2021 Lexus ES

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2021 Lexus ES Review: Luxury On A Budget

by Michael Butler

The midsize executive sedan market isn't exactly thriving and the Lexus ES is yet another unfortunate victim of the trend. This once prestigious class now has to share its space with SUVs and crossovers of all kinds. Still, competition is fierce: German brands still cling to the top with impressive machines such as the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but if you look hard enough, you'll find some fantastic value elsewhere, such as in the case of the 2021 Lexus ES. This Japanese luxury sedan can't match the dynamism of its German rivals but offers a hushed ride and a luxurious interior at a significant discount. Powered by a 302-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine, newly introduced 2.5-liter four-pot, or a 2.5-liter hybrid powertrain, the ES won't win any track day battles, but it is difficult to ignore at the price.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 7 /10
  • Performance 7 /10
  • Fuel Economy 8 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 8 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 7 /10
  • Reliability 10 /10
  • Safety 10 /10
  • Value For Money 10 /10
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2021 Lexus ES Changes: What's the difference vs. 2020 Lexus ES?

Lexus now offers a less powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder option with standard all-wheel-drive, known as the 250 AWD, and a Black Line Special Edition based on the aggressively styled F Sport trim. This engine's performance specs aren't remarkable but it does improve the sedan's efficiency. The Black Line Special Edition, as the name suggests, adds some tasteful black exterior highlights such as a black lip spoiler and includes a contrasting white interior. Only 1,500 examples of this model will be produced. Luxury, Ultra Luxury, and F Sport models are now safer thanks to standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Ultra Luxury cars get a new semi-aniline leather seat color and wood trim option of Rich Cream and Espresso Wood trim. The 300h Hybrid gets a new lithium-ion battery in place of the nickel-metal hybrid battery of old.

Pros and Cons

  • Silky ride quality
  • Amazing value
  • Solid build quality
  • Frugal 2.5-liter engine option
  • The base engine is underpowered
  • No reclinable rear seat
  • It's not the most engaging car in its class

What's the Price of the Lexus ES?

The Lexus ES will cost significantly less than its German rivals. No other vehicle in this class comes close to offering the same amount of value. The price of the Lexus ES starts at an MSRP of $40,000 for both the ES 350 FWD and the ES 250 AWD. These prices exclude tax, registration, and a destination fee of $1,025 in the US. The same price applies to both the ES 350 and the ES 250 as you progress up the trim levels. The Luxury trim will set you back $45,200, and the F Sport $45,800. Ultra Luxury models keep things under the $50k mark with an asking price of $49,000. The only trim not available in ES 250 guise is the ES 350 F Sport Black Line Special Edition which carries a price tag of $46,550.

Pricing for the ES 300h hybrid starts at $41,910 and then goes up to $47,110 for the Luxury and $50,910 for the Ultra Luxury.

To put these prices into perspective, the Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and BMW 5 Series all start at over $54,000.

Best Deals on 2021 Lexus ES

2021 Lexus ES Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
ES 350
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
ES 250 AWD
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
ES 300h
2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
ES 350 Luxury
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
ES 250 Luxury AWD
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
See All 2021 Lexus ES Trims and Specs

Handling and Driving Impressions

Lexus is best known for building comfortable cars that coddle its occupants, and we're glad to report that nothing much has changed. The 2021 Lexus ES competes with some impressive driver's cars in the USA such as the BMW 5 Series, but unlike its peers, its main focus is on driver and passenger comfort. At slow speeds, the ES soaks up bumps and feels floaty, bordering on serene, without feeling sloppy. The ES will still happily take on a set of corners and offers a surprisingly high amount of grip for a car of its size and weight, but understeer is ever-present, and turn-in isn't as sharp as a 5 Series or A6. If you're after something a bit more capable, the F Sport comes with larger wheels and a sport suspension setup, but even in this configuration, the Lexus ES can't keep up with its European rivals.

Verdict: Is the 2021 Lexus ES sedan A Good car?

Lexus has been building well-rounded luxury sedans for decades, but we're still taken aback at how much this brand has improved. Lexus doesn't settle for average, and that is clearly visible in the 2021 ES. The current-generation ES is a much better vehicle than its predecessor, and we continue to be bowled over by the sheer value for money on offer here. Sure, the two 2.5-liter engine setups are rather tepid, the 3.5-liter V6 option won't set the world on fire, and it's not exactly an athletic handler, but the build quality, space, and comfort on offer here is commendable, as is the feature list and class-leading safety features. The fact that you have to pay close to $15,000 more to get the same deal from the Germans should tell you everything you need to know. If it's a sensible luxury sedan you're after, the Lexus ES will be happy to fulfil that role.

What Lexus ES Model Should I Buy?

Even if you go for the top-of-the-line Ultra Luxury ES 350, you're still going to pay around $5,000 less than you would for any of the major German rivals, which should tell you everything you need to know. If you want to save on fuel, go for the ES 250, but in terms of comforts and features, skip the mid-tier trims and just head straight for the Ultra Luxury trim. The Ultra Luxury includes the many standard features found on all the other trims but adds nice-to-haves such as semi-aniline leather seats and a surround-view monitor. Go on, treat yourself.

Check out other Lexus ES Styles

2021 Lexus ES Comparisons

Lexus IS
Lexus GS Lexus

2021 Lexus ES vs Lexus IS

Lexus has positioned the ES quite close to the smaller IS in terms of price so the decision will boil down to what size car you want. The IS is significantly smaller than the ES, with a total length of only 185.4 inches compared to the ES's 195.9 inches. That size difference bleeds into the interior, where the ES offers much more rear legroom, but the IS does manage to secure more front legroom. The trunk of the IS provides only 10.8 cubic feet of space, compared to the 13.9 cubes in the ES. The IS is offered with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine and rear-wheel drive, which suits its more sporty persona, but the IS is far from being a sports car, and like its larger sibling, focuses more on comfort. If we were buying, we'd go for the ES, purely because it's more car for your money.

See Lexus IS Review

2021 Lexus ES vs Lexus GS

Although Lexus stopped production of the GS after the 2020 model year, this is still a relevant comparison, as there are lots of nearly new GS models selling for great prices at the moment. On the outside, the GS and ES share similar dimensions and looks, and most people will not be able to tell the difference between the two. Under the hood, the GS gets a more powerful version of the 3.5-liter V6 engine, producing 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. More importantly, power is sent to the rear wheels instead of the front. Build quality and tech are similar, but the 2021 ES has the advantage of being specified according to your wishes, whereas you'll have to settle for old stock when looking at the GS.

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