By Jon Rosner, Wed, 19 Jan 2005 08:00:00 PDT
The new Lexus ES 330 is a wonderfully appealing car that takes a few pages out of the story of "Goldilocks and the three bears." The Lexus isn't designed to controversial,avant garde or stand out in any way from the crowd, rather, it's simple exterior lines are meant to offend no one. And to not attract excess attention on the road, particularly from individuals with red and blue lights on the roof of their car. As usual with the Lexus the panel fit is darn near perfect with nothing out of place.
Although beautifully stitched from high quality leather, the seats are across between a bench seat and a bucket seat and like Papa Bear and Mama Bears porridge was not quite right for me. The gages were easy to read and nicely done, with wood veneer covering the lower two-thirds. The stereo sounds lovely and picks up KCSM, the public radio jazz station more clearly and consistently that most receivers. The radio, heater and air and map controls are nice to look at, nice to touch, but are verging on the complex pull back a little, the interior is swathed in quality leather and high-end furniture quality veneer and it looks sumptuous, very impressive really.
The first day we had the car we had the shocks set for full soft, the ride was 1965 Lincoln Continental pillow-soft, and the car wallowed slightly at highway speeds. The next day we tried full sport on the shocks, but just fora while as the ride was slightly jolting, but not truly sports-car like. Then we set the shocks one notch forward of the middle toward the sporting end and the ride was just right. The car was pretty quiet on the road, and the only intrusion was the occasional muffled roar from the tires on a few less than perfect roads.
Well, there was one big negative for us, fitting a larger child safety seat was like going to the dentist. The recessed receiver was under the side of the seat and was an absolute struggle to work with. But then, the ES 330 isn expensive car and not likely to be the first choice of young and growing families. It is targeted an near luxury buyers who might otherwise choose from an S-Type Jaguar, BMW five series, six series Audi or a nice Volvo. For this group the interior shines as one of the most attractive.
The label says Lexus, but the build quality is Toyota top-of-the-line and that means durable and well-screwed together. The dynamics of the car are the least of the group mentioned, it does not handle as well, it does not stop quite as well. But truth be known, those attributes are not really anticipated and would rarely be called for by the people who are the target market. The ES330 is a very well-made innocuous car that should spend very little time in the shop and is very acceptable anywhere high-end and expensive automobiles are expected. This is a very demanding segment of the market and Lexus owners are a very loyal lot. It's easy to see why.