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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79
    I've been complaining about the crappy shifting on my '03 ES from the time I purchased this car till the present, but when I read about Lexus's sales figures from "Auto Spy" I ask this question: Why would Lexus even bother?
    Quote from Auto Spy:
    "Lexus passenger cars also posted strong sales of 12,762, an increase of 13.9 percent. The ES 330 luxury sedan recorded best-ever May sales of 7,099 units, up 23.9 percent. The
    LS 430 flagship luxury sedan posted sales of 2,763 units, up 55.3 percent."
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Well, the way I see it, Lexus/Toyota is starting to "rest on their laurels" the way the "big 3" did before they slid into disrepute, falling sales and slumping stock prices. Toyota considers themselves as the best car/truck manufacturer. Yes Lexus has a way to slide, but if they can get by with cheaper production, of course they will.

    The interior of the ES sells itself, so by the time the test drive occurs, the customer is more focused on the wood grain, quiet and ambience of the cabin and not on the transmission.

    Well, Lexus should be more concerned about RETAINING customers as much as aquiring new ones.

    This customer has NO plans to buy another Lexus after owning 3, and having problems with 2 of them. Next time, I will look elsewhere.
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836 - ticle.html?articleId=73568

    The full report on the 02 ES300 does mention the transmission anomaly. It says during normal driving the upshift is barely perceptible, however during aggressive driving the upshift is harsh and the downshift delayed as if the transmission is confused about the driver's intention. So, it is understandable why the majority of the owners probably will not feel the symptoms being described on this board since 90% of the owners probably will not drive it in a way to induce the transmission problem. However, if you read the entire article, you will see that the overall review of the car is very positive calling it one of the best entry level luxury car in terms of fit and finish and NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) even saying to pass up the MB C320 for this car.
  • maxhonda99maxhonda99 Posts: 1,289
    About 2 months back I had a 2002 ES300 as a loaner car. Being that I read these boards alot, I was really looking for a transmission problem. I drove it about 50 miles, and although it wasn't a perfect shifter, I couldn't duplicate any of the problems anyone has mentioned on this board.

    Basically I did find it a little slow to kickdown gears when driving at about 40-50MPH but it wasn't dangerous and it wasn't any worse than my Accord V6, which I feel has a so-so automatic transmission.
  • georgeb7georgeb7 Posts: 35
    "Yes, there were a few minor transmission concerns in previouus ES 300 models but these cocerns have been addressed with the ES 330 models. Besides, if Lexus is still #1 in dependability and realibity, can you imagine the how many more problems the other makes are dealing with? You'll still get the best value for your money with a Lexus without a doubt".

    This does sound like - we are the best so if we have one problem, why should we fix it if others have more problems.
  • five acesfive aces Posts: 3
    I was looking seriously at buying a ES 330, and test drove the car three (3)different times from three (3) different dealerships. I was very impressed with the smooth, quiet ride, just what I was looking for, when all of a sudden when I tried to accelerate, "what the heck?". There was a very noticable hesitation before the engine accelerated, and it was annoying. It has happened to me everytime I test drove the vehicle. I started looking into this, talking to other people who had Lexus', and calling service departments and talking to technicians. Guess what? There is a problem. The Lexus technicians acknowledged it. Check out and look how they rate the Lexus under "acceleration". They nailed it. I don't know if it is a huge issue, but it is annoying and frustrating. It may not be a deal killer, but for me, I'm starting to look again at the Avalon's. Where is Edmunds on this issue?
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Edmund's pays reviewers to write complementary notes about the manufacturers that pay Edmund's (advertising).

    Re: the Avalon. I believe the new '05 Avy will have the same drive train (3.3L V6 5sp auto - drive by wire system that is in the ES). So, if you want silky-smooth shifting, check out the '04 Av before the model end. IMO.
  • five acesfive aces Posts: 3
    I wonder how good the stereo systems are in the '04 Avalon LXS?
  • five acesfive aces Posts: 3
    I have been thinking the same thing about the future 3.3 Liter engine in the '05 Avalon. I wish I new for sure, but it is logical to be concerned that it will have the same shifting problems as the ES.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Historically, Toyota/Lexus has used the same drive train (engine and tranny) for the Lexus ES, Lexus RX, Toyota Avalon, Toyota Sienna, Toyota Highlander and upper end Toyota Camry.

    Since the ES, RX and Sienna now have the 3.3L V6 mated to 5sp auto tranny (which is the topic of concern), it would be predictable that they would also include it in the new, yet to be released, '05 Avalon.

    Interestingly, there are posts on the new Sienna site complaining about transmission issues, but perhaps not the same ones listed for the ES.
  • johnparjohnpar Posts: 1
    There is definitely a transmission performance issue. Some people (me included) find it a minor issue; others see it as a major problem. I noticed the slow downshifts of my 02 ES and had the software upgrade done. I noticed an improvement, but the downshift hesitation did not go away altogether. I now have an 04 ES, and its transmission acts the same as the 02 after the upgrade. I don't find it particularly annoying, and feel the ES330 is one of the finest cars I've ever driven. Very quiet, smooth and comfortable.

    My wife drives an 04 RX330 (formerly drove an 02 RX300). We've not noticed any transmission issues with either vehicle.

    I note with interest some of the posts that complain about service from the Lexus dealers. Over the last 25 years, I've acquired 24 different vehicles of various makes from 10 different dealers. The two Lexus dealers I've dealt with are head and shoulders above the rest. My current dealer, Lexus of Shreveport, is outstanding. On my 02 ES, as I dropped it off for its 10K maintenance, I mentioned to the service manager a slight shimmy when braking. He called me a little while later and said they were replacing the brake rotors at no charge. Similarly, I stopped in one day and told them I had begun hearing some unusual road noise. They took one look at the Toyo tires on the car and told me they would be replaced. I got a set of five new V-rated Goodyear Eagle GA's, including balancing and alignment at no charge. No fuss. No muss. I've never experienced that type of proactive service from any other manufacturer's dealers.
    Of the six Lexus vehicles I've owned, the two items mentioned above with the 02 ES are the only times any of the six have been in the shop for anything other than scheduled maintenance. The only other car I've ever been able to say that about was a Saturn my daughter drove for 70,000 miles. Lexus does make great cars, and my experience says they stand behind what they sell.
  • lobslobs Posts: 21
    I read much of this discussion before recently buying a new ES330. In my test drives there was some evidence of slow downshifting and hunting for a gear. I was somewhat concerned but I went ahead and got the car based on its overall excellence. I now have about 600 miles on the car and have frequently tried driving in ways to confuse the shifting and also to accelerate rapidly. There has been a clear decrease of the slight, negative symptoms in a very short time. The downshift delay is a fraction of what I had with my 2000 Jaguar S Type(really irritating - even dangerous). On the other hand, it is not like the instantaneous response of my BMW 330i. I am definitely NOT unhappy because of the transmission shifting. The anomalies are insignificant.
  • jragosta1jragosta1 Posts: 49
    I just did some checking on NHTSA's web site. There have already been 9 complaints about 2004 ES330 models, 28 complaints about the 2003 model and 50 complaints about the 2002 model that appear to be related to this problem.

    Unfortunately, those numbers are not firm because different people coded the problem differently and I didn't read the whole complaint to be sure.

    I'd suggest that everyone who has the problem should contact the NHTSA to file a complaint. It's quite easy and will only take a few minutes at

    To ensure that the complaint gets full attention, I'd suggest that everyone enter the same thing under 'equipment'. That way, the problem won't be neglected because it appears to be so many unrelated problems. I would suggest that you enter the following two items for equipment:
    Power Train:Automatic Transmission
    Vehicle Speed Control:Accelerator Pedal

    Since no one knows for sure what the problem is, but the drive by wire seems to be one culprit, those choices seemed reasonable.

    Please take the few minutes to file your complaint if your car is affected.
  • drbeedrbee Posts: 1
    I leased my ES 300 and wanted to purchase the car. Not with this transmisson problem. I went to pass another car on a two lane road...punched the gas and the car just stood there....accident waiting to happen. It's hard for me to beleive that a car of this quality has not fixed this problem.
  • jragosta1jragosta1 Posts: 49
    Please file a complaint with NHTSA (see post #472). If enough people take action, the government will likely force Lexus to act.

    It doesn't cost anything but a couple minutes of your time.

  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    jragosta 1 :
    Will do. Thanks.
  • vanboyvanboy Posts: 6
    Hi Folks. Just had the pleasure of driving an ES330 as a loaner for the day. It had 7,500 km (5,000 miles) on it. Yes, I'm from Canada.

    Its a wonderful car with a smooth, velvety ride. What you would expect from a Lexus. As for the transmission long as I was moving forward at ANY speed, anytime I pressed hard on the accelerator, the was a momentary pause....BUT a very small and most people wouldn't even notice. Yes for those car enthusiasts out there, you would definitely notice but I wouldn't classify this as a problem. I have driven a lot of cars, some owned, some rented and some belonging to other family/friend members. Most cars have a momentary lag, albeit a micro-second long, when you stomp on the gas. I'll add that none of these cars a drove would be classified as a sports cars. Even my Integra had a small lag that wasn't really noticeable or a problem.

    The only real issue I noticed was that the shift from first to second was a bit "klunky". Not as smooth as the rest of the gear changes. But all in all a very smooth car with lots of features and what should be great reliability and resale value. Even if there really are shifting problems I don't think it will cause any real transmission problems in terms of repairs in the future.

    Thats my 2 cents.
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    Be sure and file complaints with the NTHSA. I wrote U.S. Texas Senator John Cornyn, and he forwarded my letter and documentation to the NTHSA. They wrote him back and said there have been only 37 complaints filed with them. Frankly, I find that a shocking few, with how many people are on this board complaining. There should be a lot more. The 37 are complaints on the '02 and '03 and they noted me as one of the parties complaining. The complaints relate to a surging problem, but they say they have no complaints on hesitation, or flat out failure to deliver power to the drive train. I would urge you to file if you want anything done about this.
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    I was getting my oil changed at a dealership in Houston. Killing time, I walked around and looked at new cars. The sales manager came up and asked if I wanted a new one. He asked if I liked my car and I told him about the bad transmission, and how everything else was fine with the car. He looked down at his feet a bit, then looked up at me and said "It probably wouldn't surprise you to hear you aren't the first person to complain about that." He said "He didn't understand why nothing had been done." I told him that I spoke with the Atlanta Lexus Rep. and that the Rep. said that the dealers were all mistaken about telling customers that tranny problem would be fixed. The Rep. said that "There is no problem with the car and the dealerships are misinformed." He just shook his head and said "I'd sell the car if I were you. You can still get a good resale." Frankly, I was really taken off guard by his honesty. I really appreciated it. That same Atlanta Rep. has since acknowledged there is a problem, but that the Japanese are happy with the vehicle and they aren't going to do anything about it.
  • jragosta1jragosta1 Posts: 49
    Texas83, if you're in touch with your senator, please provide him with the real numbers. You can do your own research on NHTSA's site.

    I counted over 100 complaints for 02 alone. Something like 60 last year and 10 already on the '04 models.

    The problem is that NHTSA only looks at the description. If the descriptions don't match properly, they don't count them. For example, they count 'power train:automatic transmission:torque converter' as a different complaint than 'power train: automatic transmission:shifting' even if they both describe exactly the same symptoms. It's even worse in this case because many people listed the problem under 'accelerator'.

    If you go to the NHTSA web site and review the complaints for 02, 03, and 04 Lexus ES300/330 individually, you can see pretty quickly which ones cover this specific problem. The numbers are much higher than NHTSA is willing to admit. Close to 200 complaints on a car that only sells a few thousand units per year is huge.
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