“The IS300 lets us do this car.” That’s Denny Clements talking. He’s group vice-president and general manager at Lexus, making him “the top dude.” And with that single sentence he explains what the deal is with this new ES300. The IS300, for you amnesia sufferers, is Lexus’s first shot at a Bimmer beater. It’s a shoebox four-door with an in-line six up front and enough red-hot corpuscles to earn its way onto the short list of Sports Sedans You Gotta Try.

So, with the IS playing deep in the Sports Dept., Lexus is assigning the ES full time to the luxury beat. As BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Volvo try to cover both bases with their entry-level sedans, Lexus pours on the cream sauce here, with cues taken directly from the top-class LS430. You can choose the same interior leather, for example, and a similar wood-and-leather-rimmed steering wheel.

At $31,000, plus or minus a few bones, depending on your restraint with the options, splendor seekers will find a lot of Lexus for less. As before, this new ES300 is a Camry with frosting — derived from the new Camry, of course. It comes as a four-door front-driver only, powered by an evolutionary version of Toyota’s 3.0-liter, 24-valve V-6. Also new and exclusive to Lexus is a five-speed automatic and even more intelligence in the engine’s variable valve timing. All ES300s will meet California’s ULEV emissions requirement.

The trend in four-doors is longer and taller. The ES is right in step, a sliver longer than the last car at 191.1 inches overall, and significantly taller — up 2.4 inches to 57.3. The wheelbase is significantly longer, too, by 2.0 inches to 107.1. The payoff shows inside, with more head room, more shoulder room, and a lot more hip room, over two inches more both front and back. Trunk space grows to 15 cubic feet from 13. By contrast, the same-price competitors from Europe look to be on starvation diets.

The Benz C-class is more than a foot shorter, and the BMW 3-series is two inches shorter than that. In fact, the ES300 is bigger on the outside and roomier inside than the next-rung-up E-class and 5-series models from those two makers, which cost far more (actually, it’s bigger than the step-up GS in the Lexus line, too). For buyers seeking passenger-pampering accommodations for five, the ES has all the cards. Safety equipment includes two-stage frontal airbags, pretensioning belts and side-impact bags for front passengers, and inflatable curtains all along the side windows. A lower-energy third stage may be triggered on the driver’s front bag when the seat is adjusted close to the wheel. Once on the road, we quickly confirmed what Clements meant when he said the IS let Lexus do this car. With the drivers already served, the ES can cater to the carriage class.

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