Home » Balling On A Budget: 1993 Acura Legend vs 2001 Lexus ES300

Balling On A Budget: 1993 Acura Legend vs 2001 Lexus ES300

Legend Vs Es300

Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown, where our intrusive cheap car thoughts are documented for future scientists to study one day. Today we’re looking at two extremely sensible and nicely depreciated Japanese luxury sedans. However, before we get into that, let’s check on how yesterday’s beater battle went.

C1500 Vs Grand Marquis Final

Despite costing more than three times what the C1500 listed for, the Grand Marquis takes it. Hey, it’s hard to beat a full-frame boat of a sedan for comfort and durability.

Anyway, let’s jump into today’s battle. Before the Japanese bubble economy burst, three Japanese automakers signaled some serious intent by launching luxury brands. The premise is great – luxury cars that work like Camrys and Accords. But are these posh depreciated sedans still desirable today?

1993 Acura Legend – $2,000

Legend 1

Engine/Drivetrain: 3.2-liter V6, four-speed automatic gearbox, front-wheel-drive.

Location: Haverhill, Massachusetts

Odometer Reading: 226,969 miles

Runs/Drives? Absolutely

Oh hell yeah, it’s Acura Legend time. Not only does this neat sedan wear the Ludacris seal of approval, but it was also Acura’s flagship sedan of the early ‘90s. This means it gets all manner of toys while still featuring typical Honda reliability—a big plus for anyone more interested in driving their luxury sedan than they are fixing it.

Legend 2

Under the hood sits a 3.2-liter C32 V6 making an even 200 horsepower. While the four-speed automatic gearbox isn’t the most fun way of putting power to the ground, it should absolutely get the job done. One weird quirk of the Legend is that it uses a longitudinal engine layout despite being front-wheel-drive. Not the most space-efficient move in the world, but it should be beneficial to servicing.

Legend 3

The body of this Legend looks to be in decent shape given its age, although the seller does note that there’s rust behind the wheel wells. Still, the bumpers and body sides look straight, plus the headlights still look fairly crisp. This is one handsome sedan we’re looking at.

Legend 4

Unfortunately, things get a bit worse on the inside, where the leather is really showing the effects of nearly 30 years of use. Not only is the driver’s seat upholstery torn, the front passenger seat also features a tear. Mind you, the steering wheel doesn’t look hideously worn, and the Legend-embroidered carpet floor mats are still present after all these years.

2001 Lexus ES300 – $2,200

Es300 1

Engine/Drivetrain: Three-liter V6, four-speed automatic gearbox, front-wheel-drive.

Location: Brookline, Massachusetts

Odometer Reading: 193,141 miles

Runs/Drives? You bet.

If we’re talking reliability yardsticks with fancy twists, we have to talk about the Lexus ES. Based on humble and popular front-wheel-drive Toyota mechanicals, this series of sedans promises luxury car comfort without the luxury car bills. After all, a zooted-up Camry gives you all the benefits of a Camry with all the benefits of, erm, zoot.

Es300 2

Under the hood of this ES300 sits Toyota’s 1MZ-FE three-liter V6 engine pumping out a stout 210 horsepower. Mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox, this smooth V6 effortlessly makes mile markers fade in the rearview mirror. Sure, these engines are known for the occasional sludge issue, but frequent oil changes should keep it in the clear.

Es300 3

On the outside, this ES300 looks alright. Sure, the front bumper has a crack and the headlights are faded, but that seems very fair for a 20-year-old car. It’s the same deal with the scratches, just signs of normal use. I’ve always thought that the frameless windows on this generation of ES were quite neat, and the slim B-pillars ensure fantastic shoulder-check visibility.

Es300 4

However, the real crown jewel of this ES300 is the interior. The leather is in phenomenal shape, with perfectly intact driver’s outer bolsters, a lovely wood steering wheel, and all the luxury gubbins you could realistically want for around two grand.

So there we are, choosing between two genuinely sensible luxury sedans—emphasis on the luxury. Neither of these things will go toe-to-toe with a BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G35 on a backroad, but they’ll waft you around in quiet comfort. As ever, choose wisely.

(Photo credits: Craigslist sellers)


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34 Responses

  1. the legend is poised to be a modern classic, the Lexus being a tarted up Camry is not likely to be worth the trouble or worth as much over time. Ac Legend for me.

  2. The Lexus is a fine car, and paired against almost any other contender would be the clear winner. But that Legend is one of Honda’s most handsome designs ever, and despite the interior wear looks like it has a lot of miles left. Acura FTW.

  3. I’ll pay an extra $200 for a non-shitty interior every single time. My 2003 Camry came to me with plenty of dents and scrapes from a life of city parking garages. The interior though? Spotless. Awesome place to relax during the commute home. Toyota leather and plastics from that era really held up nicely as they aged.

  4. I’m going against the crowd here and voting Acura. I think the Legend is a timeless, awesome car that’s aged like fine wine. It also has a nostalgia factor for me because my aunt drove one in the 90s/early 2000s that was also white. I have fond memories of being schlept around and going through the McDonald’s drive through in it. She’s also owned an NA Miata since brand new that she still has today that I get to drive a few times a year. Hooray for enthusiast aunts!

    I also just find the ES in general to be an immensely boring car. They’re comfy, reliable, simple, reasonable transportation…but there’s just no fun in them at all. If you’re someone who wants comfy basic transportation with a desirable badge then they’re perfect, but they’re just not equipped for spirited driving.

  5. If this was a Gen I Legend I might already be driving up there. Still, I can’t argue with the handsome lines of the Gen II and longitudinal motor placement so I would be willing to roll the dice and hope that any head gasket issues have already been rectified by this mileage. In my estimation a slightly decrepit Legend > than a minty ES300.

  6. I’ll take the Toyota every time over the Honda V6, engine is great. Transmission… Not so much. It’s possible this has a different trans than the odyssey/accord, but both of those are known for blowing every 70k or so. Having worked in Honda service and seeing the consistency of that number, I avoid Honda V6s of this era. Though again, with the longitudinal engine, it’s likely a different, hopefully better trans.

      1. While I don’t think the Legend was among them, Honda definitely had problems with the 4-speed autos paired to the V6s too, in the late 90s/early 00s – Accord, TL, Odyssey etc.

        The 5-speed autos are still fragile and had problems at the same time (and both 4- and 5-speed autos were in use in the lineups at the same time), so really it was just across the board auto transmission troubles for Honda/Acura.

        1. Yeah the B7XA 4-speeds used in the Odyssey/Accord/et al. followed by the H5 5-speed (until ~05) both had issues with reliability past 80-100k. H5 past 05 had a redesign that made them pretty rock solid.

          Given the Legend’s Longitudinal FWD layout these had a different transmission design and weren’t affected (same as the 1st Gen RL). Legends and 1G RLs are known for going passed 250k miles with routine maintenance alone.

  7. Was helping a family member car shop in 1993/4 and the legend was on the list. All I remember was reading that its crash testing was worst in class so I tried to steer her elsewhere. The badge and her assessment of looks/coolness mooted my argument and she bought the legend. Never crashed, so maybe she was right.

  8. This looks quite like the ‘96 Lexus I maintained for a few years at an old job, but wp says this is the next generation. The 96 was well-mannered and incredibly quiet inside: they even ran the cooling fan hydraulically off the power steering pump for NVH-that kinda blew my mind at the time.

    Having been adjacent to several Y2Kish Honda automatic transmission anecdotes, I’m only interested in a Legend I can row myself

  9. With either one I want to know when the timing belt was last replaced, but if they both need some degree of repair (CEL on the ES), maybe it’s moot.

    The interior’s not too bad on the Legend for the age. Could be wrong but I think those are coupe wheels.

    Speaking of wheels I don’t think the ES owner knows what chrome wheels look like unless my eyes are deceiving me. But I have always really liked this 3rd generation ES – even somewhat more than the 2nd gen that was before the cost-cutting.

    Still, I might’ve leaned Legend, but don’t really care for the owner’s ad. It’s a daily driver, but been sitting in the backyard? Maybe *was* the daily driver til those couple issues popped up? That’s fine, but the “you have to admit it’s in good shape!” and “don’t bs me!” irk me a bit. Maybe I’m just petty.

  10. For a luxury cruiser, I like both. I went with the Lexus since it’s newer and has less mileage. In terms of style, I like the Acura slightly more. If it had less mileage or if it had the manual, I would have picked it.

  11. For me the Lexus was an easy choice easier to chase parts for if/when that becomes an issue.

    Now voting was a hassle the form didn’t show up on my Firefox on Linux desktop again. So I voted on my cell phone, the sad thing is with that one I can’t login on the site because for security reasons it doesn’t have access to the email account I used to register and Memberful does not span devices with the login or allow a simple login with pass because it then couldn’t track you.
    I like the website and am so far willing to put up with this, although it rubs me the wrong way.

  12. Hmmm… much newer, fewer miles, and an interior that hasn’t been chewed on by ferrets for only $200 more = Camry, whoops I mean Lexus.

    I had this generation of Camry V6 and it was very reliable (with regular oil changes using synthetic) and not that bad to work on. Would do it again if I needed a cheap four door.


  13. I’d much rather deal with the person selling the Lexus, and (pending a pre-purchase inspection, or at the very least, peering underneath with a flashlight) it appears to be in nice condition. If the sellers had been swapped, I’d assume that New Hampshire plates in Massachusetts means someone can’t afford insurance, but I’m not worried about that with the ES.

  14. I’ll take peak Honda over Toyota beige. Besides I always loved the gold window tint. It was so odd. I think I have only seen that on some European cars from the sixties or early seventies. Definitely on some Citroens, but I think BMW did that too.

  15. Both need a good look underneath, but since the Legend has that rust bubbling up, I guess I’d throw in on the Lexus. I do kinda like the ’90s look of the Acura, but the Lexus is probably the better deal.

  16. I really liked the Legend back in the day, the ES was always kinda vanilla. When one car is newer, not torn up inside, lacks visible rust, and had 5% more scoot to go with more zoot it’s not a hard call. The ES is Tha Shiznit.

  17. Speaking as a resident, the first rule of Massachusetts is you don’t buy a 20-30 year old car from Massachusetts. Or at least require some undershots before you bother to go look at it.

    1. As a fellow New-Englander, I’m sad I had to scroll so far down for this comment.

      Anything in this area has an approximate 10-15 year useful service life until corrosion takes over, less if it’s a commercial vehicle. It’s made even worse in MA by a state inspection process that will fail a vehicle if there are any open rust holes.

      Not saying NOTHING over 15 years is viable around here, but it’s the exception, not the rule.

      1. Amen to this. Granted, I’ve generally had better lifespan out of my cars as a MA resident, but I also usually have a truck that I drive if there’s a storm, so that takes the brunt of the salt, making the cars last longer.

        The underside is always rusty even if the body isn’t, though, so I wouldn’t trust the Lexus just because the body doesn’t have rust.

  18. I have a soft spot for the Legend. No idea why, one of those irrational loves. It and the Vigor both. That said, for this, you gotta go with the Lexus. Decade newer, and better in every conceivable metric. Easier to maintain, fix when it breaks, and and and and and. Sad day for a legend…

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