Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Lexus ES 300 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Lexus ES 300 Overview

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Getting In on a Good Thing

Many people aspire to own a premium brand automobile. They know the top automaker's names by heart, but often the reality of their wallets does not match the lofty aspirations of their ambitions. For many of these poor souls, an entry level car with few of the trappings of the elite upper end models is all they get—well, that and a key chain with the company logo loudly emblazoned across the fob; so sad. If only these people had looked to Lexus, they would have found a car that stickers below $35K, yet can comfortably accommodate two adults in the rear seats, hold two sets of golf clubs in its spacious trunk and is saturated in luxurious amenities. The car is the ES 300.

From the first minute you see the ES 300 you know this is a lot of car for the money. It is a sizable automobile with a strong presence, especially when viewed from the front. On either side of the trademark Lexus grille are two enormous headlamp housings that practically run up half the length of the fender. The headlamps merge onto sheet metal with not so much as a gap or bump; the rounded edges and teardrop-shaped theme continues its liquid-like flow over the rest of the car. The new ES 300 is larger than the last model and features a tall window line that, from the inside, creates a feeling of being securely fortified by a reinforced wall of steel.

Now we know what you're thinking. You've seen this gimmick before: pretty on the outside, Plain Jane on the inside. Not so with the ES 300. The interior of this car is so handsome, it makes one wonder why anyone would bother even looking at the higher-end Lexus models. The ES 300 is simply gorgeous inside, with the same high-grade leather and wood as those found in the flagship LS. The seats are marvelously comfortable, adjustable 10-ways with full power controls (8-way for the passenger). We can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be able to find a comfortable driving position in the ES especially when equipped with the optional power-adjustable foot pedals. The ES 300's passenger compartment is roomy too, with excellent head and legroom for taller persons and a long list of standard safety features including front side-impact airbags and a side airbag curtain.

The ES 300's dash is a work of art, pure Lexus genius formed of two-tone soft touch vinyl and an array of LED and electroluminescent lighting. You'll find all the switchgear to be clearly visible and located within easy reach; they have marvelously tactile feeling that reinforces the Lexus promise of superb craftsmanship and state of the art design. Though the ES 300 comes nicely equipped, you can add to the list with such tantalizing treats as built-in GPS navigation system, a power rear sunshade, heated front seats, a leather and wood trimmed steering wheel and a Mark Levinson premium audio system that sounds so good you'll probably go deaf trying to find the limits of its 240-watt power range.

Of course, all that is good about the ES 300 is not found solely in the realm of the car's interior. There is a mechanical side to the ES 300 story that should close the door on any remaining competitors. Beneath the hood you'll find a 3.0-liter V6 engine that purrs at idle and is nearly silent at speed. The ES 300's V6 delivers a healthy 210 horsepower that is routed to the car's front wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission. The Lexus trany shifts so smoothly, you won't even notice the car has changed gears unless you are looking directly at the tachometer. On the open road, the ES 300 seems to float over imperfections like a feather blowing along the ground. Outside road and wind noise is almost non-existent, so much so that you sometime have to roll down the window to allow your driving senses to remember you are actually moving. The steering and handling afforded by the ES 300 will always impart a strong sense of control and security, but this is more a boulevard car than performance handling machine, so out-and-out autocross runs are probably not this Lexus' cup of tea.

On the other hand, if you like a bit more feel in your ride, Lexus does offer an adaptive variable suspension, skid control and larger wheels and tires; this set up places the ES just short of the point where the Lexus IS picks up the high-end performance baton.

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