- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

A simile comes to mind in describing the 2002 Lexus ES 300: Like father, like son. The midsize sedan duplicates the LS 430 luxurious flagship in many ways.

First to grab my attention was the sculptured hood line that emphasized the cluster of headlamps. Upon starting a closer inspection, I noticed the tightly assembled panels, giving the impression of one exceptionally smooth solid unit.

This model is a couple inches longer and higher than its predecessor, and I'm told it now has a very low (0.28) coefficient of drag, attributing to the reduction of wind noise and quieter interior.

Like the LS 430, the ES 300 uses side curtain air bags. I was told that the new dual-stage air bags deploy according to impact force, and even go as far as offering an extra-low deployment when a smaller-size person is driving as detected by the seat position.

More father-son correlation can be found in the suspension. The four-wheel independent suspension is mounted to an anti-vibration subframe that has greater rigidity, resulting in better handling and a smoother, quieter ride.

Also, the option of the Adaptive Variable Suspension system constantly changes the shock absorber dampening rate depending upon the type of road surface the 16-inch tires are traveling over.

These features all contribute to the quality of the ride of the ES 300, causing me to compare the $31,505 midsize sedan and the $54,405 full-size sedan.

As nice as the flagship is, the "son" is my preference.

Not only does it have a quiet, smooth ride, but the ES 300 is easy to handle and park because it is a bit smaller than the "father."

Of course, base price is not a final price. Options drove the bottom line of the ES 300 up to $39,935.

One costly component is the navigational system that includes the sound system, of which I have a mixed opinion.

On the plus side, I had an occasion to key in my destination and select the shortest route.

I was directed via roads that weren't even listed on paper maps roads that were no wider than driveways saving me many miles of travel compared to conventional routes.

On the other hand, the sound system also operates from the 6.5-inch touch screen (conveniently located of the center in the dash panel).

Since I don't have a degree in engineering, I found it both annoying and frustrating to operate.

Worse, I had difficulty trying to view the screen when the sun was shining on it.

Because the whole experience was such a distraction, I continued to listen to radio stations that I would have otherwise quickly changed in cars equipped with the preset push-button method.

Yet in spite of my frustrations, I enjoyed the ES 300, especially when making other comparisons to the LS 430.

For example, this car also has water-repellent front door glass and four-door courtesy lamps that illuminate the ground very helpful when parked where puddles surround the area.

Another notable feature of the ES 300 is the power produced by the 3-liter V-6, 24-valve engine linked to a five-speed automatic transmission.

This engine has a wide torque curve, providing immediate response regardless of the speed one is traveling.

Other enjoyable features: the smooth performance and the quietness of the engine, even when under hard acceleration.

In this sedan, it is easy to observe the sound level because the interior is exceptionally quiet.

The LS 430 has been praiseworthy for being so quiet. Now Lexus has included the same techniques in its offspring.

The family resemblance is remarkable.

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