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ROANOKE, Va. - A drive along freeways and back roads of Virginia in the quiet and comfortable ES 300, makes evident the raft of changes wrought to the entry-level sedan in a cushy line by Lexus, the upscale offshoot from Toyota.
As the only front-wheel-drive Lexus sedan, the midsize ES 300 looks slick and sophisticated in the smart suit it donned in 1997. For 1999, the ES packs a modified 3.0-liter V-6 engine with a few more horsepower underneath its stylish togs.
The ES 300's variable valve timing helps bump horsepower to 210.
1999 Lexus ES 300 engine
The new engine provides best-in-class muscle of 210 hp. Variable valve timing for intake and exhaust enables the plant to muster healthy low-end torque for quick acceleration but still earn efficient fuel economy rates. A new intelligent electronic four-speed automatic transmission also drops into the ES to make the best use of the added power.
Optional controls for suspension and stability
In addition, the car offers sophisticated new equipment such as an adaptive variable suspension system (optional) and the Lexus vehicle stability control system - VSC - which compensates and corrects for lateral skidding.
The adaptive suspension amounts to a semi-active damping system with sensors on-board to measure irregularities of a road surface, the vehicle's speed, braking and steering input from driver, plus any vertical movement of the chassis. A computer analyzes this data, then makes instantaneous changes for each wheel's shock absorber settings and continuously adapts the suspension to maintain smooth and comfortable ride characteristics.
The VSC device integrates anti-lock brakes and traction control to correct oversteer or understeer when cornering, and can actually pull the vehicle back on to the proper path without driver intervention.