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Lexus ES300 (2000)

SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig

MODEL:  Lexus ES300
ENGINE:  3.0-liter DOHC v-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 210 hp @ 5,800 rpm/220 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
TRANSMISSION:  Four-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 105.1 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 190.2 x 70.5 x 54.9 in.
BASE PRICE:  $31,900

Toyota seems to have mastered the art of creating a big-car ride in a small car. I have experienced this phenomenon in such diverse vehicles as the Siena minivan, and the Camry and Avalon sedans. Those were the surprises. I wasn't surprised by this quality of ride in a vehicle such as the Lexus ES300, though.

The ES300 has four-wheel independent suspension that is mounted on subframes to create this smooth ride. Our tester also had Lexus' optional Adaptive Variable Suspension system that continuously changes the shock absorber settings at each wheel in response to road surface conditions.

The ES300 is, essentially, an Avalon, but with a completely different body and finer accoutrements. For example, the ES300 has leather upholstery, more (real California walnut) wood trim and a better sound system.

The ES300 was the first Lexus, preceding the much-touted LS400 by a few months. Personally, I like it better, primarily because of its size, but also because o fits under-stated elegance. While the bigger car has a massiveness about it that makes it seem almost Mercedes-like, the ES300 is more compact, handles slightly better, and is a trimmer package.

Under the hood is the tried-and-true Toyota/Lexus 3.0-liter V6 engine that delivers 210 horsepower. The all-aluminum engine can propel the ES300 from 0-60 mph in 8.3 seconds, according to Lexus, even through a four-speed automatic transmission. The engine used VVT-i (Variable Valve timing - intelligent) which also optimizes fuel economy and reduces emissions. Engine smoothness is enhanced through the use of an active engine mount that uses a solenoid-controlled diaphragm to produce pulses that are equal-but-opposite to those of the engine, canceling out vibration with every power stroke.

Styling of the ES300 has been revised for 2000, with a new grill design incorporating a wider chrome frame and two horizontal bars instead of three. The front bumper has been redesigned and incorporates integrated foglamps with clear lenses. The taillamps have also been redesigned.

The week we had the ES300 included one wedding and a couple of trips to assorted golf courses. At the wedding, the ES300 was the car of choice to transport the wedding party from the bride's house to the church. It was the perfect vehicle, offering Wendy the type of luxury she deserved on her special day.

At the golf courses, the ES300 fit in perfectly. There were a few Mercedes-Benzes and larger, more expensive cars, but the ES300 had enough trunk space (13.0 cubic feet) to hold two golf bags and all the other extras we needed. It was a logically oriented trunk, too, so that with creative packing we could fit any number of suitcases and stow bags.

Although it's smaller than the LS400, the ES300 offers essentially the same level of luxury, silence and performance as its bigger brother. And while the ES300 is the entry-level luxury brand for the Lexus line, it's nice to know that the technology that made it a true luxury car has been transferred to the Toyota side of the house. Such sharing of technologies and features can only make all cars better in the long run.