Even though the 2021 Lexus ES is a sedate offering in a segment dominated by legitimate sports sedans, it delivers what a certain group of luxury car buyers is looking for in terms of comfort, ride quality, and effortless cruising capability. Three powertrains are offered: A V-6 engine with 302-hp, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with all-wheel drive, or a hybrid setup that delivers fantastic fuel economy. As for luxury, the ES’s cabin is a lovely space that’s lined with fine materials, supportive seats, and plenty of technology features and connectivity options. What’s the downside? The Lexus doesn’t deliver the same level of driving satisfaction as the sportier luxury cars it competes against. But, for the price of an entry-level Audi A6 or Mercedes-Benz E-class, you can have a well-loaded ES—which makes it an unbeatable value in this highly competitive segment.
What’s New for 2021?
Lexus is adding the ES250 to the ES lineup this year, which is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and comes standard with an all-wheel drive. Like Lexus’ RX SUV, the ES sedan also receives a Black Line Special Edition package for 2021. Based on the F Sport model, the Black Line package adds black exterior trim, a black lip spoiler, a white interior, and two-piece matching luggage set from Zero Halliburton. Elsewhere, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is now standard on Ultra Luxury and F Sport models, a new Rich Cream interior color is available, and Lexus’s Enform Safety Connect suite of connectivity features—including onboard Wi-Fi—is now standard across the entire range.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The 2021 Lexus ES gives buyers a choice of three powertrains. The ES250 is powered by a 203-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and comes standard with all-wheel drive. All ES350 trims come with a 3.5-liter V-6 that generates 302 horsepower and is governed by an eight-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. With all ES350h trims, motivation comes from a hybrid powertrain that provides a net output of 215 horsepower; a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and front-wheel drive are standard. At our test track, the gas-only ES350 sprinted from a standstill to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. The hybrid variant made the dash in a more leisurely 8.3 seconds. This Lexus sedan exhibits the composed handling and forgiving ride quality that’s cherished by many luxury-car shoppers. For those seeking keener handling, the F Sport trim adds larger wheels and suspension tuning that’s more performance-oriented. Even with this upgrade, though, the ES is less athletic than competing models such as the BMW 5-series.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
With its stylish, asymmetrical dash and high-quality materials, the ES’s cabin creates a plush environment for passengers. Both rows offer enough legroom for the long-legged, and the seats provide comfortable support. Notably, the cabin is unfailingly peaceful, even when the ES is being driven at highway speeds. Both gas-only and hybrid models provide 17.0 cubic feet of room in the trunk, and this gives the ES more cargo space than rivals such as the Volvo S90 (14.0 cubic feet) and Acura TLX (14.0 cubic feet). Unfortunately, the ES isn’t available with a folding rear seat. This makes it difficult for this Lexus to accommodate outsize cargo.