Bought used in 2010 for $10,000. Was hesitant to buy an 8-year-old car with almost 100k miles for so much, since for that money I could get a 3-5 year old non-luxury sedan (Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, etc) with only 30-50k miles. In the end I was seduced by the luxury experience of the ES, and had it inspected by the Lexus dealer just to be extra sure it was in good shape. Since I had the service records and knew it was a one-owner car, it seemed like a pretty solid choice.
Have only had it for 3,000 miles so far, so I can't say long-term, but no repairs required yet - all I've done is taken it to the shop for its 90,000 mile routine servicing (service records from Lexus database showed that it hadn't been done yet), which included timing belt, water pump, etc.
However, the front brakes squeal when warm, not sure why since it clearly had a brake job less than 1,000 miles before I bought it (brand new parts). Not bothersome enough to have it fixed, and it's only audible with the windows open anyway. Brakes themselves work fine, so it's perfectly OK to drive.
Only other main thing is that the transmission shifts somewhat awkwardly and there is a pronounced hesitation at low speeds. After doing some research it turns out all 2002 ESs do this, and since Lexus never issued a recall I guess I'll just have to put up with it. Not a big enough deal to ruin the driving experience.
- One of the front cup holders is broken.
- Rear parcel shelf has a tick/rattle on cold mornings until the car warms up.
- A-pillar trim is slightly loose and leaks a couple drops of water in heavy car washes (fine the rain)
- Seat memory doesn't work.
All of these issues are due to it being a used car, but for having 100,000 miles I'd say that's a pretty short list. Other than that everything else works, functions, and looks fine.
The ES is a very serene and tranquil car to drive and ride in. I've owned and driven a lot of cars - including entry-level luxury cars - and very few of them can match the ride quality and noise insulation of this one. The ride is very stable; the suspension absorbs and cushions bumps extremely well without being floaty.
Handling in general is fine for everyday driving, but this isn't a sports car or even a somewhat "sporty" car, but it wasn't meant to be in the first place. It's not an exciting car to drive - just a comfortable and relaxing one.
Accelerations is pretty good, more importantly to me, the power delivery is silky smooth and the engine is almost completely silent. A little more HP wouldn't hurt, though, especially considering the class of car this is.
The interior is absolutely beautiful. It feels like a true luxury car rather than just an entry level luxury car. It seems like every inch of the interior is covered in either leather or (real) wood. The wood/leather steering wheel and deeply padded door pulls are great.
The sound system is AMAZING. I've have never, ever driven a car with such good quality sound. You can turn the stereo up really loud and the tones still come through sharp and crystal clear.
Interior room isn't bad, but the backseat is a little low and headroom could be tight for taller people. Front seats are comfortable but don't offer too much support in turns, a bit slippery due to the leather and flatter shape. Trunk is pretty large and useful. For a car this large (191 inches long), I would expect more interior room overall, but it should be fine for most people. Still, my old Avalon was the same size on the outside, but had far more interior space.