When it comes to luxury cars, the Lexus ES300 is one of the best the Japanese market has to offer. It’s got all the bells and whistles, from a plush interior to a powerful engine. If you’re looking for a car that will make you feel like a boss, this is it.
The 2003 Lexus ES300 set a new benchmark for luxury car manufacturers in America. No longer did luxury vehicles need to be expensive, bloated behemoths with unrealistic gas mileage figures and handling akin to barely controlled barges. The Lexus ES300 became the new normal.
The 2003 Lexus ES300 was the first luxury sedan to balance affordability with luxury and a decent driving experience. It will never be mistaken as a high-performance sedan along the lines of modern German marques, but the designers did a commendable job setting the new standards in its day.
The History Of The 2003 Lexus ES300
The Lexus ES250 was first launched in 1989 and was sold alongside the Lexus LS400. Positioned as a range of mid-range executive cars, the ES250 and LS400 represented the launch of Toyota’s executive model range in the North American market.
Toyota built the first five generations of the ES range of cars on the Camry platform.
In 1991 with the introduction of the three-liter engine, Lexus changed the model’s designation to the ES300.
The Fourth generation, designated XV30, was launched in 2001. The new model featured a more aerodynamic profile, an updated and more luxurious interior, a center console, exterior puddle lamps, floor-well lighting, chrome door handles, an electric rear sunblind, and rear-view mirrors automatically tilt downward in reverse gear.
In 2001 Lexus sold 71,450 ES300s, making it the best-selling luxury car in North America.
The XV30 included the 2003 model year.
What Is The 2003 Lexus ES300?
Before Toyota launched the Lexus brand, the company had developed a solid reputation for manufacturing low-cost, reliable, economical, simple motor vehicles.
Without compromising the hard-won position Toyota had developed, the Lexus was launched as a new brand positioned to compete at the high end of the market. The idea is that with Lexus, you get Toyota reliability and Lexus luxury.
The process was successful, and for several years from 2002, Lexus dominated the North American luxury vehicle market, achieving the highest sales in the mid-range luxury segment.
Although comparatively petite compared to the barge-like American Cadillac Deville, the 2003 Lexus ES300 was longer than its competitors, had a wider body, and was lower than most.
|Dimension||2003 Lexus ES300||Cadillac Deville||Toyota Highlander||Pontiac Vibe||Toyota Camry Solara|
|Length||191.1 in||207.2 in||184.4 in||171.9 in||191.5 in|
|Width||71.3 in||74.5 in||71.9||69.9 in||71.1 in|
|Height||57.3 in||56.7 in||68.7 in||63 in||54.3 in|
These numbers spelled the end of the ubiquitous Detroit-produced North American luxury cars manufactured by the big three American manufacturers.
What Is The 2003 Lexus ES300 Like To Drive?
In 2003 Rolls Royce was still describing the power produced by their engines as “adequate,” and the concept of a luxurious sedan that could perform like a sports car was still decades away.
Instead, luxury cars were designed to move at a stately pace providing the occupants with a quiet detached travel experience.
Most road testers agreed that the 2003 ES300 achieved this.
The 210 HP engine, which produced 220 pounds of torque and had to haul almost 3,600 pounds, would never make a name for itself on the drag strip.
What it does do, however, is to provide an effortless, serene driving experience, where the journey is just as important as the destination.
Boy racers may spend all their spare time looking for extra power, trying to beat the rest of the traffic from traffic light to traffic light. However, the Lexus driver will look on in quiet amusement as he listens to the latest Mozart Piano Sonata without the bone-jarring experience provided by a tuned suspension.
When the go-fast pedal is fully depressed and the engine roars at full power, the interior sound level will never exceed 96 decibels.
The five-speed automatic transmission is responsive. Although unable to match the remarkable modern DSG gearboxes found in the Volkswagen stable, it still provided a smooth power delivery and effortless gear changes.
The ride has been designed to be a balance between comfort and agility. There is some body roll around corners; unlike some of the cars of this era, it never feels like a barge being piloted through rough seas.
What Was The Fuel Consumption Like?
If you needed a car with better fuel consumption, the 2003 Lexus ES300 was not for you.
The town MPG 18 city 27 highway is disappointing, particularly compared to the competition.
|Model||Miles Per Gallon|
|Toyota Highlander||Town 19 MPG, Highway 30 MPG|
|Pontiac Vibe||Town 25 MPG, Highway 33 MPG|
|Toyota Camry Solara||Town 21 MPG, Highway 30 MPG|
|Cadillac Deville||Town 16 MPG, Highway 25 MPG|
The Interior Of The 2003 Lexus ES300
The interior of the Lexus is the main selling point, and opening the door reveals a world of leather, soft-touch plastic, and wood paneling.
The most descriptive word to explain the experience of sitting in the 2003 Lexus ES300 is “hushed.” When you close the door, the hustle and bustle of the world are closed out, and you exist in your peaceful reality.
Even by today’s standards, the seats are comfortable, and there is a voice-activated navigation system.
The Mark Levison sound system (with CD changer) is isolated from the engine noise by steel-resin sandwich panels in the firewall. It produces very acceptable sound quality even by today’s standards.
The front seats are renowned for their comfort and the legroom for the occupants, while the rear bench easily accommodates two full-size adults over long trips or three for shorter distances.
At 14.5 cubic feet, the trunk space is large enough for most needs.
The 2003 Lexus ES300 Engine
The 1MZ-FE DOHC 24-valve V-6 engine is the same used in Toyota Camry’s of the era and was never designed to challenge hot rod drivers.
Its design goals were to waft the occupants into a state of euphoric silence, which task it achieves very well.
The engine transfers the power through a five-speed automatic gearbox and delivers a steady acceleration without blowing the lights out.
The 0-60 mph time is 8.3 seconds, and the 2003 Lexus 300 will continue to cross the quarter-mile in 16.2 seconds. By the time the quarter-mile is reached, the car will be speeding along at the stately speed of 85 mph.
|Model||Engine||0 – 60 mph time|
|2003 Lexus ES300||1MZ-FE DOHC 24-valve V-6||8.3 seconds|
|Toyota Highlander||3.3 L V6 24V Hybrid (208 Hp) 4WD||10.1 seconds|
|Pontiac Vibe||1.8 L straight-4 16-valve engine||9.7 seconds|
|Toyota Camry Solara||1MZ-FE DOHC 24-valve V-6||8.3 seconds|
|Cadillac Deville||4.6L V8 DOHC 32 valves Northstar||10.6 seconds|
What Will You Pay For A 2003 Lexus ES300?
The original MSRP of the 2003 Lexus ES300 is shown below.
|Model||Year||New MSRP||Current 2nd Hand Value|
|2003 Lexus ES300||2003||$31,725||$4,991|
|Cadillac Deville||2003||$49,150||$1 049|
|Toyota Camry Solara||2003||$28,045||$5337|
The used prices have been taken from the Edmunds used car database.
Our Verdict on the 2003 Lexus ES300
The Lexus ES300 has been soldiering on for 32 years and can still be purchased new from Lexus. The 2003 Lexus ES300 became the death knell for traditional American manufactured luxury cars. It was cheaper, more powerful, reliable, and cost less to run than its American competitors.
If you are interested in a mid-sized, luxury car, you don’t need knuckle cracking performance. The 2003 Lexus ES300 is worthy of consideration.