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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Lexus ES 330 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Lexus ES 330 Overview

In a League By Itself

The writing staff often grumbles when it comes time to test driving a new Lexus. It's not that we don't enjoy the cars, in fact we hate giving them back. It's just that they are so utterly flawless, it becomes an all night chore to write a balanced review with some sort of objective criticism. Around 2:15 AM, when thoughts such as "sure it's big inside, but you can't fit a full-sized Mastiff in the back seat and still have room for five adults," begin drifting onto paper, it's time to just admit that there's not much in the way of complaint that can be levied against a Lexus, and that certainly is the case with the new ES 330.

Mind you, we could resort to subjective criticism, about styling or color choices, but these things have no real relevance in a review, since what we see as beautiful or unattractive you may not. However, we can speak to the changes the newest ES has undergone. This is the fourth generation ES produced by Lexus. It is by far the largest version to date and it can be said that this version does not feel as sporty as previous models. The ES has grown into a more luxurious car that can still run circles around the more traditional luxury makes, but whose size makes it a bit more ponderous to run through twisting turns and narrow passes.

For 2004, the ES gets a big boost in power with the addition of a new 3.3-liter V6 engine. With 225 horsepower and a significant jump in torque, the new engine increases the ES' overall performance, most noticeably in off-the-line and passing maneuvers. Though the engine is bigger, it is still as whisper quiet at the previous 3.0-liter. When the doors are shut, the only way you'll know that the car is at idle is by looking at the tachometer needle hovering around 800 rpm. In motion, the ES 330 continues to give you the silent treatment, with nearly inaudible wind, tire and exhaust noise permitted inside the passenger cabin.

In the ES 330, one sensation seems to flow into another. The silence inside the cabin is enhanced by the buttery-smooth shifts performed by the marvelous five-speed automatic. Lexus has revised the shift points on the transmission to take full advantage of the engine's newfound torque. The result is better performance with virtually no loss of fuel mileage; with a 0 to 60 mph time of just 7.7 seconds, the ES still manages an EPA city/highway rating of 20/29 mpg.

The ES 330 delivers its power to the road via the car's front wheels. This design usually provides superior traction, but can somewhat hinder performance driving due to such phenomenon as torque steer and understeer. With the ES 330, Lexus engineers seem to have mitigated these traits, rendering them almost non-existent. The ES 330 handles brilliantly, though the steering response is not as sharp as that found on the BMW 330 or Infiniti G35. The ES 330 does get a bit more sporty when you add the optional AVS (Active Variable Suspension) that continuously monitors and changes the shock rates at each wheel. Still, the overall driving impression we get from the ES is that it is much more pleasant to cruise in than to tear up hairpin turns.

Where the ES may take a backseat to BMW in the performance area, it's the other way around when it comes to interior amenities. The ES 330's interior is a warm, inviting place, with rich wood and aluminum trim, two-tone dash and door treatments and an artful blending of leather, lighting and luxury. The ES 330 is quite roomy inside, and its back seat certainly provides a more accommodating environment than most of its competitors. From the driver's seat, you'll find a host of luxury appointments such as the electroluminescent instruments, the theatre style foot well lighting and dual-zone electronic climate control.

A fully-loaded ES will pamper its owner with such features as a rear sunshade that automatically lowers itself when the car is placed in reverse, driver and passenger-side power lumbar support, an out-of-this-world Mark Levinson audio system and a revised navigation unit with multiple language features and faster routing times. You'll also find such subtle touches as chrome covered door handles, a wood and leather steering wheel, steering-wheel mounted controls for audio and cruise and power adjustable foot pedals.

The Lexus ES 330 begins around $32,000 and tops out just over $40K.

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