Used 2002 Lexus ES 300 Review
Packed with features and safety equipment, the redesigned ES 300 sets a new standard for entry-level luxury sedans...as long as "luxury" is the most important part of this segment for you.
These are salad days for the folks at Lexus, which has surpassed stalwarts Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac and Lincoln as the best-selling luxury brand in America. Within a one-year span, the company revived its entire car line with the excellent LS 430, the brand-new IS 300 and SC 430, and the shoehorning of the buttery 4.3-liter V8 into the GS. Now Lexus' bread-and-butter sedan, the ES, is the beneficiary of a redo.
Like its predecessor, the 2002 ES 300, now in its third iteration, shares its basic architecture with the redesigned 2002 Toyota Camry, though its appointments reflect the high levels of comfort, convenience and refinement that have become trademarks of Lexus luxury.
A longer wheelbase and increased height provide greater passenger room than the previous ES 300. It is also quieter thanks to new sound-absorbing materials. Many of the features are similar to those found on the LS 430, such as the new dual-zone automatic climate control with an air filtration system. Occupants of the cabin are also treated to the same California burled walnut that graces other Lexus models as a standard feature. Optional equipment is taken to a higher level with the availability of a DVD-based navigation system, a premium Mark Levinson audio system, a powered rear sunshade, high-intensity discharge headlights and a six-disc CD changer.
The ES 300 rides on a MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension. Around town, it floats plenty and absorbs road anomalies, providing a cushion-soft ride. Lexus also provides an optional Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS). The '01 car also had this feature, though the new car's system has been improved to offer better road and steering feel and quicker turn-in response.
Still powering the ES is a 3.0-liter V6 engine, which produces 210 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. It is now certified as an ultra low emission vehicle (ULEV) and a new five-speed automatic transmission helps the car earn EPA fuel mileage ratings of 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, versus 19/26 mpg for the 2001 model.
To slow the car down, Lexus offers standard antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD). Vehicle Skid Control (VSC), which helps prevent dangerous spins and skids, is optional and includes traction control and brake assist. To measure up to the other vehicles in this class, Lexus has installed full side curtain airbags for both front and rear passengers to protect precious noggins from impacting the side windows during a serious collision. These augment the dual front airbags and front seat-mounted side airbags.
With the sporty IS 300 now available, Lexus feels secure enough to push the luxury envelope for the ES 300. Though many of the features are optional and will jack up the price if ordered, the redesigned ES is an intriguing choice for 2002.
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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.
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