Premium midsize car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,100 – $3,200*


1990 Lexus ES 250


1995 Lexus ES 300


1994 Lexus ES 300


1992 Lexus LS 400


1994 Lexus ES 300 interior


1994 Lexus ES 300 engine

Pros:
  • Acceleration
  • Antilock brakes
  • Passenger and cargo room
  • Ride/handling
Cons:
  • Automatic-transmission performance (ES 250)
  • Fuel economy
  • Rear visibility
  • Road noise (ES 250)

Much more than a glorified Camry, the ES 250/300 helped Lexus maintain a solid image in the luxury car market. Particularly in ES 300 form, this Lexus feels and behaves like the costlier, more luxurious automobile that it is.

Overview

Toyota made it into the “luxury leagues” in 1990 with the launch of its Lexus division. While the full-size LS 400 received much of the attention, the Lexus showroom also featured an entry-level model, the ES 250. It was a plusher version of the Toyota Camry. Additions to the interior included woodgrain trim and leather seating surfaces. Exterior styling was virtually identical, and so was the powertrain–a 2.5-liter V6 and a choice of either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmissions. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes and a driver-side airbag came standard.

Yearly Updates

1991 ES 250/300
The junior Lexus returned virtually unchanged for its sophomore season.
1992 ES 250/300
Replacing the Lexus ES 250 as the company’s lower-priced premium sedan is the ES 300. Still based on the Camry, the ES 300 rides on a 103.1-inch wheelbase and is five inches longer. It also comes equipped with a new 24-valve V6, with horsepower going from 156 to 185 and torque rising from 160 to 195 pound-feet. Both manual and automatic transmissions were offered. And despite its undeniable relationship to the Camry, the ES 300 has different suspension and tires, and weighs 200 pounds more.
1993 ES 250/300
Virtually unchanged for 1993, the only additions to the entry-level Lexus sedan are a fuel-cap tether and automatic-locking safety-belt retractors.
1994 ES 250/300
For ’94 Lexus provides its ES 300 with a new passenger-side airbag, more convenience features, and a revised 3.0-liter engine that delivers an extra three horsepower–up to 188. With the new engine comes the elimination of the available 5-speed manual transmission.
1995 ES 250/300
Now the most popular model in the Lexus line, the 1995 ES 300 receives minor styling changes at both the front and rear. These include a new front air intake, standard fog lights, new brake/signal lights, and a shift in the position of the ES 300 badge from the below the taillight to the trunklid.
1996 ES 250/300
The only significant change for 1996 was the midyear introduction of an exclusive “Coach” edition, equipped with highly distinctive leather trim and a matching set of Coach luggage.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

The Lexus ES 250 made its 1990 debut with a 24-valve, DOHC, fuel-injected V6 engine. This was the optional powerplant for the Toyota Camry, and became the only engine offered in the ES 250. It delivered 156 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 160 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. ES 250 buyers could choose from either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission with standard electronic shift controls. With all-new body styling for the ES 300 in 1992 came a new 24-valve, 3.0-liter DOHC V6 capable of delivering 185 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 195 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm, with available manual and automatic transmissions. For the 1994 model year, the cast-iron cylinder block is exchanged for an all-aluminum block, which improved both horsepower and torque ratings slightly, to 188 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 203 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The ES 300’s previously standard 5-speed is dropped in favor of a single transmission–an electronic 4-speed automatic with available “normal” and “power” shift modes. Acceleration from the 1992-1996 models is strong and easy. The automatic matches well with the 3.0-liter V6, shifting smoothly and quietly.

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/153
Engine HP 156
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 160
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
19/26
19/25
22.7

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/181
Engine HP 185
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 195
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
18/24
18/23
19.5
dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/181
Engine HP 188
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 203
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

18/24

19.3

Road Test

The ES 250 has a comfortable ride, soaking up bumps with little notice. It also tends to display good control and stability at high speed, while the standard antilock brakes provide strong, safe stops with good control. Tire whine and road noise are intrusive, however. The ES 250 also provides a bright, airy interior with tall windows, which give the driver excellent visibility, though it’s hard to see the trunk while backing up. Leg room is generous both front and back, but head room is about average.

More-distinctive styling and a 3.0-liter V6 gave the rebadged ES 300 both the extra size and power it needed. The 300 provides outstanding responsiveness and handling. The same smooth and quiet ride that has become a Lexus hallmark is quite evident in the ES 300. However, body roll is noticeable and the steering is on the light side. While not quite up to full European standards in the suspension or steering departments, the ride and handling should not be an issue with most buyers. Except in straight highway driving, we got under 20 mpg in an ES 300, which demands premium fuel.

On the plus side, the ES 300 offers more passenger space than its compact external dimensions suggest. Leg room and head room are generous, even with the optional sunroof. Drivers enjoy a comfortably upright stance ahead of a tilt steering wheel and an attractive, well-arranged dashboard that mimics the panel design of the big LS 400. Some rear-seat space is sacrificed, however, for the sake of trunk room, which is more than adequate.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1995 Lexus ES 300

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 6
60%
Steering/Handling - 4
40%
Quietness - 6
60%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Front - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
40%
Cargo Room - 4
40%

Other

Value - 6
60%

Total: 49

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 183.1 66.9 53.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.1 15.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 36.6 42.9 32.3
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.1 187.8 70.0 53.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.3 18.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 36.6 43.5 33.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1996 ES 300 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Front Passenger Injury - 3
60%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 99
Injury 80
Theft 165

Trouble Spots

Climate control
Description: Because of an intermittent open condition in the temperature-sensor circuit, the ambient-temperature display shows -22 degrees (F) and the climate control misbehaves. The display will not change until the fuse for the air-conditioning control unit is removed briefly. (1990-95)
Dashboard lights
Description: Due to a problem in the printed circuit, outside temperature reading may report -22F. Removing the fuse for 30 seconds should reset the system. (1995-96)
Engine noise
Description: If a thumping noise comes from the engine during low speeds, it might require a larger main bearing on the No. 1 journal of the crankshaft. (1991)
Fuel gauge
Description: If the fuel gauge is inaccurate, a revised gauge will be installed to stabilize the indicator needle. (1990-92)
Transmission leak
Description: Automatic-transmission fluid may leak from a casting-knock hole or a bolt hole on the A51E transmission. (1994)
Vehicle noise
Description: A new, self-lubricating stabilizer-bar bushing will be installed if the original rear bushings squeak. (1992-96)
Water pump
Description: The water-pump seals may leak. (1994-95)

Recall History

1992
Description: Secondary hood-latch mechanism could accumulate dust or debris that would keep the latch from engaging properly.
1994-96 ES 300
Description: Steering-wheel set nut may not have been sufficiently tightened; could result in vibration and looseness in steering wheel, and ultimately separation.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.