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2021 Lexus ES AWD Review By Larry Nutson

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2021 Lexus ES
Now with All-Wheel Drive

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Lexus’ total sales of their passenger car and utility vehicle model range is up 48 percent for the first half of 2021. Passenger car models make up about 26 percent of the total. And, about 21 percent of all Lexus sales are vehicles powered by alternative power trains that includes Hybrids, EVs and Fuel Cells. 

The mid-size ES is Lexus’ high volume passenger car. The ES lineup grows for 2021 with the all-new 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD, the first ES all-wheel drive model, and with the 2021 ES 350 Black Line Special Edition.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The model lineup now consists of the ES 250 AWD, ES 350 and ES 300h, each offered in base, Luxury and Ultra Luxury trims. An F Sport trim is also offered on the ES 250 AWD and the ES 350. Prices range from $40,000 to $50,910.

ES 250 AWD is powered by a 203-HP 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine that’s mated to an 8-speed automatic. The Dynamic Torque Control AWD is designed to improve traction while also minimizing the impact on fuel efficiency. The system is front-wheel-biased and can direct up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels. When AWD isn’t needed, a coupling on the rear axle can disengage the drive shaft for better efficiency.

EPA fuel economy ratings for the ES 250 AWD are 28 mpg combined, with 25 city mpg and 34 highway mpg. Zero to 60 mph is in 8.6 seconds.

ES 350 is front-wheel drive and has a 302-hp 3.5-L V6 paired with an 8-speed automatic. Performance wise it’ll hit 60 mph in 6.6 secs. and top out at 131mph. EPA fuel economy ratings are 26 mpg combined with 22 city mpg and 32 highway mpg.

The ES 300h hybrid’s 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine and electric motor has a combined system output of 215-hp. New for 2021, the nickel-metal hybrid battery that powers the electric motor is replaced with a lithium ion battery. The battery also was relocated from the trunk to underneath the rear seat, due to a 4.7-inch reduction in its height and the adoption of a more compact cooling system. This freed up trunk space and also improves the front-to-rear weight distribution of the ES for better handling. EPA rating is 44 mpg combined.

The new Black Line Special Edition ES 350 will be limited to 1,500 units. Based on the F SPORT grade, it will be offered in a choice of three exterior colors that include Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0, Obsidian and Ultra White, and the F SPORT-only two-tone interior that features white and black coloring with gray stitching. The Black Line ES 350 has unique features such as black outside mirrors, darkened F SPORT wheels and lug nuts, and a new black rear lip spoiler.

Black Line Special Edition buyers will also get a custom Lexus Black Line Zero Halliburton luggage set that includes an Edge Lightweight 22” Continental Carry-on and a 26” Medium Travel Case, both in black.

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My drive experience was in the new ES 250 AWD F Sport finished in Nebula Grey Pearl with Circuit Red interior trim. There was a good option load on this car including Head-up display ($500), power rear sunshade ($210), Triple Beam LED Headlamps ($1,515), a navigation and Mark Levinson audio package ($2,900), hands free power trunk ($550), heated steering wheel ($180) plus a few other items bringing the total to $53,400 including the $1,025 delivery fee.

Back a couple years I drove the 2019 ES when it was just introduced on its all-new platform that provide much improved dynamic performance and overall ride comfort as well as a more athletic and sporty appearance.

The 2021 model delivers on those attributes and is now further enhanced with the addition of an all-wheel drive model that should be well sought out in the snow-states.

I found the red interior of my “driver” to be inviting. The cabin is nicely fitted, roomy and quiet. The ES features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as Amazon Alexa.  Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 suite of advance driver-assist safety (ADAS) features are standard equipment.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The Lexus touchpad has been the bane of much criticism from auto pundits. I’ve taken that with a grain of salt and tried to adapt as if I am the owner. Once I get through a bit of acclimation and set all my presets, I’ve thought I won’t need it that much. However, a change is in the wind. First shown on the 2022 Lexus NX, a new infotainment control system is coming on the 2022 ES with touch-screen functionality, in addition to the remote touch interface, and elimination of the oft-criticized touch pad used to control systems including audio and navigation.

For the 2022 model year Lexus has announced the ES family will get numerous multimedia, safety, style, and color updates. Additional enhancements to F SPORT models include a new Dynamic Handling Package and the introduction of a new ES 300h F SPORT trim available in select regions. The 2022 ES is expected to arrive in dealerships later this Fall.

Lexus is striving to engage a broader range of customers and, of course, compete more effectively with the European brand luxury cars. For more information and details on the 2021 Lexus ES go to

© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy