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Lexus ES

MCV20R (Mk2) ES 300

1 Oct 1996

The all-new second-generation ES 300 was again Camry-based, although this time it was the Mk4 sold here from ’97 to ’02.

Compared to previously the body and wheelbase were about 50mm longer, but rear passenger space was still much tighter than this lengthy mid-sizer suggested.

Driving the front wheels again was a 3.0-litre quad-cam 24-valve V6, delivering 149kW and 290Nm via a four-speed automatic gearbox.

And, like the old ES, the Mk2 was only really satisfying in a straight line, where its silken-smooth engine made for some very swift progress.

But corners and rutted roads resulted in annoying front-wheel spin as the car struggled for adequate traction, while the ride became unsettled and jittery.

Again the ES fell well short of its Euro rivals. And in the face of the ’98 LS 400 update, new GS 300 and ‘99’s impressive IS 200 models (all rear-drive, by the way), the ES was soon relegated as the only runt in an otherwise pedigree litter.

Lexus split the model into the base S – dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, climate control, remote central locking, power windows, power steering – and the luxury LXS, which also included alloy wheels, leather upholstery and power front seats.

Side airbags and an immobiliser arrived from October ’97, while the S was discontinued when a minor facelift was implemented in late ‘99.

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