Friday, January 21, 2005


Cars That Suck#1: Lexus ES300

This car exists because women who know nothing about cars like to show off. "Oh, we have a Lexus". Wow!

I'm here to tell you now: don't buy one. It's a piece of shit.

For a start, it is a Toyota Camry with a slightly different interior. I don't mean it shares some components. It's the same damn car. The Toyota Camry wins reliability awards and is very popular. But it's not a luxury car.

They are all automatics, like most cars in the US. Automatics in that price range should be about effortless power. Unfortunately, there's no power from this engine until you hit about 4000 RPM, it's like a motorbike in that respect. The auto box's ability to 'kick down' is poor. It takes so long that if you want to pass someone today you have to manually change down using the gear selector. Because this car's aimed at dummies, believe it or not, as soon as you subsequently get anywhere near the red line, it takes it upon itself to change up, regardless of the position of the gear selector lever, or the position of the car (facing oncoming traffic alongside an 18 wheeler, for example).

Good luxury cars offer the driver a feeling of rock-solid stability. This car is terrible in crosswinds, and in all conditions once you go over about 75 MPH. The steering is so vague and woolly that going into a bend you have literally no idea what the front wheels are doing and whether you are going to make it or not.

I saved the best till last. Like many modern cars the ES300 has a 'traction control' facility which is meant to reduce power in the event of wheelspin. My first exposure to this feature came when I attempted to turn left from a residential street on to a very busy road. After waiting some time for a small gap in traffic, I floored the accelerator and the car lurched reluctantly forward. A surprise was awaiting me, however. As soon as I started to turn the wheel, the power was killed. Stone dead. What the ****?! (It reminded me of a 1970s car I had where some bad fuel caused a sudden power loss and it slowed down by itself). This time I was lucky. To this day I flip off the traction control when driving away in the morning. You never know when you'll need a sudden burst of acceleration and I don't want some piece of shit car overriding me.

Hint to Lexus: If the driver accelerates hard, it may not be because he's suffering from dementia and has mistaken the accelerator for the brake!

On a practical basis there's very little legroom in the rear if the driver is more than 5'2" tall. There's barely space in the trunk to get a stroller in.

Stylistically the car is a hideous slabsided characterless lump.

What pisses me off about this car we got it on a lease and still have 17 months left. We're paying $400 a month for a car which is totally outclassed in practically every respect by cars costing half as much. I'm especially pissed off that a month after we got stuck with this car, they brought out the 330. Mind you, that will still have the suicide traction control and lousy auto box.

Better cars: 1975 Rover P6 V8, Oldsmobile Intrigue.

Recap: a gutless, underpowered slug of a car. Avoid at all costs.

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