2021 Lexus ES

2021 Lexus ES First Look Review: Luxury With More Attitude

by Jay Traugott

The Lexus ES has received a mid-life update for the 2021 model year. The ES, known as a conservative midsize luxury sedan, receives a few styling tweaks following its latest complete redesign in 2018. Although nothing substantial, the ES is far less traditional-looking than previous generations and the optional F-Sport trim continues to help out in that department.

But perhaps the biggest 2021 updates are two new trims: the ES 250 AWD and ES 350 Black Line Special Edition. The former, in particular, will appeal to customers who live in regions of the country that suffer from harsh winters. Lexus has also upgraded existing ES trims with new standard safety features.

Despite its past reputation as a sedan that often appealed to older buyers, Lexus continues to go to great lengths to introduce the ES to a younger generation of luxury vehicle shoppers who desire a reliable and stylish vehicle at a competitive price.

Is the 2021 Lexus ES a good car?

  • 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
8.4
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2021 Lexus ES Models

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
ES 350
3.5-liter V6 Gas
Inline-4
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Other
$39,900
ES 350 Luxury
3.5-liter V6 Gas
Inline-4
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Other
$45,100
ES 350 F SPORT
3.5-liter V6 Gas
Inline-4
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Other
$45,700
ES 350 Ultra Luxury
3.5-liter V6 Gas
Inline-4
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Other
$48,900

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Bold Exterior Styling Continues

A younger generation has responded positively to the carmaker's latest design language and so Lexus has opted to continue evolving the look. For 2021, the ES continues to ride on the GA-K global architecture, which makes it longer, lower, and wider than the previous generation. The signature spindle grille returns and the F Sport trim features a mesh pattern with a jet black finish instead of the standard model's vertical bars. Notice the headlights have L-shaped marker lights while optional triple beam headlights include three LED projector units.

The standard wheel size continues to be 17-inches with a 10-spoke design. A set of 18-inch and 19-inch wheels are optional for higher trims. The F Sport has its own unique 19-inch wheels.

Lexus continues to offer over a dozen exterior colors, among them premium Eminent White Pearl, Matador Red Mica, and Ultra Sonic Blue Mica 2.0. For 2021, there's a new Black Line Special Edition, based on the F Sport that's limited to 1,500 examples. Along with three unique exterior color choices, it features black outer mirrors, darkened F Sport wheel and lug nuts, and black rear lip spoiler.

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Slick Styling Continues Inside

Lexus wisely decided to leave the 2021 ES's interior mostly untouched. The 2018 redesign was a significant leap forward, so the mid-life updates are relatively minor. Drivers continue to benefit from standard 10-way power-adjustable front seats while rear seat occupants enjoy increased headroom over the previous generation. The trunk is also quite spacious with a total of 13.9 cubic feet of available storage.

An 8-inch multimedia system is standard while a 12.3-inch screen is optional with the Navigation package. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility come standard with all trims. The driver's gauge cluster measures 7-inches but increases by an inch for the F Sport. As standard, buyers get a 10-speaker Pioneer audio system but those who appreciate sound quality will want to upgrade to the 17-speaker Mark Levinson system.

The limited-edition Black Line has a two-tone interior with white and black trim and gray stitching with an optional two-piece luggage set designed by Zero Halliburton. Each bag has a chrome logo badge laser etched with "Zero Halliburton for Lexus", premium interior lining, and a Lexus grille motif and embossed leather logo badge.

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Power, Safety, And Optional AWD

Perhaps the most significant new addition to the 2021 ES is that all-wheel drive is now an option. However, it's available only on the ES 250 model, meaning the only engine the system is paired with is the 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 203 horsepower. Lexus estimates a combined fuel economy rating of 28 mpg. What's nice about the AWD system is that it can direct up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels once it detects a loss of traction up front. Fuel efficiency is maintained by the rear axle's prop shaft disengaging when AWD isn't necessary.

Meanwhile, the optional 3.6-liter V6 remains unchanged with 302 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. Power goes to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Combined fuel economy is estimated at 26 mpg. F Sport trims have a tighter suspension with adjustable dampers similar to what's found on the LC coupe and LS flagship sedan. Lexus claims this suspension has 650 levels of adjustment to suit all driver preferences.

All ES trims come standard with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, which includes pre-collision alert, lane departure alert with lane tracing assist, all-speed dynamic cruise control, and road sign assist.

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Pricing And Competition

The 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD and ES 350 will begin at $39,900, while the Luxury and Ultra-Luxury trims start at $45,100 and $48,900, respectively. Meanwhile, the 2021 Lexus ES F Sport runs from $45,700, and the limited Black Line Edition starts at $46,550. Deliveries are scheduled to get underway early this fall.

The competition in the front-wheel-drive luxury sedan segment is diminishing. Gone is the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS, while the Lincoln MKZ and Continental are on their way out. The Kia Cadenza, however, remains and is very much a worthy rival. If you're interested in saving some money but still desire Lexus reliability, there's the Toyota Avalon, the ES's corporate cousin. Although it's less refined, the Avalon offers many premium features as well as AWD.

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Lexus ES Popular Comparisons

$39,900 - $48,900
Price Range (MSRP)
Lexus ES