Say hello to the new ES in the Lexus lineup. It’s the first-ever ES 250 and it comes with standard all-wheel drive. It’s the first ES to ever offer AWD and I couldn’t be more impressed with the new addition to the ES family. From its looks, technology and terrific Mark Levinson sound system to its engaging ride, cabin comfort and all-wheel drive confidence, I have to say the top-of-the-line ES Ultra Luxury AWD is something special. Not to mention it’s what I consider a great value at just under $55,000.
The new ES 250 AWD is equipped with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers 203-horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. Acceleration feels good especially with AWD which allows you to accelerate faster from a start. A smooth shifting 8-speed automatic comes with steering wheel paddle shifters with Eco, Normal and Sport drive modes, the latter my go-to favorite. Fuel economy is 28 mpg combined which Lexus says is better than the other gas-only ES models.
It was a great week for all-wheel drive, too, as it was a very rainy one, perfect for putting the AWD to the test. It was impressive (as were the rain sensing wipers). The ES AWD handled wet roads confidently providing great traction. The Dynamic Torque Control AWD system sends up to 50 percent of power to the rear wheels if needed, like in response to acceleration like I mentioned above, or slippage at the front wheels. Add to all this the Ultra Luxury model adds lateral performance dampers for enhanced stability and control. Braking is on point as well.
Ride and Drive
When it comes to driving engagement and handling, the ES’s low center of gravity offers an engaged, connected-to-the-road ride that I found enjoyable. Handling, while not F Sport “sporty”, was still quite impressive. The drive is more engaging than I anticipated it would be with great steering feel. Ride quality is of course exceptional - and of course Lexus smooth - and it’s very quiet in here. The overall takeaway here is the ES delivers on Lexus promise to deliver more fun to drive vehicles.
The new ES 250 joins the Kentucky-built 7th gen ES lineup that launched in 2019. It shines from every angle in Eminent White Pearl (a premium hue). It rides on 18-inch split 5-spoke noise-reduction wheels with optional wheel looks. The color and wheel combo coupled with the large grille make for a striking first impression. The grille’s vertical pattern is unique to the ES and the pattern is duplicated at each corner of the bumper, something Lexus says is designed to make the ES look wide and planted. The razor sharp L-shaped marker lights are attention-grabbing and this is equipped with optional triple beam LED headlights. Door-well handles light up upon approach and you have chrome window surrounds and two-toned power-folding side mirrors. In back, the tail end is certain to impress the driver behind you. Redesigned LED tail lights are slim and sleek-looking. A chrome bar stretches across the trunk and an optional rear spoiler adds sportiness. A second chrome bar also emphasizes width across the lower bumper.
The ES 250’s roomy, soft-touch, inviting cabin makes you feel at home right away. Its multi-tone, leather, tech-filled interior with real wood trim impresses when you open the door. This is the multi-toned Flaxen semi-aniline leather with linear Espresso wood themed cabin. It’s an interesting interior with a multi-level soft-touch dash and a mix of matte and gloss wood trim pieces.
The semi-aniline leather-trimmed 14-way power Driver’s seat is quite comfortable with side bolsters and I love that it has a cushion extender. The passenger’s seat is 10-way power. In this trim, both front seats are heated and ventilated and you also get a heated steering wheel. Speaking of which, the leather-and wood-trimmed steering wheel is derived from the LS flagship and looks fab in here. Above the steering wheel, a 7-inch LCD gauge cluster offers crisp and bright graphics.
The center stack area sports more buttons than digital controls for the climate functions. The center console houses the leather-wrapper gear shifter, along with auto brake hold and the drive mode selector.
The ES 250 is quite roomy, too, in the second-row with a drop down center console with cupholders, A/C vents and two USB ports. The Ultra Luxury trim nets a power rear sunshade along with manual 2nd-row sunshades. Lexus says the 7th-gen ES has enhanced rear seat headroom.
A standard size sunroof allows light in from above.
An incredible 12.3-high color multimedia high-def display is set back center dash and is NOT a touchscreen. You control it with Lexus Remote Touch which is very responsive. You’ll get standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus Amazon Alexa. The rear backup camera is ok but clarity isn’t my favorite in the industry. The optional Navigation and Mark Levinson sound package is outstanding -- and Dynamic Voice Command quite accurately takes voice cues. The 17-speaker Mark Levinson PurePlay sound system, created just for the ES, delivers exceptional sound.
Optional tech features include one of the brightest color head-up displays I’ve seen and a wireless charger in the center console bin.
The ES’s trunk offers 13.9 cubic ft. of cargo space and offers some underfloor storage space. There is also a pass through area to the 2nd-row for longer items. The Ultra Luxury comes with a power liftgate with an easy to operate kick sensor.
The Ultra Luxury package includes: 18-inch wheels, 14-way power driver’s seat, 12.3-inch screen with navigation rain sensing wipers, heated and ventilated seats, the hands free open trunk, a power rear sunshade and manual 2nd-row sunshades. It also adds Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking and Rear Pedestrian Detection, and Panoramic View Monitor.
Other options include the wireless charger, 10.2-inch head up display, triple beam headlamps, and the Nav/Audio 17-speaker sound system upgrade. The rear spoiler, illuminated door sill, carpet trunk mat and wheel locks are also options.
The ES comes with Lexus’ Safety System 2.0+ which is one of my favorite driver assist systems. It’s robust with audible alerts that aren’t annoying. A key update for 2021 is that top trims, including the Ultra Luxury, now come with standard Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and a panoramic view camera.
What You’ll Pay
The ES 250 AWD Ultra Luxury is great value, offering Lexus’ well-known build quality and a lot of great content for $54,235. It’s an exceptional mid-size sedan in my book and the AWD trim is a fantastic addition to the lineup.
2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD
- What I liked most: Ride and Drive, AWD, Interior Comfort, Mark Levinson audio.
- What I would change: Nothing.
- MSRP: Base price $48,900, as equipped $54,325.
- Fuel Economy: 25 mpg city/34 mpg highway/28 mpg combined.
- Official Color: Eminent White Pearl ($425).
- Odometer reading when tested: 2,491 miles.
- Weight: 3,780 pounds.
- Spare Tire: Compact spare.
- Length-Width-Height: 195.87 ” long/73.43” wide/57.09 i” high.
- Towing Capacity: N/A.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 15.9 gallons with filler on the driver’s side.
- 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD in a few words: An excellent midsize luxury sedan made even better with AWD.
- Final Assembly Location: Georgetown, Kentucky.
- Manufacturers website: Lexus
- Warranty: 4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper with roadside assistance, 6-year/70,000 mile powertrain coverage. 24-hour roadside assistance; 6-year corrosion perforation protection coverage, regardless of mileage.