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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • bgrahebgrahe Posts: 2
    I have been driving my father in laws car for a about a month now and I don't think the o/d is working. Can anyone tell me what they show on there tach when the car is running 75mph. I have called dearlers, but they just say bring it in. I want some backgrond info first. Thanks
  • maxhonda99maxhonda99 Posts: 1,289
    at 75MPH i would think your engine should be turning at about 3500RPM in 4th gear, if your O/D isn't working, you should be seeing your engine turn at speeds in excess of 4000RPM@75MPH.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,480
    You can just count the shifts from a standing start.

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  • igibanigiban Posts: 530
    After over 10K miles and almost a year on the bag, and more than a couple of throttle flooring, I sensed a 0.5 second hesitation this morning for the first time when I had to floor. The sequence was from the stop/light, gas just a little, and then off gas/slide for a few seconds, and then full-press the pedal. I sensed a very brief hesitation b4 it took off like it should. Now I have to say I almost never have to drive like that. It was an unusual situation where I had to make a short left and an immediate right to get on freeway. I did not stay on the outside lane as a safe driver would do because there're two huge trucks in front of me. Three's only one small car on the inside lane. But it turned out that the small car was slow when making the left and the truck was aggressive. I then had to merge in front of the truck. The 0.5 second delay did not really make a difference as if it would I'd not have tried to pass anyway, but it is indeed an expectation gap. If this is the only time a hesitation would happen (as it seems to mine so far), I'd have little problem as I'd rarely do this kind of aggressive maneuver, and I guess I'll refrain from that more. The otherwise merits of this car far outweigh this issue I have to say. But there's a hesitation behavior on ES that is true.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    As many of you know, I bought my ES300 in March 2002. During many conversations, I stated that I had driven multiple ES300s and could repeat the transmission symptom in all of them. I remain convinced that this is a vehicle design issue and I am convinced that I could repeat the problem in any
    ES300, even in those whose owners swear they don't have the symptom.

    Well, today as my vehicle was being repaired (I have had my brake rotors go, and my rear window motor go, and my rear window shade go.), I drove an ES330 loaner. I will confirm that the hesitation is still there, but it seemes slightly different. Specifically, the ES330 hesitation seemed longer, ie. I got the sensation of stepping on the gas with the car going nowhere (as others have reported). I have never felt that in my ES300 (I did NOT get the firmware mod.) My ES300 (and the other ES300s that I drove) had a much jerkier transmission but not as long a delay.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    atoews reports that the hesitation in the ES330 is worse than the ES300, but less jerky than the ES300.

    My questions are for owners of '02 and '03 ES300s who have had the trans. software upgrade. (upgrade is reported to be same as software for the '04 330).

    Did you notice MORE hesitation after the upgrade than before???
    Did you notice less jerkiness after the upgrade than before???
  • davidzdavidz Posts: 35
    I've been enjoying my new ES330 for over a week now and I'm very comfortable with the transmission so far. Here are my observations after about 500 miles of driving.

    It has an "intelligent transmission" that adjusts to your driving style, but I'm finding that I'm adjusting to it. If I ease into the throttle slowly, the car responds very nicely. At first the acceleration is mild, but it's definitely there. Since the car is so smooth and quiet, you're not sure at first if it's really accelerating unless you look at the speedometer. Then, when it shifts into gear you get a nice punch. The delay in shifting is not a problem, since you're accelerating. You just don't get the burst of the downshift immediately, but it comes soon enough.

    When I test drove the demo, I noticed that if you really punch the throttle at the outset, the car definitely hesitates like it's confused at first. The car doesn't respond well to that style of driver. But if you have a sensitive foot that can "feel" the engine through the throttle, the transmission is quite satisfactory, IMO.
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    Davidz: My uncle owns an 02 ES300 and I have driven that car own a few occasions. What you say is exactly right. I didn't feel the problem probably because I wasn't driving it in a way to induce the problem. Btw, the ES330 does 0 to 60 in 7.2 seconds. It is hard to imagine a car with a hesitation problem accelerating that quickly.
  • igibanigiban Posts: 530
    atoews, How did you induce hesitation on that 330? Full throttle at no speed or low speed, or...?

    "Btw, the ES330 does 0 to 60 in 7.2 seconds. It is hard to imagine a car with a hesitation problem accelerating that quickly."

    I rarely sensed hesitation flooring from a full stop, although I don't do that much. It's up and down and fully up that's hesitant one time. But I'd agree that this is really a corner case to me, but may not be for people who floor more often at any moment.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    I can repeat the problem at low speeds (45 mph or less) by pulling back on the accelerator, reducing gas flow, and then trying to reapply the gas immediately. The transmission will definitely not keep up.

    I disagree with those who say the problem is caused by "aggressive driving". I also totally disagree with any theory that says that the adaptive "learning" aspect of the transmission causes the problem.

    Note that although one can repeat the problem at will, doing certain actions, that sometimes the problem occurs with no warning. It mostly happens when one starts up after a stop sign or when making a turn (when you make a turn, you tend to pull back on the gas during the turn, and then you try and reapply gas after the turn.)

    Note for the record, that I am one of those drivers who is only mildly annoyed by the transmission problem because:
     a. you can exert some control over how often it happens by adjusting your driving style.
    b. The positive features of this car outweighs my annoyance with the transmission.

    c. I have never experienced a dangerous situation (very long hesitation) in my vehicle. The hesitations in my car seem to last less than one or two seconds at the most.

    I drove an RX330 (last year's model) as a loaner once, tried to repeat the problem in it, and discovered that the problem is not in the RX330.

    I also note, for the record, that my boyfriend, who often drives my car, and I are both aware of the transmission issue, and still find this car a very desirable option, when compared to its competitors. His top pick for his next car (he currently owns and old Camry XLE) would be the ES330 and I would purchase my car again having to make the same choice over again.

    Unlike myself, my boyfriend could easily afford a "GS" but does not see an $8000 price difference as being worth the difference in the two cars.

    I say all this, because many are looking to this board to decide whether or not to purchase the car for the first time. I just want them to know that many of us out here are fully aware of the problem but considering everything are happy with our vehicles.
  • igibanigiban Posts: 530
    Aggressive driving won't 'cause' hesitation itself, it just induces the hesitation symptom more easily. Take the usual slow down to make a right, off gas while making the turn, and gas up after the turn. If you floor it after turn all the time then you might feel the hesitation more often than just a mild acceleration after a turn, like I usually need to. In fact, I've never sensed hesitation w/o a fully hard and quick pedal-down, after an off-gas cruise. I don't sense much jerking at all. Would've gotten this ES again in a heart beat. I'd still think that people who feel strongly about ES tranny behavior must sense more than what I do.
  • sarahsarah Posts: 19
    I bought my ES330 in april after getting all my info from this site. I have made two long trips so far and have over 3500 mils. I just came back from a weekend trip. I can now confirm what I've been reading here about the transmission hesitation or lack of response. Although I don't consider it as a major problem as I've learned to drive the car the way it wanted to be driven,few times,I got aggressive and step on the gas too far after stop, that's when the car hesitated and jerked forward but not far enough as to hit the car in front. Another real experience was when I was trying to pass a car from the fast lane and inadvertently, I took off my feet from the pedal and step back on the pedal immediately after and had to press harder for the car to jerk up to speed. I could sense the hesitation to sudden speed which I imagine could be a problem if there was a car tailgating me. Overall, I'm happy with the car with its reputable ride but just a little disappointed that I have to always remember not to drive aggressively.I'm actually more annoyed at the cup holder that was a little too wide for the standard size water container that everytime I extended my right arm a little to my right,I would knock the water off the holder.It happened also when the car suddenly stop,the force was strong enough to knock the container off the cradle.
  • miamimikemiamimike Posts: 1
    I have had my ES330 since September 2003 and have driven it 12,000+ miles. I am not a car buff, I just wanted a safe, reliable, luxury car that drove nicely. When I go to pull out into traffic or pass another car, my ES330 hesitates. I am not being picky but I find that this is very dangerous because cars are coming at me and I am just sitting there staring at their headlights like a deer waiting to be killed. Luckily I haven't been stuffed and mounted yet ;-). I am not being overly sensitive but I would NOT recommend the ES330 until Lexus admits there is a problem and fixes it. I have had three regular maintenance trips. All three times the dealers (2 different dealers) have said that they are unaware of the problem. HELLO, read! And, from the postings here, it appears that this was also a problem with the ES300. Nice customer service Lexus; are you reading this? Do you care?

    I have been on two long trips and enjoy the car otherwise. I find that the gas mileage is nice.

    I am not in favor of purchasing another Lexus but my wife is really interested in the RX330. Question: Has anyone found the same problem with the RX? Thanks in advance for your help.
  • jragosta1jragosta1 Posts: 49
    I've heard of rare complaints on the RX330, but they're apparently far less common than on the ES330. I don't know if the difference is due to user issues or if there's a real difference in the vehicles.

    Your best best is to drive one to find out.

    Personally, I liked the RX330, as well, but decided to go for luxury rather than utility. I am not so sure this was the right decision.
  • igibanigiban Posts: 530
    You got to test drive or test pass to find out. I had an RX330 for loaner once and compared to ES it's not as quiet and smooth.

    I have a 03 ES300 and most of the time I simply need to press pedal half way to pass or merge. 210 HP isn't much these days but it seems to be enough for all practical purposes. The typical judgegment I use is that if I have to floor the throttle in order to pass a car, or I can tell the other car's driver is aggressive, then I would just let the other car go first. I am not a very aggressive driver to begin with so it's never an adjustment for me. I'd not have bought ES for spirited driving to begin with, although I am not saying whatever hesitation behavior is a right one. It just never bothers me in real world driving.
  • jerry5jerry5 Posts: 2
    I had planned to purchase a ES-330 in about six months but after reading some of the transmission experiences of owners, I am hesitant to spend over 30K to experience the problems for myself.
    Is there any info coming from Lexus/Toyota that a fix may be forthcoming?
    I have considered the Acura TL, but don't need the performance, and feel Lexus will hold value better.
  • jragosta1jragosta1 Posts: 49
    I've seen at least one report saying that Lexus claims that they'll have a fix this summer. Frankly, I don't believe it for 2 reasons.

    1. They claimed that the ES330 didn't have the problem. I specifically asked the dealer if the problem was fixed before I bought my car and he said it was. He was wrong.

    2. I've been trying to get resolution from Lexus Customer 'Satisfaction' for a few months and their only response is 'it's normal'. If they were close to having a fix, I would expect that someone would say 'we have identified the problem and expect to have a solution soon. Please be patient'.

    I don't think they're going to have a solution any time soon. I'm almost certainly headed for arbitration.
  • jragosta1jragosta1 Posts: 49
    I filed for arbitration today. We'll see what happens.

    One of the things I plan to do is bring in all the complaints to NHTSA to show that Lexus knows it's a problem. For the 2004 model year, 11 of the 36 complaints on the RX330 are from this same issue. 22 of the 29 complaints on the ES330 are the same problem. I haven't yet figured the percentages for previous years.

    Clearly, the more people who document their complaints, the better the chance that Lexus will fix the problem. So, again, I would encourage everyone who experiences the problem to file a complaint at

    I'll keep everyone posted.
  • dennydenny Posts: 17
    I spoke with Lexus HQ about 3 or 4 weeks ago and it was clear that they are still in denial. They say their transmission on the ES330 is operating as designed. They said that if any changes to the trans software are made that current owners will be notified. I would recommend that anyone considering this car should look elsewhere. As long as 330 sales remain strong Lexus will not fix this problem. I will take jragosta's advice and file a complaint with the nhtsa since some of the things that the 330 trans does badly are safety hazards( hesitation and lurching). I've owned enough new cars to know that the way the 330 trans operates in not normal, especially a brand that places itself in the luxury segment.
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836 - - - vi

    I just wish more attention had been put into how the transmission and engine worked together in the test car.

    Lexus said it "revised" the old tranny to better handle the new power. And for 2004, it had "new grade logic" for the transmission to perform better on descents and ascents on hilly roads.

    But in the test car, occasional, clumsy-feeling upshifts came through to passengers. There were enough of them during my test drive that I wondered what had happened to the silky-smooth shifts that I had so enjoyed from the predecessor ES. I also noticed occasional hesitation, as if the transmission was indecisive about which gear to be in, when I traveled on hilly highways

    This is a review from msn carpoint. Notice the part about the transmission. The reviewer clearly felt the jerky transmission shift and the hesitation. Just wondering if this is what some owners are feeling? Incidently, I have also surfed the Avalon forum. Nothing but satisfied owners. Makes you wonder how two very similar cars made by the same company can create such different ownership experience.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    The 2004 Avalon has the "old" 4 speed auto transmission that was in the 2001 and earlier ES 300 models. The 2002-2004 ES 300/330 models have the 5speed auto with (drive by wire) electronics - which is the transmission of contention in this website. The 4 speed was "silky-smooth" and had satisfied (happy)owners.

    Edmunds is predicting that the new 2005 Avalon will have the 5speed transmission (unhappy) when it hits the showroom.

    It will be interesting to see if a new "transmission problem" website will be started by someone for the Avalon later this year!!
  • jragosta1jragosta1 Posts: 49
    It's pretty easy to see which models have this problem. Go to the NHTSA site above and look for models you want to compare. For example, the 2002 ES300, 2003 ES300, 2004 ES330 and 2004 RX330 all have between 30% and 60% of their complaints related to this problem. The 2004 Camry has less than 10% of its complaints related to the transmission in any way and none of these appear to be our hesitation problem (they're mostly self-acceleration reports). Interestingly, the 2004 Avalon only has 2 complaints (vs 29 for the 2004 ES300) and neither of them is related to this problem. The Avalon's a nice car - not quite as nice as the ES, but at least its transmission works.
  • mrdlexusmrdlexus Posts: 23
    I have just traded my 2004 ES330 with 6500 miles for a new 2004 GS300. I am sick and tired of the transmission, and the lack of desire to fix the problem. Where is the relentless pursuit of perfection? I would not have purchased another Lexus, except for the fact that I am paying just below invoice on the new car. The GS is silky smooth, just as the ES should have been. I would not purchase another ES until they fix the problem (if ever). As far as Lexus customer service is concerned they told me that it was operating as designed, and there was nothing more they could do. They did an investigation into my problem and they found it to be normal. So I was left an unhappy customer with little or no solution to the problem. I had 2 choices; arbitration, or trade it in for something else. I feel bad for so many ES owners out there because Lexus simply does not give a sh**. Good luck to all you ES owners out there, and all potential buyers stay clear of this car, or you will regret it just like the rest of us.
  • dennydenny Posts: 17
    Could you tell us how the new GS is equipped and what the net cash difference was not including title and taxes.
  • wypcwypc Posts: 6
    I'm interested in ES300/ES330, but not sure whether they have the model with manual transmission. I read part of the comments here and feel astonished. So anybody knows whether the same transmission problem exsits on manual ES300/ES330? Thanks in advance.
  • mrdlexusmrdlexus Posts: 23
    The GS is not set up the same as the ES. Rear wheel drive, less wood on the dash, cd changer in the glove box. I wanted the HID lights that are in my ES, but that is stuffed in w/navigation only and cannot find one near the Boston area. Inventory is low 2-3 per dealer thats it. I bought my ES MSRP $35,174 for $31560(non navigation). The GS MSRP $41,794 for $36,794(non navigation). Trade in $28,000, That has 6,600 miles and is in brand new condition, you can't tell the difference between my car and one that is actually new(except for the miles). Basically I am paying $5,234 more for the GS than the ES. If you wait the GS is being redesigned for 2006, and should be out in late 2005. Good luck!!
  • maxhonda99maxhonda99 Posts: 1,289
    The last time the ES300 was available with a manual was for the 1994 model year. Since then, no manual transmission.
  • wypcwypc Posts: 6
    That's really bad :(
    Anyway, thanks a lot!
  • Add me to your list of complaints. My husband and I have bought our 3rd Lexus and now own a ES330, which we now have 1500 miles on. We have taken this beautiful car back to the dealer three times for transmission problems described in post one on this board. I also have described to my husband that I feel like a deer in the headlight of on-coming cars and experience the same shifting problems. Fremont Magnussen's Lexus (Calif.)has had our 330 for four days now, as their top mechanic is taking it home with him in an attempt to experience our complaints of hesitation and shifting issues. We called him yesterday to learn he felt the car was doing good with no problems. We were upset to hear this as we spent big money for this car and wanted some type of fix. Frustrated, we checked the web and found this site and post. We were relieved to find we were not alone or crazy. We will keep you posted and would like info on any progress or fixes.

    Info we found from Toyota #TC005-03 "Technical Service Information Bulletin" (not for general public) This addresses ATM shifting issues with the 2004 Rx330. So Lexus obviously knows somethings not right.
  • Just a question. Have you looked under your hood? I did. And found the upper vacume hose that goes into the engine air filter compartment was disconnected. I promptly went to a Toyota Dealership and verified that the Camry SE (has same engine) has the vacume hose connected. I promptly connected the hose and no hesitation any more. The acceleration on the car improved noticeably. However, it does suck regular unleaded like it's going out of style (even driving on cruise control). This hose is located on a T connector and connects up to the upper left hand side of the upper part of the engine air filter container (when you are facing the car from the outside). Hope this helps.
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