Review: 2002 Lexus ES 300
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
The Lexus ES 300 has been a benchmark in the entry luxury
segment since its inception, and the almost completely revised 2002
model only raises the bar. With the introduction of the IS 300 for
sports-oriented buyers two years ago, Lexus began to move the ES
more toward serious luxury. The process continues at an accelerated
pace with the introduction of the newest ES300.
Little change was required to the ES 300, but little was left
unchanged. Sleek new styling overlays a revised chassis structure
with a longer wheelbase for more interior room and increased
strength and rigidity for improved ride characteristics and safety.
The new ES is even quieter than its predecessors, and fit and finish
are even more precise, with narrower panel gaps. Although it has the
same power output as previously, the ES 300's namesake 3.0-liter
V6 engine has been refined, and is now matched to a five-speed
automatic transmission instead of the previous four-speed. And ever
more premium-level luxury features that debuted in the company's
top-of-the-line LS 430 can be found, as standard equipment or
optionally, in the ES 300.
I've been driving a new ES 300 for the past week. ``Entry luxury''
is not the right term to describe it. In comfort and appointment, the
ES is a true luxury car, with no compromises. ``The relentless
pursuit of perfection'' is not just a Lexus advertising slogan, it is the
way the company approaches the design and construction of its cars.
APPEARANCE: Influence from Lexus's GS sports sedan? The more
formal styling of earlier ES 300s has been replaced by an elegantly
muscular, toned look. In dry statistics, the new ES is a bigger car
than last year's model. The wheelbase is two inches longer, length
has been increased by an inch, and the roof is almost two and a half
inches taller. Yet, because of its sleek, expressive styling, the 2002
ES 300 looks smaller and lower than any of its forebears. The lower
body shape is derived from the old car, but no body panels carry
over. The greenhouse seems small because of the very raked
windshield and near-fastback backlight. It's not. At the front, a small
chromed grille, at the end of a sculpted hood, seems to be smiling, a
look aided by headlights with bulging triangular covers. A high
shoulder line that turns up towards the rear produces a wedge-like
profile. The triangular wraparound taillights echo the shape of the
headlights and incorporate the backup lights. The low 0.28
coefficient of aerodynamic drag helps stability at speed in strong
winds, and, even more importantly for a Lexus, reduces wind noise.
COMFORT: How could Lexus increase the luxury level of the ES
300? Start with more space, and add an interior redesign that
emphasizes that space with good use of colors, materials, and
textures. Standard comfort and convenience features including dual-
zone climate control with air filtration, a five-channel, seven-speaker
AM/FM/cassette/CD audio system, and a moonroof. All windows
are one-touch, down and up, with pinch protection. Front seats are
power-adjustable, of course, with the driver's 10 ways and the
passenger's eight. Memory is available. Upscale cloth upholstery is
standard, but leather is available, and the wood trim is real wood. LS
430-pioneered features like water-repellent front door glass and
ground and footwell illuminating courtesy lamps are standard. For a
premium-luxury experience, an audiophile-quality Mark Levinson
sound system similar to that on the LS 430, is available, as is a
DVD-based navigation system. Seat comfort is, as expected, first
rate, and there is more rear space, especially legroom.
SAFETY: The ES 300's unibody chassis has a strong structure
around the passenger compartment, front and rear crumple zones,
and impact-protection beams in all four doors. All seating positions
have three-point safety belts, and dual-stage front, front side, and
front and rear side curtain airbags are standard.
ROADABILITY: Lexus's dual-entry level strategy has paid off,
with the IS 300 handling the sports side, and the ES 300 further
developed toward serious, LS-style luxury. The ES's stronger
chassis structure has benefits for ride and handling, allowing a soft
suspension calibration for the ride comfort expected in a luxury car.
Firmer suspension subframe bushings and good damping on the
fully-independent MacPherson strut suspension make the ES as
pleasant on the scenic route as the Interstate. A frame design for
extremely low noise levels and new sound-absorbing materials
make the new ES 300 even quieter, insulating occupants from the
PERFORMANCE: The 2002 ES 300 has the same aluminum alloy
24-valve 3.0-liter V6 as last year's version, with the same 210
horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 220 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. It
still uses the VVT-i continuously variable valve timing system for a
broader torque spread. But new ``drive by wire'' electronic throttle
control and a five-speed electronically-controlled automatic
transmission in place of the previous four-speed improve
powertrain responsiveness and fuel economy while lowering
emissions levels. While slightly heavier than last year's car, the 2002
ES 300 is actually a little quicker. It's also very civilized and
refined. Torque steer is nonexistent, and the engine can barely be
heard except under absolute full-throttle acceleration.
CONCLUSIONS: In the relentless pursuit of perfection, Lexus has
improved the ES 300 for 2002.
2002 Lexus ES300
Base Price $ 31,505
Price As Tested $ 37,353
Engine Type dual overhead cam 24-valve V6
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 183 cu. in.
Horsepower 210 @ 5800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 220 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission 5-speed electronically-controlled
Wheelbase / Length 107.1 in. / 191.1 in.
Curb Weight 3,439 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 16.4
Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires P215/60 VR16 Toyo Proxes J33
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc,
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson struts at all
Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 21 / 29 / 23
0 to 60 mph 8.1 sec (mfg)
1/4 mile (E.T.) 16.1 sec (mfg)
Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.28
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Navigation system package - includes: Leather
trimmed interior with memory, Lexus DVD
navigation system, in-dash single CD player
and console-mounted 6-disc changer $ 3,960
Wood and leather steering wheel $ 330
High-intensity discharge headlamps with
auto leveling $ 640
Power rear sun shade $ 210
Trunk mat $ 64
Wheel locks $ 41
Cargo net $ 28