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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • I will print out this post so to try the hose check under the hood thing when i pick up my car from lexus. We also have an appointment this week with Lexus' dealer/owner, Bow Magnison, as we feel that we are not going to get anywhere.

    keep you posted
  • vanboyvanboy Posts: 6
    Hi folks....just was browsing the lexus site when I came across a page stating that there is a "snow mode" that you can put the car in. When in this mode, the acceleration is electronically reduced to help tackle any slippery conditions such as snow. Is it possible that some of the posters have this switched on? Or that its switched on in error....that is the switch may be off but the car is still running in this mode?

    There seems to enough people buying car without noticing any transmission lag and loving the car for this to be really such a widespread problem.

    I'm looking to buy one but am waiting for the 2005's to arrive to see the differences.

    Happy driving to all!
  • I purchased my 2002 ES one year ago and have been bothered with the same tranny problems everyone else is talking about. I decided the car had to go so I traded for a 2000 GS with 24,000 miles. Wow! What a difference in these two vehicles. Plenty of power and very smooth tranny. There's a little less wood trim inside but this is no big deal. This is probably one of the best car buying decisions I've ever made.
  • billp1billp1 Posts: 1
    No, this is a real problem that Lexus will not acknowledge. My dealer said all EX330 have this transmission hesitation.
    I wrote a letter to the CEO of Toyota North America and the Lexus VP & General manager and received no help with this problem. DO NOT BUY THIS CAR !!!
  • goodthought vanboy, even though the swith is in the off mode it may be still on???

    just got my es330 back last night. they drove it for a week+ and admit shifting/hesitation issues. they feel that not all es330s hvae this problem and dont know way some do, werd. the loaner i have had just has the pause/hesitation issues obviously "operating as designed". they are good people at fremont magnussen, i have dealt with top sales dude "neal", he is far and honest, no i didnt know him prior to buying our last es330 few months ago. he will treat you fair for sure. neal knows that issues on shifting and hesitation has come up, but has not exereance the shifting issues he says. we are going to see them this week, they said that they will make it right for us, im not a gulible person but believe they will.

    this isnt any type of sales pitch but buy your lexus in fremont, im 50 and have bought dozens of cars in my live and these guys are custemers first, well may be money too, they got to pay the bills.

    if i were to do it again i would buy the upgrade GS or and older GS. good luck
  • davidzdavidz Posts: 35
    As I understand it, all ESs from 2002 to 2004 (and probably 2005 as well) have the hesitation problem. It just bothers some drivers more than others.
  • Like many of you, I have reported ES330 transmission problems to the dealer that I purchased my car from. During a recent sit down with the service manager, he stated that there has been some success in alleviating the hesitation and slow shifting problems by running premium fuel (93 octane) in the car. He stated that the onboard computer knows what octane is currently being burned but cannot adjust the engine timing to accommodate the increased octane from regular to premium on it’s own. He suggested running the car for three tanks of premium and bringing the car in to have the computer reset. He said the procedure would be as follows: reset the computer, drive the car for seven miles as conservatively as possible…let the car cool down and repeat the process. If regular fuel was used anytime in the future, the computer could adjust downward with no problem.

    Has anyone else heard of this?
  • Drove my es300 for 3 yrs (lease) and i loved that damn car! shouldve bought it - sporty, fun - good lookin. now i took over my dads lease 2002 es330 - definite tranny problem. he said he got the upgrade this summer - it feels lousy to me. same problems as everyone else. this car sucks - not even close to the old es. talk about changing styles of the car - taller, less sporty, and yippy in the tranny - especially in stop go 35 mph fwy traffic. only have to drive it till the end of the year....g35, here i come!
  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79
    2002 & 2003 = ES300
    2004 & 2005 = ES330
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    How do you know that the 05 ES330 has the problem? Is it even out yet.
  • I'm getting really lousy gas mileage also. Is anyone getting anything close to 20mpg in the city? I don't seem to be able to get this except on the highway.
  • igibanigiban Posts: 530
    My 03 has averaged around 23 mpg on an average of 31 mph. On freeway only it can get high 20's to low 30's average, but pure city drives can get ugly average (to < 20), depending how much stop and go there. See the real time mpg reading on city driving and you'll see. Overall 23 mpg on mixture of city and freeway is respectable for the size of ES I think. 04 has a bigger engine and may suffer a bit loss on mpg though.
  • rhpcparhpcpa Posts: 3
    i have the same problem with my gs 300 year 2001.
    i have taken it back three times and the service guy finally told me it was due the "drive by wire"
    feature. will most likely buy another vechile because of this. almost had several wrecks due to slow take off.\

  • That's rather odd (having the problem on a 2001 GS).

    You can check the frequency of these problems on For the 2002-04 ES, about 1/2 or more of the cited problems are due to the hesitation problem. I don't remember the exact numbers, but I think the total number of problems related to this issue is approaching 100 for the 3 years combined (out of roughly 200 total problems cited).

    For the 2001 GS, there are only 7 complaints - and NONE are related to the hesitation issue. The same is true of more recent years.

    I would suggest that you have the dealer look for another cause. If it were really due to the same problem as the ES problem, there would almost certainly be more complaints.
  • I test drove a 2005 ES 330 yesterday and I observed all the issues that people have been talking about with the transmission. The salesman said that he "had never heard of any issues". Sure!
  • mmratnermmratner Posts: 14
    I am returning my 2002 ES300 back to the dealer after my lease expires in October. After 3 Lexuses (the first two were LS400s) I do not think that I will be getting another one. The downshift hesitation problem bothered me slightly in my previous LS400, but it is just terrible in the ES (being a loyal Lexus fan I decided to ignore the problem when test-driving the ES -- what a mistake!).

    While the problem is particularly bad in the ES, it seems like pretty much all 5-speed automatics suffer from it in one degree or another. Driving the previous generation Maxima SE recently was such a breath of fresh air.

    Can anyone suggest a car with a similar level of refinement and luxury, which would not have the problem? I can go up to $50K. Right now I am considering the upcoming Acura RL, but obviously haven't test-driven it yet. Any alternatives?
  • thinking of buying a 05 in six to eight months, i have read a lot of pretty bad complaints concerning the 330 transmission. my question is to any one who or will be buying a 05, has this problem been fix, i cannot believe that lexus would sell such a defected product.
  • The problem has not been fixed in the '05 models.

    The more research I do, the more it becomes obvious that nearly every Lexus model has this problem. I guess they just don't know how to fix it. Their only response is to pretend that it's normal.

    By the way, it doesn't appear to be solely a transmission problem. It's actually a problem caused by the way the transmission and drive by wire work together.
  • I don't know who's posting all of these transmission problems, but they are false. New vehicles that have tranny issues are at risk of accidents, which means that the vehicle is required to be recalled. Do your homework. To see which vehicle has been recalled for what issue, take a look at the NHTSA's records (National Highway Safety Admin website). fm

    Use the box on the right side
    Click on "Vehicle"

    You can search any manufacturer. Lexus's record is extraordinarily impressive.

    Also, you can search JD Powers for their awards. D=1

    Myself, I am set in my ways and will buy the Acura TL. I'll trade looks over reliability. Different strokes for different folks.

    I have to admit the luxury line is getting very exciting as manufacturers are starting to focus on the interior layout and amenities.

    Do your homework!
  • counted 20 transmission complaints on nhtsa web site, if all those es330's that lexus sells have that big of a problem why not a major recall or class action suit. or at the very least have it fixed for the 2005 model year, something not adding up.
  • I owned a 2004 es330, and it does have major problems. Yes that is past tense, I have already traded in the car! The transmission has rough shifting and the drive by wire throttle causes the delay in acceleration. These two components do not work well together, causing potential safety issues. If you drive any other car there generally will be immediate acceleration, with fairly smooth shifting, not in the lexus es330. My dealership(Lexus of Northborough) has admitted to many complaints from es owners and frankly they do not know if Lexus will ever fix the problem. Lexus is aware of the problem , but as long as people continue to buy the car they will not fix it. I believe the quality of Lexus in general has gone down hill, cheapening their cars to sell more to the average consumer. The initial quality of the es is comparable to the Maxima or G35, not far exceeding expectations. I believe the entry level Lexus automobiles are overpriced and the quality is less than I would expect from Lexus. Trust me I owned an es330 and was in shock how poorly I was treated by Lexus customer service. Once I purchased the car there was nothing I could do, except try to get rid of it. If Lexus could fix the transmission and drive by wire throttle it would be an excellent car. I owned a 1999 Camry and overall it drove better than the Lexus, I made a huge mistake thinking Lexus was better than the average Toyota. I should have kept the Camry. I urge anyone considering the purchase of the es330 to thoroughly test drive the car before you buy it, preferably two or three times just to make sure you like it. Test the car against an Infiniti, Acura, or BMW and then tell me there is no hesitation from the car!!! Good luck to all with the hesitation problem. Continue to post your dissatisfaction with Lexus on the NHTSA website.
  • Thanks mrdlexus, it's really hard to believe. acura tl here i come.
  • I'm sorry, but there must be a misunderstanding.

    The transmission problems are with the 2004 LS 430 and not the 2004 ES330.

    You need to look over the site again.

    Also, 13,000 recalls for the LS 430 is a VERY small number compared to other recalls (One manufacturer has 1 million recalls)

    I can't believe I'm defending Lexus when I don't plan on buying one. It's a great car, and the transmission is smooth. I test drove one just to see and was impressed. But I'm a young guy who wants a car to have a "bling bling" appearance. Otherwise, I would go with Lexus.
  • Sharpwitz:

    Interestingly, you don't even seem to own one of the affected Lexus models, but you'll insist that my statements are false.

    Check NHTSA like you've suggested. But instead of looking at recalls, check for consumer complaints. You'll find over 100 complaints on the 02-04 ES300/330 models related to this problem. You don't get 100 complaints that are imaginary. Nearly 1/2 of ALL ES complaints have to do with this particular problem. It's real.

    You could also try:;

    The problem is that Lexus refuses to admit that there's a problem - so they haven't recalled the car. And until there are a significant number of accidents, the DOT won't make them. That doesn't make the problem any less real.
  • Actually, the problem seems to happen on most of the current Lexus models. I know for a fact that the LS, ES, GS, and RX are affected.

    Apparently, it's a combination of things. First, the drive-by-wire controller is stupid and can't respond in less than a second or two in some circumstances. Second, Lexus programs their cars to move into higher gear as early as possible - which means more downshifting which is where the problem is most severe.

    Perhaps that's the reason Lexus won't fix it. They can't simply recall one model - they'd have to recall nearly their entire product line. To make matters worse, they would apparently lose ULEV status if they make the fix (based on the fact that they are able to fix the cars in Canada where there is no ULEV issue).

    Bottom line is that Lexus knows there's a problem and is stonewalling for some reason.
  • Hello:

    I am also looking into the 2005 ES 330 and have heard about transmission problems. Here is what was said on another popular discussion board. The first is by a car expert (test driver) and the second by a user. Hope this helps
    If you drive around in D4 all of the time, you are effectively limiting your five-speed automatic to a four-speed automatic. This may limit problems if the car tends to shift in and out of 5th gear around town but your highway fuel mileage will suffer.
    Most automatics now are electronically controlled - it's nothing special. I've seen a fair number of Toyota/Lexus owners complain here about shift behavior. I put a few hundred miles on our ES330 and didn't have any complaints about the shifting. Some automatics "learn" driver behavior and adjust shift points accordingly - that may affect this issue. It won't be a safety hazard; the worst ramification of the problem is that it makes a very smooth and refined car less smooth. We haven't seen any marked number of transmission problems in recent Toyota/Lexus products.

    When I bought my new es330 month ago I faced little shifting issues. I later learned that I was driving in wrong gear(D). I was told to drive in D4 gear and Shifting issues has practically gone away. If you have any questions give me call at 408-391-3146

    I suggest you test drive this car a lot before making this purchase. I test drove comparable cars like g35, 325 and s60 sport. But after driving es330 they dont even come close as far as smooth ride, quietness is concened.

  • I disagree with the previous message. I actually own and drive this car - unlike the 'expert' who doesn't.

    First, putting the car into 4th gear all the time lessens the problem, but does not eliminate it. I've tried it and the problem still occurs - just not as often.

    As for 'it won't be a safety hazard', he's dreaming. When you step hard on the gas, there's often a second or two delay before the car begins to accelerate. In many situations (like pulling onto a busy on-ramp), that second or two hesitation could cause a serious accident.

    Finally, as for 'we haven't seen a marked number of transmission problems', he sounds like a paid Toyota spokesman. This problem is widespread as evidenced by over 100 complaints to NHTSA, hundreds of complaints here, and other web sites with hundreds of complaints.
  • I really don't understand the resistance to accepting the fact that the ES330 has a transmission problem. There are only three things I can think of;

      1) Denial - many people don't want to
         admit they made a bad purchase because it is
         too painful

      2) Lexus name - they can't have a transmission
         problem - "it's a Lexus"
      3) Mine works - therefore yours must

    All illogical - and all display a lack of understanding the big picture about how vehicles are manufactured. (Every year cars are manufactured with major problems).
  • If you read the review you will see that the transmission problem is being felt by some of the reviewers. Now the question remains is it an isolated problem afflicting just a handful of cars or does the 02+ ES300/330 has a fundamental flaw in the way the transmission was designed. Lexus does sell a lot of ES300/330 (around 25K a year); so the question is despite the transmission flaw people are still buying this car and overall review of the car has been pretty good. I guess the positive does outweigh the negative.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    At the risk of beating a dead horse (I note that many of those who purchased an ES300 at the same time I did do not post as much as they once did), I am convinced that the problem is there in all ES300s/330s.

    I believe that the most likely reason for the varying reports is that the degree to which each driver perceives the same symptom varies.

    I also suspect that varying driving styles result in different frequency and intensity of having the symptom occur.

    I actually was a passenger in a vehicle (not an ES300) where the driver did not maintain a steady gas flow to the engine even while maintaining a constant speed. The driver kept backing off and depressing the accellerator to the point where I felt as though she kept slowing down and speeding up ever so slightly. Such a driver would find the ES300 transmission a nightmare!!
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