Best & Worst Lexus ES Years

We've ranked each Lexus ES model for every generation so you can avoid picking the worst Lexus ES years and go for the best Lexus ES year!

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll analyze the latest Lexus ES generations, unveiling the best Lexus ES years to buy and the worst ES years to avoid.

Leveraging data and insights from trusted sources such as the NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and J.D. Power, we aim to provide an authoritative overview of the Lexus ES. These sources offer valuable reliability scores, safety ratings, and owner satisfaction feedback, ensuring our recommendations are both informed and dependable.

This detailed look will help potential buyers make an informed decision based on the evolution of safety features, technological advancements, and overall driving experience.

Let’s dive right into it!

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Table of ContentsShow

Lexus ES Generations

The Lexus ES has been a staple in the luxury sedan market since its inception. Lexus first introduced this model in the late 1980s, marking the brand’s entry into the competitive luxury sedan arena.

From the get-go, the Lexus ES was designed to offer a perfect blend of comfort, style, and performance. The initial models boasted features that were advanced for their time, setting a precedent for innovation and quality in the Lexus lineup.

Below is a brief overview of the Lexus ES generations from 2002 to the present:

GenerationYears
4th generation (XV30)2002-2006
5th generation (XV40)2007-2012
6th generation (XV60)2013-2018
7th generation (XZ10)2019-Present

Understanding the distinctions between each Lexus ES generation is crucial, especially since these differences might be the deciding factor for prospective buyers.

Lexus ES Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When evaluating the best and worst Lexus ES model years, we consider a broad range of factors to determine their standing, including but not limited to:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • Cars.com owner ratings

Below is a graph that compiles ratings from the mentioned sources, offering a visual representation of how each Lexus ES year stacks up.

Lexus ES Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Next, we present a table categorizing all Lexus ES model years into best, neutral, and worst years based on the combined ratings from the sources above.

GenerationBest YearsWorst Years
4th generation (XV30)20062002
2003
2004
2005
5th generation (XV40)2010
2011
2012
2007
2008
2009
6th generation (XV60)2013
2015
2016
2017
2018
2014
7th generation (XZ10)2022
2023
2024
2019
2020
2021

“Neutral Years” are those that do not significantly stand out either for their excellence or for notable problems. They may represent reliable choices without the accolades of the best years or the issues that mar the worst years.

Some factors, such as NHTSA recalls, contribute negatively to our categorization. A higher number of complaints and recalls typically indicates a car’s lower reliability.

Let’s dive into the best, neutral, and worst years of the Lexus ES.

Best & Worst Years for Lexus ES 4th Generation (2002-2006)

Lexus ES 4th generation 2002 model
The 2002 Lexus ES

Launched in 2002, the 4th generation Lexus ES represented a pivotal shift towards luxury and performance in the competitive mid-size sedan market.

2006 is the best year for the first-gen Lexus ES, while the worst years to avoid span between 2002 and 2005.

The Best Years: 2006

The 2006 Lexus ES 330 emerged as the best year of the 4th generation, addressing many of the issues that had previously plagued the model.

This year featured a robust 3.3L V6 engine capable of producing 225 hp, paired with a 5-speed automatic transmission that offered smoother shifts and reduced the previous hesitation issues.

Fuel efficiency stood at an impressive 18 city/27 highway MPG, making it an economical choice for a luxury sedan.

The 2006 Lexus ES 330 also boasted enhanced safety features, including advanced airbag systems and stability control, contributing to its superior safety ratings.

Luxury was not overlooked, with the inclusion of high-quality interior materials, improved sound insulation, and an upgraded infotainment system.

Despite these improvements, some owners still reported minor issues related to the transmission and electrical systems, but these were significantly less frequent and severe compared to the earlier years.

The Worst Years: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005

The 2002 to 2005 Lexus ES models faced significant reliability issues, particularly with the transmission system.

Owners of these models frequently encountered rough gear shifting and vibration, alongside complaints of hesitation during acceleration.

Additionally, the 2004 and 2005 Lexus ES 330 models faced recalls for crankshaft pulley defects that could result in the loss of power steering, posing a serious safety risk.

These years also saw problems like unintended acceleration and recalls for issues related to airbags and brake systems.

See NHTSA 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 Lexus ES recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Lexus ES 5th Generation (2007-2012)

Lexus ES 5th generation 2007 model
The 2007 Lexus ES

The 5th generation Lexus ES, introduced in 2007, marked a significant leap forward in the model’s development, focusing on luxury, performance, and technological innovation. In the fifth generation, 2010-2012 are Lexus ES’s best years, while 2007-2009 are the years to avoid.

The Best Years: 2010, 2011, 2012

The 2010, 2011, and 2012 Lexus ES 350 models represented the best years of the 5th generation, showcasing the culmination of Lexus’s efforts to refine and perfect the model.

These years featured the reliable 3.5L V6 engine, delivering a robust 272 hp and paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission that offered smooth and responsive shifting. Fuel efficiency was commendable, with an average of 19 city/27 highway MPG.

Safety features were significantly enhanced, including the introduction of Lexus’s Vehicle Stability Control, traction control, and a comprehensive airbag system.

The inclusion of luxury trim levels and advanced technological features, such as Bluetooth connectivity, a premium audio system, and navigation with a backup camera, further elevated the overall owner experience.

These improvements, combined with a more refined interior and exterior design, positioned these Lexus ES years as the most reliable within the 5th generation.

The Worst Years: 2007, 2008, 2009

The initial years of the 5th generation, specifically 2007, 2008, and 2009, faced significant issues that marred their reputation.

These models were plagued by issues with unintended acceleration and structural problems, including complaints about dashboards melting under high temperatures.

Despite providing similar horsepower and fuel efficiency to the later years, the early models’ reliability and safety concerns, compounded by negative consumer reports and recall campaigns, significantly detracted from their appeal.

See NHTSA 2007, 2008, 2009 Lexus ES recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Lexus ES 6th Generation (2013-2018)

Lexus ES 6th generation 2013 model
The 2013 Lexus ES

The 6th generation Lexus ES, launched in 2013, aimed to redefine expectations for the mid-size luxury sedan segment, introducing aggressive styling, enhanced comfort, and innovative features. The best Lexus ES years of the 6th generation are 2013 and 2015-2018.

The Best Years: 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

The best years for the 6th generation Lexus ES include 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, each offering significant improvements over the previous iterations.

These models were equipped with a 3.5L V6 engine that produced 268 hp, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, ensuring a smooth and powerful driving experience.

Fuel economy was optimized, achieving up to 21 city/30 highway MPG, which was impressive for its class. The range of trim levels offered luxury and sports options, catering to different preferences.

Safety features were notably advanced, with the introduction of the Lexus Safety System+, which included adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and intelligent high beam headlights.

Technological enhancements, such as the Enform App Suite for connectivity and an upgraded navigation system, significantly improved the user experience.

The Worst Years: 2014

The 2014 model year stands out as the least favorable within the 6th generation of the Lexus ES.

This particular year was plagued by issues mainly related to the electrical system, including problems with the infotainment and navigation systems that detracted from the overall user experience.

Additionally, the 2014 model faced recalls concerning the pre-collision system, which could unexpectedly activate the brakes, posing a potential safety risk.

See NHTSA 2014 Lexus ES recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Lexus ES 7th Generation (2019-Present)

Lexus ES 7th generation 2019 model
The 2019 Lexus ES

The 7th generation Lexus ES was introduced in 2019 and sought to push the boundaries of the mid-size luxury sedan market with more dynamic styling, advanced safety features, and a commitment to an engaging driving experience.

In the fifth generation, 2010-2012 are Lexus ES’s best years, while 2007-2009 are the years to avoid.

The Best Years: 2022, 2023, 2024

The best years for the 7th generation Lexus ES are 2022, 2023, and 2024. Each year builds upon the improvements and refinements of its predecessors.

These models featured a variety of powertrain options, including a robust 3.5L V6 engine producing 302 hp and a 2.5L I4 engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission that offered an optimal balance of performance and fuel economy.

The hybrid models’ fuel efficiency was particularly notable, reaching up to 44 MPG combined, a significant achievement for the luxury sedan segment. The 3.5L and 2.5L models provided 22 city/32 highway and 25 city/34 highway MPG.

Safety was paramount, with these years introducing the latest Lexus Safety System 3.0+, which included enhanced features like road sign assist, lane tracing assist, and a more sophisticated pre-collision system.

The 7th-generation Lexus ES models were rewarded with Top Safety Pick+ by IIHS.

The interior saw luxury and technological upgrades, including a revamped infotainment system with a touchscreen interface, smartphone integration, and improved connectivity features.

The Worst Years: 2019, 2020, 2021

The initial years of the 7th generation, specifically 2019, 2020, and 2021, were marred by issues primarily related to the fuel system. Along with low reliability and owner satisfaction scores from Consumer Reports, 2019-2021 are the Lexus ES years to avoid.

Owners reported fuel pump failures that could lead to stalling, posing a significant safety concern and leading to a substantial recall.

The issues faced by these models, particularly the recalls related to the fuel system, detracted from their desirability, making them the least favorable within the otherwise forward-thinking 7th-generation Lexus ES lineup.

See NHTSA 2019, 2020, 2021 Lexus ES recalls and complaints.

Lexus ES Resale Values

Here’s a graph showing the Lexus ES’s average resale values over various model years.

Lexus ES Average List Price

Conclusion

So which year Lexus ES is the best?

After going through them all, it’s clear that the best model years to buy are the 2006, 2010-2012, 2013-2018, and 2022-2024 editions for their reliability, advanced safety features, and impressive fuel efficiency.

Conversely, 2002-2005, 2007-2009, and 2019-2021 models are the Lexus ES years to avoid due to their noted issues and recalls, which could impact overall satisfaction and reliability.

Which Lexus ES generation do you think offers the best value for potential buyers?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.