BEHIND THE WHEEL/2002 Lexus ES 300 — Focusing on the Focus Group —

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BEHIND THE WHEEL/2002 Lexus ES Focusing on the Focus Group


Published: December 16, 2001

THE new ES 300 is no sport sedan. Company happily acknowledge this, that with the introduction year of the IS 300, a tautly four-door in the mold of BMW’s the Lexus portfolio already has a sedan (and a sport too, the IS 300 SportCross).

That the 2002 ES 300 free to cater to craving a luxuriant ride and handling, to feel like a of baby LS 430 — to be, that is, an version of Lexus’s $60,000 sedan.

Accordingly, the front-wheel-drive ES powered by the company’s 3-liter lopes along free of its 210 horsepower smoothly converted to momentum by a new five-speed automatic Acceleration from nil to 60 miles an takes a tick over 8 The glycerin-slick powertrain — computers controlling every function from the throttle to the — is yet another example of the gift for precision.

And for efficiency: One of this car’s impressive features is its mileage: 20 per gallon in city driving, 29 on the highway. This, mind in a 3,400-pound car that also the ULEV (ultra low emission standard of California and some states.

The suspension (MacPherson in front, multilink rear) the car over rough roads as if it floating on gentle swells. The is similarly nautical, with the car over in corners like a sailboat. Lexus’s optional Variable Suspension, a four-setting by the gearshift, will put some into the handling and quicken the response, but there is no escaping the that this car is, by design, a marshmallow.

On the one hand, there is a compelling to Lexus’s approach. This is the bedrock model, with sales of 50,000 a year, so it sense to tune the car for the mainstream commuters who tend to equate with a sedate ride. It is a truism that a car cannot be all to all people.

But that isn’t to say a car try. In fact, some of the entries in this segment a clever synthesis of competing The BMW 3-Series, the new Jaguar X-Type and the 3.2TL sedan — all competitors to the ES 300 — succeed in balancing performance and luxurious By giving the ES an overly narrow Lexus is flirting with the reasoning that led Detroit to its midsize sedans full of and Novocain.

And while the ES 300 has drawing-room manners, it come quite dressed for Among the missing pieces of equipment: no standard leather no traction or stability control, no headlamps — those blue beacons of the bourgeoisie no seats with position or heating units, no CD changer.

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Vehicle Skid Control, comes with traction and electronic brake assist for stops, adds $650 to the $32,155 base price. The headlamps add an additional $640, and the variable suspension costs $620.

Although wood accents are leather trim must be separately, either as a stand-alone ($1,560, with memory and mirrors thrown in) or bundled the navigation or premium audio Brought down from the LS 430 is the Mark Levinson stereo, 240 watts of amplification and an in-dash changer (a $3,010 option, bundled with leather and and mirrors with memory

The Mark Levinson is surely one of the car audio systems in the world, treble clarity as piercing as a fire engine. Also in a by itself is Lexus’s DVD navigation with a price that’s piercing: $3,960.

Both the and navigation systems can be had in a single costing $4,860, a relative

The biggest rap against the ES 300 used to be its similarity to its downmarket cousin, the Camry. The new ES, however, has finally its matronly petticoats and slipped something sexy. The dramatically features — headlights to reach the middle of the front à la the Toyota Celica are a big step forward in styling. But the of the car’s performance, and its value, to pace with the bold metal seems like a opportunity.

INSIDE TRACK: ambition.

Photos: The ES 300 is based on the Camry. Chart: »A of Midsize Luxury» lists and specifications for selected Acuras, and Lexus’.

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