STEREO. Symphonic
FUN TO DRIVE . Certain
GAGET FACTOR. Integrated
EMOTION. Fondness
CACHET . Class Act
BEST TRICK . Subtlety


Sticker. $32,500. est
Power . 200 hp
0 to 60. 7 - 8 sec.
Mileage. 21.4 mpg
Seating. 5
Trunk. 13 cu. ft.
Parking . Perfection


Fantastic car; beautifully balanced, perfectly sized, excellent in design and detail execution with no visible flaws. The new styling is crisp and progressive, and builds on the previous ES 300 which provides a nice continuity and helps keep up the resale all part of the Lexus longevity philosophy. This is one ride that really is worth the money.

The body is very elegant, aerodynamic and simply well done. There's a big trunk which is easy to load, plenty of room for four and a beautifully trimmed interior which boasts real wood that looks like real wood, a nice pair of seats and an attractive dash featuring the backlit instrumentation which is a Lexus hallmark. A great Lexus sound system with an in dash 6 CD changer in it's own hidden compartment fills the cabin with clarity and presence. Practical considerations include a large glove box, door pockets, convenient console storage, a cool cupholder and a damped self-opening ashtray. Special touch is the driver adjustable shock damping, through a range from comfort to sport, which noticeably composed the chassis for serious tossing about or dialed in a very smooth freeway ride. Each detail is well executed, thoughtfully designed and styled with restraint.

Finding the ES so capable inspired a full load jaunt to Oregon one weekend. The trunk swallowed all the luggage for four people, none of whom were packing particularly light. The wheelbase has been stretched which provides one of the few truly comfortable seats in four-doordom, especially mid-size four-doordom. So despite the five hour shifts between refuels, no one got cramped. Great comfort in the front seats although we missed seat heaters and a memory feature. Rear headroom and legroom were fine, the cushions angled a bit more than I prefer, but nonetheless comfortable. The interior also accommodated all the maps, bags and travel food we piled in. Trip mileage clocked in near 25 mpg, at average speeds over 75. Silent cruising, solid passing power and the smoothest automatic on the planet. Handling was particularly accurate for a luxury sedan on the sport setting. The comfort setting allowed a tiny bit of steering wander at high speeds; nothing troubling, but not as laser tracked as a BMW. This is a great trip car!

Nits to pick center on the new step-on parking brake, which stole a bit of foot room and the fussy to load CD cartridges. Everything else was perfect.

The mid luxury segment is full of good cars. The Lexus ES 300 is simply the best; on a balanced combination of style, performance, handling, finish, value and comfort. They aced it.