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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • md528md528 Posts: 3
    I have read quite alot about the 2002 and 2003 ES300 transmission problems. The 2004 ES330 has a different engine 3.3L and a new tranmission. Are any 2004 owners experiencing the same problems as the 2002 and 2003 models???? I am about to purchase a 2004 ES330 and don't want to if they have not fixed the problem
  • andy71andy71 Posts: 96
    I am a current owner of a 2004 Toyota Camry SE V6. My car has the same 3.3L 225 Hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. This is my honest opinion and I think you should take the car for a thorough test drive before buying one. The car is very responsive from a standstill. In fact much much quicker than the 3.0L engine found on the LE and XLE models. However, the drive-by-wire throttle has a disconnected feel to it when you step on the gas. I think 90% of the people probably won't notice it. But comparing to my 95 Camry LE V6 I can feel the disconnect. In my older car I can actually feel the car responding to my throttle input. With my new car, it is computer sensors not cables that detect acceleration input. Some of the complaints I have seen on this board is that there is a slight delay when you press the gas pedal and when the car starts accelerating. I have not felt this. My overall impression of this car is very good. But you should always test drive before agreeing to buy a car. Hopefully it helps.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    and I know what you are talking about. The V6 Camrys seem kind of soft and sluggish. But that is not the same thing as the ES300/30 transmission slip/hesitation. In fact, the ES300 transmission seems more responsive than the Camry XLE in the aspect you are talking about.

    I drove an RX330 as a loaner and did not have the problem that I have experienced in all ES300s I have driven.

    I still think the hesitation discussed here is a ES unique issue.
  • sarahsarah Posts: 19
    I test drove my car(which I am scheduled to pick up on Sat.)today, and I'm quite surprised at the first step on the gas,the car did'nt seem to respond, I drove out of the dealer's lot and I felt like I was pushing the car from behind,the gas pedal was pressed hard enough and I drove around the area and I thought maybe there was something blocking the tires from running,it was so slow, I thought maybe the brake was onbut there was no indication of that.I turned back right away to the dealer and asked the sales person. He opened the hood and showed me the label on the engine marked VHH(orVVH)He said that the car's transmission is driven by computer sensor, it senses how the driver drives the car and he said that it will take about 15 miles before the car would respond to my way of driving,he even had an engineer explained to me. I was really puzzed. I decided to try again and drove out of the parking lot again,this time ,the car seemed to respond better. Am I just not used to this new technology or was I too tight because I was nervous or is that sign of transmission problem that some people talked about? Please give me some of your opinions. I still have time to back out although I think I'm way too far into the deal. I signed the financing application today
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    The "slow to respond" feel that you described on your initial test drive is very similar to what has been described by some of us on this website.
    It has also been characterized as intermittant -
    ok sometimes, bad other times. Some people are seriously annoyed by the problem and others don't seem to mind or care.
    IMO, if the response that you felt the first time you drove the car would bother you, DON'T buy the car. There is no need to rush spending this kind of money if you're not completely satisfied.
  • kreativkreativ Posts: 299
    I agree with toydriver. If you're not satisfied with how the car drove on your test drives, don't let the salesman rope you in with the expectation that the car will get better after you've dropped $30K+ for the car and driven it off their lot. If he's so confident, he'll let you drive the 15 miles to prove his point to you.

    And what he was pointing to on the engine is "VVT-i" - Variable Valve Timing with intelligence. I don't know why he referenced that instead of the ECT-i when explaining the learning behavior of the transmission.
  • sarahsarah Posts: 19
    Thanks for your advices. Did any new owner experience the same slow response in the first 15 mi.? I spoke to their service person today and she explained that it was not transmission problem that people are experiencing, that it was the software that needs adjustment.I read about the vvt-i on their website today and it explained in detail its technology, same with ECT-i both seem to be dependent on the computer sensor which is controlling the car for you rather than you. The sales rep did allow me to drive as long as I want but it was late in the eve. so maybe I'll try to do that again tomorrow.The whole experience was just surprising not unsatisfied because if the car is really dependent on these sensors,I can understand,just a matter of knowing about it.
  • andy71andy71 Posts: 96
    Cars from all manufacturers are packing more and more complicated technology in their cars. Most are definitely for the better but unfortunately some are not. This is my first car with an "intelligent", "adaptive" transmission. From my personal experience I can tell you that the transmission did adapt to my driving habit after about a week. But if you don't feel comfortable with the car back out of the deal. You should buy something that satisfies your needs.
  • sarahsarah Posts: 19
    Do you have the '04 ES330? Did you experience the same slow response when you first drive your car? As I mentioned in my earlier post,it's not that I'm dissatisfied, it's just that I didn't know about the vvt-i technology. Now that I know about it, I seem to trust that it will adapt to my driving like in your case.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    The "smart" transmission symptom, whatever it is, is minor compared to the transmission hesitation that board members complain about.

    I have not felt a sluggish startup, but more like a shudder, and mostly when accelerating after I have pulled back from the gas.

    Also, if you are not trying to repeat the problem, it tends to be intermittant.

    But I could repeat the shudder on all ES300s I have driven.

    I have not driven an ES330, but some board members have reported that the problem was never fixed in the ES330.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    You are getting some really good advice from experienced ES owners on the past few posts.

    Forgive my intrusion, but it sounds like you are convincing yourself that the initial hesitation you felt on the test drive won't bother you as long as you understand the technology.

    I am still trying to understand the technology too, but am still annoyed at times by the slow response to pushing on the gas and feeling the shudder when it downshifts - as atoews refers to.

    If I were you, I'd take a more basic approach to it. Test it again (without the sales person in the car). Stomp on the gas, slow quickly, speed up again - then drive it slow and easy, noticing every sound and vibration. Drive it for as many miles as they will allow, before you purchase. New car owners should be 100% satisfied with the car when they leave the lot - (the car won't get any better than when it's brand new and shiney).
  • sarahsarah Posts: 19
    I've read almost all the post on this site tonite,now,I'm really convinced that I had experienced the slow response that most people described. As I mentioned in my first post after test drive,As soon as I started the car and pressed on the pedal far enough,the car was just moving and not running. I crawled out of the dealer's parking lot feeling strange and drove 50ft to next door's parking lot still crawling, checked if the brake was accidentally left on but didn't find any sign of it. Came out of the parking lot and drove back to the dealer's parling lot,the car was running better by then.After the sales person and their engineer explained the vvt-i technology,i decided to give it a try again. This time, I didn't feel the same response. That's exactly what I've read from this board. I was hoping that the car's computer would adapt to my driving habit as some has reported but now, I have this funny feeling that I'd just experienced the typical symptoms on my first try. It's sad, I'm so close to getting the car,now,I'm having second thought. I drive on a busy highway to work everyday, and the traffic is often stop and go, I'm really concerned about the response issue and possibly more of others. I'm really disappointed and frustrated now. Thanks to all. I'll let you know of my decision tomorrow.
  • andy71andy71 Posts: 96
    If what you described is true, don't buy this car. My car didn't exhibit this slow almost no response you are talking about, but the transmission did feel a bit lethargic especially when it came to downshifting from overdrive for quick passing or merging maneuvers. Thankfully that symptom is now gone as it has "adapted" to my driving habits.

    P.s. My car is a 2004 Camry SE V6 with the same 5 speed ECT-i automatic.
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    My 2002 ES300 still shifts and drives bad and it has 30,000 miles on it. Last sunday (Easter),in heavy traffic on the Mass Pike, my wife, my 5 year old grandaughter and I came within fractions of an inch of being crushed by a 18 wheeler. I stomped itto get out of the way and NOTHING happened except for a lot of engine noise. The car went nowhere. By the time it picked a gear and started to move , the trucks bumper and grille were the only things I could see in my rearview mirror. He managed to stop( with smoking tires). Another coat of paint on my car and there would have been contact.
     Wiht the exception of the shifting and throttle response, it is a great car that I wish I had never bought. I also own a LS400, my second,and I do not know of a nicer production automobile, but, I will never trust Lexus enough to buy another one of any model. Their response to the driveability problems of the 300 have been underwhelming.
  • srocks4srocks4 Posts: 13
    Hi Everyone,

    I will be looking into a used es300, most of my driving will be on the freeway. From what I've read, there is a lot of issues with AT, does anyone if the '92 used the same?

    94k, leather, suppose to be clean with no major mechanic issues; Their asking for 5k.

  • maxhonda99maxhonda99 Posts: 1,289

    The 92 ES300 had a totally different transmission from today's ES300. In fact the 92-93 ES300 had one transmission, the 94-96 ES300 had another transmission.
  • andy71andy71 Posts: 96
    I am surprised Lexus has been able to keep the tranny problem of the ES300 swept under the rug for so long. Most of the transmission issues seems to be posted by individuals on Edmunds and other automotive forums. Does anybody know if there is any class action lawsuit against Lexus?
  • sv7887sv7887 Posts: 351
    Hi All,
      I'm sure Lexus will do something about it..Their whole Brand Image is based on Reliability..I've driven a few ES cars and have noted their sluggish transmissions. The ES330 I had recently as a loaner was significantly better though. If anything I'm sure Lexus is working on a fix.
      Don't let one bad experience deter you from buying another Lexus car. I've had 3 LS400/430's and plan on continuing to buy them. (I still have the 92..Absolutely Bulletproof reliability) Lexus still builds a car that is second to none in reliability.

  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    ...but I'll bet you won't see a "fix" until the new body style comes out. The only way I believe Lexus will fix the problem is if someone is killed because of it, and the situation draws media attention.

    You might want to search for user "texas83" and a couple of others who have engaged in lawsuits against Lexus/Toyota over the issue. Currently, Lexus will not even acknowledge that there is a problem.
  • carscarscarscars Posts: 6
    I have a 01 RX330 and a 98 ES300 which, except for some strut problems, has been largely troublefree over the years. I've been waiting over a year to replace the ES300 with a ES330 expecting Lexus to resolve this. Being something of a car nut (I also own a Corvette), I have come to the conclusion that this problem appears to be most apparent to drivers who are more attuned and demanding of their car's response (like me). Many other people (and my wife would probably fall into this category) would never notice or become aware of the problem as the rest of us. Anyway...with Lexus doing nothing to really address this, I'm about to buy an Acura TL. Frankly, even if they now came out and said that they have a "new" ES transmission for 2005, I would still not trust them based on their recent claims that their reprogramming has now fixed the problem.
  • dennydenny Posts: 17
    I have a new 2004 ES-330 that definitely has the sluggish transmission problem. There has been little or no improvement in the first 600 miles. Because of this driveability issue, the car has been a major disappointment and is frustrating to drive. I will be taking the car in for the 1000 mile service soon and will see what they say. If they tell me that it is normal or that nothing can be done I will be getting rid of a car with 1000 miles on it. I have'nt read all the posts here but it does not appear that anyone has gotten a satisfactory solution to this problem. Is this correct? It would seem that a transmission software patch would have solved the problem by now.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    You won't be the only one. I got rid of an ES300 with 550 miles on it for the same reason a while ago. If you dislike the drivetrain as much as I did, you will have to get rid of it. No amount of "upgrades" or "design features" will make this unit drive like a modern car should.
  • mrrogersmrrogers Posts: 391
    There was a post a few months ago where an owner said that the problem was not as bad if you drove in fourth gear around town, and then shifted to fifth for highway driving. Good luck!
  • davidzdavidz Posts: 35
    Just test drove the ES330 again with the hesitation issue in mind (due to various things I've read here and elsewhere).

    I noticed that the hesitation is worse the harder you punch it. If you ease in on the throttle and push it when you feel the tranny engage, there's not much hesitation at all. Or at the very least, a lot less than when you just floor it quickly.

    Any thoughts on this? I'm still debating whether or not to buy one. I'm going to test drive it again the weekend. There's no other car that interests me. If I don't buy it, I'll just keep my 1997 ES300 and wait to see what the 2005s are like.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I have owned an '03ES for a year now and have just under 10,000mi on it. I didn't notice the trans. hesitation until it had several hundred miles on it. It seemed to get worse until about 1,000 mi and since then hasn't changed much. Complained to my service mgr. (who has always been extremely helpful to us with my wife's RX) who "re-set" the transmission computer during my last scheduled service. It really hasn't helped.

    Re: changing driving habits ("hesitation is worse the harder you punch it"). Unfortunately we can't always control our driving patterns and have to adjust depending on traffic flow, congestion, emergency stops, stop and go of rush hour, etc.

    I'd say that if you are annoyed by the shifting on the new ES330, you might try a different ES, (some ES cars seem to be affected more than others - or at least their owner's are more vocal than others) but more than likely you will continue to be annoyed if you purchase it. You are probably very sensitive to the way a car responds and the current ES model may not be for you. The updated GS330 model is due out soon and promises to be "sporty" with close to 250hp.
  • davidzdavidz Posts: 35
    Just test drove the ES330 again with the hesitation issue in mind (due to various things I've read here and elsewhere).

    I noticed that the hesitation is worse the harder you punch it. If you ease in on the throttle and push it when you feel the tranny engage, there's not much hesitation at all. Or at the very least, a lot less than when you just floor it quickly.

    Any thoughts on this? I'm still debating whether or not to buy one. I'm going to test drive it again the weekend. There's no other car that interests me. If I don't buy it, I'll just keep my 1997 ES300 and wait to see what the 2005s are like.
  • andy71andy71 Posts: 96
    The problem you are describing is probably due to the drive by wire throttle system and not the transmission. I have felt that slight delay when taking off from a stop light. It doesn't bother me too much. Once the car does start to accelerate it is pretty quick. If you are waiting for the 05 model you probably will be dissapointed since there won't be any major changes
  • mrdlexusmrdlexus Posts: 23
    The problem is that there really is a problem with the transmission or the drive by wire throttle or both. Lexus refuses to accept that there is a defect in this car, and until consumers stop buying there won't be a fix. I own a 2004 ES330 and I have contacted a lemon law lawyer to attempt to get my money back. I am disgusted with the car and its poor driving ability. If you actually believe that the car will shift better with more mileage then you ought to get your heads examined. I will never purchase another Lexus again and anyone in the market for this car should look elsewhere. There are plenty of other cars available in the 30k-35k price range that drive and perform much better. The biggest issue is that Lexus refuses to own up to its mistake, they claim it is operating as designed. I honestly believe it is operating as designed, just very poorly designed. Anyone in the market that is thinking about an ES330, at least in my opinion should look elsewhere. Otherwise you will be making a $30K+ mistake like I did and regretting every minute that you are driving the car. Please do not purchase the ES330 or you will be very dissatisfied for the duration that you own the car!!!!!!!!
  • davidzdavidz Posts: 35
    I took a demo ES330 home for the weekend. Yes, there's a lag in the throttle, but I can live with it. It's time for a new car and there's no other car I'd rather have.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Before purchasing, you might want to read posts on this website over the past 2 years with complaints from owners about the transmission. To summarize, some have claimed that the car is "dangerous" and have sought legal remedy through lemon laws, complaints to DOT, etc. Others of us are occaisionally annoyed by the hard shifts and hesitation and "jerkiness" unbecoming of a luxury vehicle. Others don't seem to notice or care. The fact that you noticed the "lag in the throttle" early suggests that you are in one of the first two categories of drivers.(IMO).
    Lexus has obviously been very successful in sales of the ES, but Lexus' recent drop in quality ratings (number of complaints by new owners) was attributed to the ES transmission issues. They make up for it in quality of the interior, quiet ride, smooth ride, etc.
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