatically changed ever since I installed new shocks. It feels like a sports car now, really. It's much stiffer and can handle corners even better! I notice the small bumps and cracks in the road now and steering feel has gotten sharper. 4. Although I can seat people in the back, the car's performance suffers greatly. I can definitely feel the difference with the extra weight. The last time I had 3 people in the rear (plus luggage) and going up my slightly inclined driveway, the rear dragged down enough to scrape the exhaust or something. Ouch. 5. Snow performance is great. I was driving in a snow storm that stopped even trucks and buses, but this little Lexus just kept putting along (with careful driving).
Awesome Used Car
I bought my ES300 back in Oct. 2009 after reading over Edmunds and various other websites. I finally caved in and traded my old 1997 MB C230 (210k mi, saggy headliner, expensive to maintain) for a more reliable car. While looking for cars like newer Accords & Camrys, I lucked up and this appeared locally on a car lot. For an older car, the ES300 feels right at home and better equipped compared to a newer Accord or Camry. I compromised and bought it with 98k miles (kinda high mi), and Had to recently service it for new belts & water pump at 105k miles. My mechanic stated "it's basically an expensive Toyota," which is exactly what I wanted: Everything works well, and it starts every time.
Cup Holder Problem Fixed
Excellent car. To improve the lousy cup holders, go to a Sprinkler Irrigation Store and buy a plastic Green Atrium Grate for a 4" drain pipe (about $6). Get the green grate, not the black grate (better fit for cups) then spray paint it black. It fits perfectly in the existing cup holders. It even has a lip that secures it to the lid of the armrest. You will think it was made specifically for the 97 - 01 ES300. Now back to the rest of the car ... amazing ride, great freeway gas mileage, quiet, excellent standard sound system, comfortable, adequate power. Mine has low miles, 48,000, and I suspect it will be a typical Lexus and be trouble free as my prior Lexus purchases have been.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2001 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

More about the 2001 Lexus ES 300

Used 2001 Lexus ES 300 Overview

The Used 2001 Lexus ES 300 is offered in the following submodels: ES 300 Sedan. Available styles include 4dr Sedan (3.0L 6cyl 4A).

What's a good price on a Used 2001 Lexus ES 300?

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Should I lease or buy a 2001 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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