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2005 Lexus ES 330 Mid-Size Luxury Sedan

New Car Review of the 2005 Lexus ES 330 Mid-Size Luxury Sedan

Base MSRP Range: $32,175

Base Invoice Range: $28,528

MSRP As Tested: $35,175.

Versions: None

Vehicle Category: Mid-Size Luxury Sedan

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive.

Standard Engine: 3.3-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 24-valves, V-6, 218 - horsepower at 5600 rpm and 236 lb-ft torque at 3600 rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed automatic.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 21/25.

Standard Safety Features: Driver and passenger airbags, Front side airbags, Curtain side airbags,">Four-wheel anti-lock brake system, Daytime running lights.

Competition: Acura TL, Acura TSX, Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G35, Saab 9-3.

Every time I get behind the wheel of a Lexus, I think, "This is how all cars will feel in 10 years."

It's not the technology that gives a Lexus the ahead-of-its-time feel, nor is it the styling. Heck, any company can install a few gizmos in a car and call it luxury, and there are plenty of examples of cars that look cutting-edge when they're born only to look totally ridiculous when they age.

So what makes a Lexus so special? Perfection.

Every body panel, every piece of interior trim and every component under the hood work in harmony to make the driving experience blissful. It's smooth. It's precise. It's refined.

That's why each new Lexus is so impressive. It's not that they have a revolutionary body style or fancy new gadgets, it's that they're closer to that elusive automotive perfection than ever before.

Thus it is with the 2005 ES 330.

Last year's model was a great car -- probably the smoothest, quietest vehicle in its class -- but the newest version is slightly more polished.

For starters, the body is faintly different. It's certainly not revolutionary, but the new grille, headlights and taillights are a nice evolution of Lexus' subtle luxury theme and make it look less like the cheaper Toyota Camry.

It also has several new luxury features, like enhanced seating comfort and adjustability, a new steering wheel with integrated audio and central display controls, voice activation for the available navigation system, and satellite radio compatibility. Again, the changes aren't earth shaking, but they're enough to make the ES 330 a better bargain and a more luxurious vehicle than ever before.

Lexus also makes the car more appealing by adding several choices for interior trim, including two different types of wood -- burl walnut and golden bird's eye maple. Combined with two new leather colors, the ES 330 offers plenty of choices for the cabin's look and feel.

The driving feel doesn't appear to have changed much from 2004, and that's fine by me.

As always, the ES 330 feels perfectly smooth in every respect, from the buttery suspension to the oh-so-sweet engine/transmission combination. It has enough power to be fun on twisty roads, but it also shifts smooth enough to coddle passengers around town.

Although its 3.3-liter V6 engine makes a robust 225 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque, it still manages to get 21 miles per gallon in town and 29 mpg on the highway according to government tests. It also qualifies for Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle II certification.

Lexus infused the ES 330 with luxury features similar to the LS 430 flagship sedan, such as dual-zone automatic climate control with an air filtration system. The standard audio system in both models features a five-channel amplifier and seven speakers. The ES 330 includes both a CD player and a cassette player, and Automatic Sound Level (ASL) adjusts volume up or down in response to ambient noise.

Like most Lexus models, it also offers an optional high-end Mark Levinson audio system in combination with a DVD-based navigation system.

Additional standard features include a one-touch power moonroof with sunshade; multi-information display with trip computer; a built-in garage door opener; and a compass integrated into the rearview mirror. The power windows on all four doors provide one-touch up/down control with jam protection. Two convenience features borrowed from the LS 430 include water-repellent front door glass and four-door courtesy lamps that illuminate the ground and doorsill areas.

All in all, it's hard to find anything to gripe about in this car. Sure, the styling remains a little bland and drivers could always use slightly more horsepower, but the overall aura of perfection is hard to beat.

Somehow, though, you can bank on Lexus finding a way to raise the bar in the future.

Pros: It's probably the smoothest, quietest car in its class, with a buttery driving feel and silent cabin. If you're looking for perfection on wheels, it's hard to beat the ES 330 at this price.

Cons: The styling still doesn't seem to say "luxury car." Also, 225 horsepower is perfectly acceptable, but it lacks the excess power that defines luxury for some drivers.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 7
  • Performance: 7
  • Price: 9
  • Handling: 9
  • Ride: 10
  • Comfort: 10
  • Quality: 10
  • Overall: 9

More Data

Where Built: Japan

Major Options: As Tested: Navigation system with CD changer ($2,220), Wood steering wheel and shift knob ($330), Vehicle stability control ($650).

Seating: 5.

Number of Rows: 2.

Length in Inches: 191.1

Warranties: 4 years/50,000 miles Bumper to bumper, 6 years/ 70,000 miles Extended powertrain, 6 years / unlimited miles Corrosion, 4 years / unlimited miles Free roadside assistance.

Weight in Pounds: 3472 lbs.

Cargo Capacity in Pounds: Not Available.

Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: 4540 lbs.

Towing Capacity in Pounds: 8900 lbs. - 8600 lbs.

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 18.5

Destination Charge: $795