Lexus ES300 Based on Camry
Aukofer, Frank, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
When you try to figure out the new Lexus ES300, it's something like the philosophical question of whether human beings are the highest form of animal life or the lowest form of spiritual life.
Looking at it from the former perspective, the new ES300 certainly is one of the classiest midsize family cars around. It's the Toyota Camry carried to its most luxurious conclusion.
On the other hand, it's the lowest-priced offering in the Lexus lineup, and as such is given minimum high regard - along with a host of other $30,000-something machines - as "entry-level luxury."
There's no particular opprobrium connected to that. Regardless of how it's viewed, it's a superb automobile, just as most human beings are wonderfully human - most of the time.
When Toyota of Japan invented the Lexus nameplate more than seven years ago, it also invented a brand-new car, the LS400, which has proven its mettle against the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Acura, Infiniti, Lincoln and Cadillac.
But it wasn't long before the company decided it needed to ease younger buyers into its luxury line with a less expensive model. The easy way to do that was to copy what American automakers had been doing for many years - take an existing car, change some sheet metal and add luxury options.
In this case, Toyota had the Camry, which already was established as one of the higher-quality vehicles available. A bit of tinkering and, voila!, the Lexus ES250.
Subsequent models had slightly larger engines and so were badged as the ES300. For 1997, the ES300 is a brand-new design, just as the 1997 Camry is all new.
Now if you want to go at this as a purely practical consumer, you'll forget about the ES300 and opt instead for a new Toyota Camry XLE. With a judicious selection of options, the XLE can be built up with almost the same equipment as the ES300, with a price tag of almost $6,000 less.
But face it. The Lexus and Toyota nameplates appeal to different groups of humans. …