Premium midsize car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $7,500 – $14,500*


2002 Lexus ES 330


2002 Lexus ES 330


2002 Lexus ES 330 interior


2004 Lexus ES 330


2004 Lexus ES 330

Pros:
  • Acceleration
  • Build quality
  • Interior materials
  • Quietness
  • Ride
Cons:
  • Navigation-system controls
  • Rear visibility

Few consider it an excitement machine, but the ES 300 is a highly civilized near-luxury sedan. In fact, it’s almost a baby LS 430, with its own high levels of comfort, refinement, and amenities. Impressively delivering all that it promises, the well-built ES 300 is a solid Best Buy, new or used. Still, a Camry XLE V6 approaches ES polish at a far lower price.

Overview

Redesigned for 2002 along with Camry models at parent Toyota, the ES 300 gained a greater emphasis on luxury. New curtain side airbags were installed, along with front torso side airbags, and a five-speed automatic transmission replaced the prior four-speed. A navigation system joined the options list, with a three-position tilt screen.

As before, this Lexus model shared its basic design with the Camry. A 3.0-liter V6 engine returned, with the same 210-horsepower rating. In addition to new styling, the sedan grew 2 inches in wheelbase and about an inch in length and width. Height increased by 2.4 inches.

New 16-inch wheels replaced the previous 15s. The 2002 model also featured a trip computer, dual-zone automatic climate control, and automatic up/down operation for all side windows. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes were installed.

Lexus options included leather upholstery, premium Mark Levinson audio, a power rear sunshade, and an in-dash or console-mounted CD changer. High-intensity headlamps were packaged with rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Lexus’s Adaptive Variable Suspension option featured driver-selectable shock absorber settings. This near-luxury sedan from Toyota’s luxury division competes against the Acura TL, Audi A4, Infiniti I35, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Yearly Updates

2003 ES 300/ES 330
Optional power-adjustable pedals were the main 2003 addition to Lexus’s luxury-oriented entry-level sedan. Lexus’s optional Vehicle Stability Control antiskid/traction system included a full-power brake-assist feature.
2004 ES 300/ES 330
Lexus substituted a new 3.3-liter V6 for the prior 3.0-liter, prompting a name change to ES 330. The new engine produced 15 more horsepower and 20 additional pound-feet of torque. Curtain side airbags grew in size this year,and optional power-adjustable pedals gained a memory feature.
2005 ES300/ES 330
Lexus’ best-selling car gets minor styling changes and several first-time features for 2005. Sixteen-inch wheels are standard, but 17s are a new option, as are heated/cooled front seats. Newly standard for ’05 is a memory system for both power front seats, not just the driver seat, plus power door mirrors that automatically tilt down when selecting Reverse. The extra-cost navigation system gets more-detailed screen graphics and a larger DVD database. It also now offers optional voice control, activated by steering-wheel buttons, for its navigation, audio, and climate functions. And the audio system is now preconfigured to accept dealer-activated satellite radio service.
2006 ES300/ES 330
2006 brings the additional option of satellite radio.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

In 2002-03, a 210-hp, 3.0-liter dual-overhead-cam V6 engine went into the ES 300, working with a five-speed automatic transmission. For 2004, Lexus exchanged the 3.0-liter for a new 3.3-liter V6 that produced 225 horsepower, prompting a name change to ES 330.

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/183
Engine HP 210
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 220
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

21/29

17.4

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.3/202
Engine HP 225
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 240
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

20/29

Road Test

An ES 300 delivers strong standing-start acceleration, measured at 8.2 seconds for the 0-60 mph dash. Midrange pickup also is brisk, though the smooth automatic transmission hesitates to kick down for passing, and its zigzag selector gate frustrates manual shifting.

When new, test cars have averaged as low as 17.4 mpg (with gas-eating performance tests), up to a high of 21.1 mpg. Both engines require premium fuel.

Yielding a remarkably isolated ride, the ES 300 is the class benchmark for near-luxury comfort and absorbency. That benefit is compromised only by mild pattering on broken pavement and modest float on big humpbacks. The optional Adaptive Variable Suspension is too soft in Comfort mode, a bit too hard in Sport, and feels like the regular chassis on in-between settings. It delivers no ride/handling advantages.

Competent, drama-free front-drive behavior is an ES hallmark, but the ride-biased damping precludes the controlled cornering poise of an Acura TL or BMW 3-Series. Steering could use better feel, too. Braking is powerful and swift, but substantial nosedive prevails in “panic” stops.

Perhaps the class leader in quietness, the ES is highly refined. The V6 is nearly silent at idle, and subdued in hard charging. Wind and tire noise are exceptionally low.

Instruments and controls are simply exemplary, in the Lexus style. The optional navigation system takes less time to learn than most. It governs many audio settings, but no climate functions. The screen has a three-position tilt for daytime legibility, but must be powered open to access tape/CD slots. Interior assembly is hard to fault.

Front seats are comfortably supportive, but might hug larger persons too tightly. Leg room is ample, but head room is just adequate for six-footers beneath the available sunroof. Styling hampers visibility aft and over-the-shoulder.

The back seat is wide enough for two adults, who will ride slightly knees-up with front seats fully rearward. You get good under-seat toe room, but just adequate six-footer head clearance beneath the sunroof. Entry/exit is easy.

Though usefully roomy, the trunk’s opening isn’t tall enough to swallow big boxes. Bulky trunklid hinges intrude, but are covered to prevent damaging cargo. Fold-down rear seatbacks are absent. In-cabin stowage is good, but not great.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2002 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 - 6
60%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 8
80%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 8
80%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Front - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
50%
Cargo Room - 4
40%

Other

Value - 7
70%

Total: 64

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
107.1 191.1 71.3 57.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.5 18.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.5 37.4 42.2 37.4
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

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

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 N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Brake noise
Description: Noisy front brakes are fixed by replacing both the pads and rotors with improved parts. (2002-03)
Steering problems
Description: The tilt steering wheel may not release after being fully lowered requiring repositioning of the wiring harness in the steering column. (2002)
Battery
Description: The battery dies on cars that spend a lot of time idling or driven infrequently for which there is a revised alternator. (2002-03)
None
Description: A squeaking, creaking noise from the front end is caused by a rubber tube on the spring and the spring upper insulator, which may be replaced. (2002)
None
Description: The gas cap can be occasionally hard to remove and replacement caps are being provided. (2002-03)

Recall History

2002 ES 300
Description: Vehicles may have a deformed left front brake tube, leading to possible brake fluid leaking and impaired stopping ability. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
2002 ES 300
Description: If the airbag deploys, it could cause a section of the horn cover on the steering wheel to strike the driver. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
2004-05 ES 300/330 with power passenger seat
Description: When installing certain rear-facing infant seat bases onto seat with excessively high belt tension, buckle status switch could become unseated and system might not suppress deployment of the front airbag.
2004-2005 ES 330 with 1MZ-FE or 3MZ-FE engine
Description: Inadequate adhesive between outer and inner ring in the crankshaft pulley could lead misalignment, causing noise, illumination of the battery discharge indicator light, and/or loss of power steering.

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.