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Ready for Anything: 2021 Lexus ES on Everyman Driver

The 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD is the first all-wheel drive model for the ES series bringing with it the increased confidence in inclement weather. From snow to rainy days or even the off-chance gravel road, drivers can be assured the ES AWD will help keep all four tires grounded – meaning more points of contact with the ground with the ability to help maintain traction on the back tires around turns.

The Lexus ES is a midsize luxury sedan with a smooth ride and plush cabin built for comfort. Three engines are available, including a whisper-quiet hybrid, and the large interior is one of the most refined in its class. All major driver safety aids are standard and easy to use. Upper trims have features like a heated steering wheel and a hands-free power trunk. While many rivals try to be sports sedans, the Lexus ES prioritizes sheer comfort.

PROS: Soft suspension and remarkably quiet powertrain; Roomy, elegant cabin with excellent refinement; Impressive list of tech and safety features; A long-held reputation for reliability

CONS: Competitors offer sportier driving experiences; Cabin lacks glamorous styling of some rivals

WHAT’S NEW:

  • New 2021 ES 250 AWD expands ES family options
  • 2021 ES Black Line Special Edition with newly developed, sporty appearance
  • ES 350 and 300h Add Standard Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert on Luxury, F SPORT, Ultra Luxury grades, AWD

TRIM LEVELS: Lexus divides the ES into three submodels — ES 250, ES 350, and ES 300h — and their powertrains differentiate them. The Japanese brand then offers each in four different trim levels: Standard, F Sport, Luxury, and Ultra Luxury. The ES 250’s trims come with all-wheel-drive; the ES 350 and ES 300h trims have front-wheel-drive.

PRICES: Pricing for the ES starts around $40,000 for an ES 250. It includes a fleet of driver safety technology, like forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, road sign alert, and an adaptive cruise control system that can come to a complete stop and begin driving again on its own. Other standard amenities include automatic LED headlights, leatherette upholstery, power front seats, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a remote engine starter, a 10-speaker audio system, satellite radio, a CD player, an eight-inch touchscreen, in-car WiFi (subscription required), Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and Android Auto.

The F Sport trim starts around $46,000 and is the sportiest trim level. It has a sport-tuned suspension, unique exterior styling, 19-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, heated memory side mirrors that power-fold, bolstered heated/cooled front seats, and driver’s seat memory.

The Luxury begins at about $45,500. It skips the sporty equipment mentioned above but keeps the comfort features. It also gets leather upholstery, genuine wood trim, ambient lighting, and a rear sunshade.

The top-of-the-line Ultra Luxury starts around $49,000. It has key features like an adaptive suspension, semi-aniline leather seats, a surround-view camera, a motion-activated power trunk, a heated steering wheel, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, and navigation. Options include a Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system. Considered one of the best in the segment, it has 1,800 watts of power and 17 speakers. Other options include a head-up display, wireless phone charging, and premium triple-beam LED headlights.

POWERTRAIN: The ES 250 comes with a 203-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine. It runs on regular unleaded fuel and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. The drivetrain is typically in front-wheel-drive mode until sensors determine more grip is needed. At that time, an electromagnetic-controlled coupling on the rear axle engages and starts sending power to the rear wheels. It’s a smart system and enables the ES to still get an EPA-estimated 28 mpg overall.

The ES 350 uses the 3.5-liter V6 Lexus likes using in many of its cars. It’s an exceptionally smooth and refined engine, and it provides 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. It makes the ES significantly peppier to drive, though it isn’t exactly sporty. Front-wheel-drive and an eight-speed automatic come standard, and the ES 350 should return 26 mpg combined.

Buyers wanting better fuel efficiency and an even quieter driving experience will love the ES 300h. It pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor that gets its power from a lithium-ion battery located beneath the rear seats. Together, this system provides 44 mpg, which is superb for a luxury car. A continuously variable transmission and front-wheel-drive are included.

For 2021, one key addition headlines the safety features on the seventh-generation ES, with Luxury, F SPORT and Ultra Luxury now featuring standard Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Available on all ES models for 2021 is Lexus Enform Safety Connect (10-year trial included), Enform Remote (3-year trial), Lexus Enform Wi-Fi (4GB/3-month trial), Lexus Enform Service Connect (10-year trial).

All grades of the 2021 ES feature Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 as standard equipment. The Pre-Collision System (PCS) included with LSS+ 2.0 employs both a millimeter wave radar and a monocular camera sensor system designed to detect a preceding vehicle, a bicyclist in daytime situations as well as a preceding vehicle and a pedestrian in both daylight and low-light situations.

The Lane Departure Alert (LDA) system remains an integral part of LSS+ 2.0. It’s designed to alert the driver when it senses that the vehicle is deviating from its lane with audible and visual alerts, as well as steering wheel vibration. It’s also capable of providing a certain amount of steering assist to help keep the car from deviating from its marked lane.

The Lane Departure Alert with Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) comes standard and is designed to detect lane markings to determine lane position and place the vehicle in the center of the lane when working in conjunction with the All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. If road markings are not detected, LTA is also capable, in certain conditions, of following the car ahead of it. Road Sign Assist (RSA) is included as well and is designed to read certain road signs and display them on the multi-informational display.

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