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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • andy71andy71 Posts: 96
    Most of the problems on this forum seems to be with the ES300 and not 330. Remember, the 330 has a more powerful engine and a revised transmission. Also how you drive could be a big factor on whether you feel the problem or not. The fact that ES300/330 is still selling so well even with the transmission "problem" leads one to believe that the overwhelming majority of owners are probably not feeling the problem.
  • davidzdavidz Posts: 35
    I have read the messages in this group and on usenet extensively over the last few weeks. And I just took a demo ES330 home over last weekend with all that knowledge in mind. I still say it's the only car I want.

    All cars have some lag between the time you put your foot on the gas pedal and when the car responds. Some more than others. And granted the ES330 could be better in this regard. But dangerous? I don't think so.

    Also, I've read about 3 reviews in car magazines of the ES300 (C & D) and the ES330 and there was absolutely no mention of the issue. The only place I see it discussed is by a few ranters on the Internet.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Thanks for your note. I, too am puzzled why C&D and other independant reviews wouldn't comment on this issue, since there are several websites full of commentary from owners. Anyway, I enjoy my ES (for the most part), but wish that Lexus would correct a deficiency in performance that isn't present in any other Lexus/Toyota cars and trucks that I have owned or driven.
    Best of luck with your car selection.
  • mrdlexusmrdlexus Posts: 23
    The point that I am trying to make is that for $30k-35k you can do much better. Yes the car is smooth and quiet, but the unpredictability of the shifting pattern is what is questionable. Everything is great about my car except for the shifting and lag during shifting. Another problem is that the car does not always follow a certain shift pattern or hard shifting, sometimes it is fine. The people that do not recognize the shifting issues are the same people that do not realize that they are driving on a flat tire. This is the worst shifting car I have ever had, hands down. I can shift a truck smoother than this shifts, and that's a fact. If you notice any weird shifting habits during the test drive it will not get any better with time. Don't get fooled just because it is a Lexus, just go with your gut feeling. If you like the car then buy it, but remember that many people have complained about this problem to Lexus with no results. You will be stuck like I am, paying for a lawyer to try to get your money back. Also the new engine has no affect on the transmission shifting issues, they are still there. Whether you have an ES300 or 330 the car still shifts hard and clunks into gear. No matter what anybody says an entry-level luxury sedan should be smooth and quiet, and yes that includes the transmission. Possibly the reviews sent out by major car magazines and online are bogus. I have read nothing prior to my purchasing the ES330 about poor shifting or lag during shifting. But as soon as I get the car and search for a specific problem it comes up all over the place, something is fishy. I just hope to get my money back and I can get something that I will be happy with. By the way my previous car was a Camry, no problems at all, loved it 100% The point of my rambling is to help anyone in the market for a new Es330, I don't want to see anyone else get ripped off.
  • dennydenny Posts: 17
    In a recent post(#430), I described the sluggish transmission/acceleration problem with my new 2004 ES330 that so many on this board have detailed. I had the car in for the 1000 mile service yesterday and asked them to check out this problem. They said they checked the transmission by computer and that it was operating as designed. When I asked if the shift points could be extended, they said that no changes could be programmed into the transmission control computer. The service writer did admit that many customers have complained about this problem and suggested I call Lexus to log in my complaint. I guess I will do that, but don't expect any solution will result. So, the purpose of this post is to warn any of you folks out there who may be considering the ES330 to beware. I don't know if this problem applies to every car or whether some are worse than others. Be sure you take an extended test drive, not just around the block, to determine if you can live with the way this car performs. While I'm at it, what cretin designed a climate control system that runs the A/C and recirc automatically and requires you to shut them off, and provides no way to get fresh outside air through the vents.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Did your service writer tell you about the software "upgrade" that can be installed?? Another option (according to my service guy ) is to "re-set" the transmission computer to allow it to "re-learn" your driving habits. (He thought this was a good first step because the "upgrade" installation prevents going back to the orignial computer software, once it's installed.)
    Check back on older posts on this site.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    The lousy drivetrain remains a lousy drivetrain in an otherwise nice car. Buyers beware.
  • dennydenny Posts: 17
    I saw a notation on the dealers copy of the service order that said "beyond trans update calibration", so I assume this means that my car has the latest software update available, especially since it's only 1 1/2 months old. The service guy did say that the only thing they could do is erase the computer's memory of our driving style, but he didn't think that would help in my case since I've been trying to "train" the car rather aggresively. I fear that vcheng may be right.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I recently had the re-set done, and I think that it has helped some. I intentionally drove aggressively during this second "break-in" period, as they suggested. I bought the car new, out of state, and drove it 500 mi home with little change in the highway speed.
    I may be getting use to it's jerky habits as it now has close to 10K miles.
    Anyway, just suggestions that might help.
  • dennydenny Posts: 17
    Thanks. I think I will take the car back and have them erase the memory and break it in a second time. It couldn't hurt. Are there any Lexus service techs out there who can shed any light on these transmission woes?
  • I test drove an ES330 and loved the car except for some rough shifting. I read this forum and went back for another test drive with a more focused attention. I could make the transmission misbehave pretty easily.

    After all of you folks experiences I changed my mind and bought a used (19,000) Mazda Millenia that drives just as well and and has a silky smooth engine and transmission for $15,000. I'm happy and saved $17,000. Thanks folks, the Internet rocks!
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    I just read the Edmund's review of the ES330; don't see any mention of the transmission problem. Aren't these professional drivers who are reviewing the cars? They must have put the car through it's paces. In fact, they called it the best affordable luxury car. ?*
  • georgeb7georgeb7 Posts: 35
    It may not be in the best interest of to single-handedly report that the Lexus 330 has a bad transmission. Just food for thought.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Obviously, Lexus as well as all other manufacturers pay Edmunds for advertising.

    Does Edmund's pass on website chatter to reviewers?? Probably not.
    You'd think that if you were in the business of reviewing cars, that you'd know and factor in what is being said by the customer base (those of us on this website).

    Good question for our host. Why don't Edmund's reviewers comment on the transmission issues with the ES ???
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,376
    Probably because it didn't happen to them, would be the most logical answer I could come up with.

    The reviewers are usually pretty good about jumping on a glaring defect, if you read through some of the other reviews.

    However, your comments (basic content, not identities) are very helpful and are directed to management for possible forwarding to manufacturers. We hosts often note any reptitive mention of problems with a car and send that observation along.

    You have to remember that even a 10% failure rate in a car's component would be very unusual, so it makes sense that the Edmunds car wouldn't show it.

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • mrdlexusmrdlexus Posts: 23
    Believe it or not there is an honest person that is reviewing this car. Ann M. Job of the Associated Press reviewed the Lexus ES330, and was quite honest. Direct quote from her review,"I just wish more attention had been put into how the transmission and engine worked together in the test car. Occasional, clumsy-feeling upshifts were felt by passengers. There were enough of them during my test drive that I wondered what had happened to the silky smooth shifts that I had enjoyed from the predecessor ES. I also noticed occasional hesitation, as if the transmission were indecisive about which gear to be in , when I travelled on hilly highways". That is a perfect review of an imperfect car, this is what we are all complaining about. Stay away from the ES330 until Lexus fixes the problem, it's been 3+ years an counting!!!!!!!!!!
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Poor Ann M. Job !! She probably won't be getting another Lexus to review, with those comments about the ES.
    I think about recent scandals with stock analysts and how they had conflicts of interest with the companys they reviewed.

    My biggest concern, now that my ES has 10K mi, is how likely is it that this transmission will completely fail prematurely.
  • davidzdavidz Posts: 35
    The irony of Ms. Job's review is that she "wondered what had happened to the silky-smooth shifts" that she "had so enjoyed from the predecessor ES." Based on the complaints that I've read, isn't the sluggish transmission problem much worse on the ES330's predecessors (specifically the 2002 and 2003 ES300s)?
  • mrdlexusmrdlexus Posts: 23
    I think she is referring to the time when the es 300 had a 4 speed automatic instead of the current 5 speed. It is true that 2002 and 2003 models were the worst, with marginal improvement in the 2004 model year. The fact remains that when Lexus changed from the 4 speed to the 5 speed, that is when all the complaints started occurring. The 4 speed was silky smooth!!!!
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    Those posts describe the problem perfectly. A wonderful automobile that shifts like crap. My 02 has 30k with no improvement or deteriation in shift quality. Will it last 100k? Who knows. Will Lexus stand behind their product if it fails? I am beginning to doubt it. I have driven many 02/04 loaners (300's and 330's) and every one had a noticeable shifting problem. I will never believe it is just 10% of production.(Lexus has admitted to 12%). Just 10% of aware owners. Last time I checked NHTSA'S site, there were 37 reported accidents and one death attributed to ES300/330 transmission problems.
      I am also driving my second LS400 and had plans to buy a new 430 until I read posts from two owners complaining of abnormal shifting with their new 430's.
  • 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.
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