While Lexus wasn’t technically the first to bring Japanese luxury vehicles to North America back in the late 80’s, they are arguably the standard bearer in this category. The 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD we’re talking about today, while brand new, is actually the seventh generation of this model line which dates back to 1989. When Lexus first landed here, their sales pitch was German level of luxury at reasonable prices. Since then, they’ve firmly established the brand as part of any conversation around luxury cars. Thirty-two years later, this 2021 ES is clearly looking to continue carrying that standard.

For the first time in its long history, the ES model line can be had with an intelligent AWD system. This system can send torque to the wheels that need it and can disengage itself from the rear drive axle when not in use to improve fuel efficiency.  Another notable addition is the Black Line model that will be limited to 1500 units and come with a set of custom luggage from Zero Halliburton. That’s the kind of luxury touch that you normally only find in very high-end machinery like Ferrari.

Amongst car folks, the Lexus Spindle Grille is polarizing. Some love it. Some don’t. Personally, I’m a fan. I love how it jumps out at first glance and then pulls you in to its fine detailing as you get up close. Along with this bold look, the new ES platform has some important modifications that really improve its lines. Around 2” wider and with a stretched wheelbase, the 2021 ES line is almost feline in styling. The sheet metal is elegantly draped over a long sleek frame that looks ready to pounce.

And if you’re looking to truly step out in a wild looking ES, how about an Ultra Sonic Blue Mica F Sport with a Circuit Red leather interior and 19” rims? Backing up these looks, the F Sport can be had with an Adaptive Variable Suspension that uses data from a variety of sensors including vertical g-load and yaw rate to constantly fine tune the ride. There was a time that automakers would slap a Sport badge on the fender, paint the wheels and sell customers on a bogus idea of it being exciting. Clearly, that is not the case with this new F Sport.

The F Sport gets deserved attention for its looks and dynamics. But as noted, the Lexus ES line is all about luxury and this 2021 update fits the bill. On the outside, you’ve got optional triple beam LED headlights in a slim lens that combines with that gaping maw of a front end to notify you this is something special. On this inside, you can swathe the surfaces in Dark Mocha wood and Rich Cream semi-aniline leather. The available 12.3” infotainment screen, 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and onboard wi-fi seal the deal on this being a true luxury sedan.

On the powertrain front, Lexus offers their inline-4 in ES 250 models and 3.5-liter V6 in the ES 350’s. The 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder put out 203 and 302 horsepower, respectively. All models running these gasoline motors are paired with  Lexus’ Direct Shift 8-speed automatic. You can also opt for the ES 300h hybrid to bump your fuel economy up to 44 mpg combined. The hybrid model line – Base, Luxury and Ultra Luxury – combines a 2.5 liter inline-4 gas engine with an electric motor and hybrid transaxle for a system total of 215 horsepower.

Lexus has been making the ES for a long time but that doesn’t translate to long in the tooth. Just the opposite really. This 2021 ES is the latest in a string of constant upgrades and improvements to the luxury line that started it all. The 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD is scored 102 by Drivers Only. To see where it ranks check out Best Luxury Cars for 2020 & 2021

Front-engine, front- or all-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4 door sedan


  • $39,900-$48,900: ES 250
  • $39,000-$46,550: ES 350
  • $41,810-$50,810: ES Hybrid


  • 16-valve DOHC 2.5-liter, inline-4: 203 hp, 184 lb-ft
  • 24-valve DOHC 3.5-liter, V-6: 302 hp, 267 lb-ft
  • 16-valve DOHC 2.5-liter inline-4 + electric motor; combined output, 215 hp


  • 8-speed automatic: gas inline-4 and V-6
  • Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission: hybrid

Wheelbase: 113.0 in
L/W/H: 195.9/73.4/56.9-57.1 in
Curb Weight: 3690-3780 lb

0-60 mph: 6.6-8.6 sec
¼ Mile: Not yet tested
Top Speed: 112-131 mph

City/Highway/Combined: 22-43/31-44/25-44