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2021 Lexus ES Review

The 2021 Lexus ES ranks near the top of the luxury midsize car class thanks to its composed ride and handling, comfortable and spacious interior, many standard features, and good predicted reliability rating.

Pros & Cons

  • Smooth ride
  • Spacious, comfy, and quiet interior
  • Many standard safety features
  • Good predicted reliability rating
  • Distracting infotainment controls

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Lexus ES's #3 ranking is based on its score within the Luxury Midsize Cars category. Currently the Lexus ES has a score of 8.2 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 19 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

8.2

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.8
Performance: 8.0
Interior: 7.1
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.5 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Lexus ES?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the Lexus ES a Good Car?

Yes, the 2021 Lexus ES is a great luxury car. The ES has a spacious and stylish interior with comfy seats, high-quality materials, and a wealth of standard tech and safety features. It rides smoothly over rough and uneven pavement, yet it still feels agile and enjoyable to drive through turns. Two refined engine options are available – a four-cylinder with all-wheel drive and a V6 with front-wheel drive – and both return good fuel economy. The ES also rates highly for predicted reliability.

The only glaring drawback to the ES, unfortunately, is one you’ll have to interact with often: the infotainment system. Be sure to give its touchpad controls a thorough test before you buy since the system isn’t very user-friendly.

We review the Lexus ES Hybrid separately.

Why You Can Trust Us: 19 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 19 Lexus ES reviews, as well as data points like reliability ratings and fuel economy estimates, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible.

This 2021 ES review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2019.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Lexus ES?

You should definitely consider the 2021 Lexus ES if you’re shopping for a luxury midsize car. The ES is comfortable to drive, and it boasts a sterling reputation for reliability. Its relatively low $39,900 starting price makes it a good value in this segment as well. That said, it isn’t the only top pick. You may also want to check out the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. These sedans are a bit pricier than the ES, but both have easier-to-use infotainment systems as well as more powerful engine options.

Compare the ES, A6, and 5 Series »

2020 vs. 2021 Lexus ES: What's the Difference?

The main difference between the 2020 and 2021 Lexus ES is the availability of all-wheel drive. Lexus added an all-wheel-drive variant to the lineup for 2021. By comparison, all previous ES models dating back to 1990 have been front-wheel drive only.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 ES »

Here are the key changes for the Lexus ES over the last few years:

  • 2019: fully redesigned (start of seventh generation) with more standard safety features, a stronger base engine, a new eight-speed automatic transmission, and improved handling
  • 2020: Android Auto capability added
  • 2021: ES 250 variant debuts with all-wheel drive

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 ES, 2019 ES, and 2020 ES reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Lexus ES Cost?

The 2021 Lexus ES has a starting MSRP of $39,900, which is among the lowest in the luxury midsize car class. The range-topping Ultra Luxury trim has a starting MSRP of $48,900.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Lexus dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Lexus deals page.

Lexus ES Versus the Competition

Lexus ES vs. Lexus IS

The Lexus IS may look similar to the ES, but it fills a different niche in the Lexus car lineup. The IS is a sports sedan, and it wields sharper handling and racier engine performance. The trade-off is that the IS costs about the same as the ES, but it offers considerably less seating space, dated interior styling, and worse fuel economy. It also lacks popular features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Stick with the ES if you just want a comfortable and value-packed luxury car.

Compare the ES and IS »

Lexus ES vs. Toyota Avalon

The Toyota Avalon is a large car that has a lot in common with the ES. In fact, both of these sedans are produced at the same Kentucky factory, and they share the same engines and transmissions. Both cars are similarly spacious, comfortable to drive, and fuel-efficient as well. The main differences have to do with the styling, tech features, and price. The ES feels a bit more luxurious inside than the Avalon. On the other hand, the Avalon costs about $4,000 less than the ES, and its touch screen infotainment system is much easier to use. Both are good cars, but the Avalon is the better choice for most shoppers.

Compare the ES and Avalon »

Compare the ES, IS, and Avalon »

ES Interior: A Touchpad Short of Perfect

ES Cargo Space

The Lexus ES has 13.9 cubic feet of trunk space, which is about average for a luxury midsize car. It’s roomy enough for two sets of golf clubs or a couple of suitcases, but any items larger than that may be hard to fit because the rear seats don’t fold down.

How Many People Does the ES Seat?

The Lexus ES is a four-door sedan with five seats. The front seats are supple yet supportive, and they provide plenty of headroom and legroom, even for taller occupants. The driving position is comfy, even after a few hours on the road, and outward visibility is good in all directions. The rear seats are similarly spacious, and they can accommodate two adults or three kids in reasonable comfort.

Synthetic leather upholstery and 10-way power-adjustable front seats are standard. Genuine leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and rear sunshades are available.

ES and Child Car Seats

The Lexus ES has two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat. This LATCH system is generally easy to use.

ES Interior Quality

The Lexus ES has a stylish and upscale interior that does an excellent job of muffling road and wind noise, resulting in a hushed and relaxing ride. Most of the cabin materials have a quality look and feel. The interior isn’t quite as sumptuous as in rivals like the Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, or Volvo S90, but it’s certainly good for the price.

ES Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The biggest issue with the Lexus ES is its Remote Touch infotainment system, which is found in models with the standard 8-inch display and optional 12.3-inch display. These screens are located high on the dashboard, but they are controlled using a touchpad on the center console, similar to the one on a laptop computer. It’s a distracting setup to use while driving, and the few physical buttons and knobs for the audio and climate controls don’t help much.

  • Standard infotainment features: an 8-inch display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, Bluetooth, a USB port, a Wi-Fi hot spot, HD Radio, satellite radio, and 10 speakers
  • Available infotainment features: a 12.3-inch display, a navigation system, a 17-speaker stereo, and wireless device charging
  • Additional standard features: keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a moonroof
  • Other available features: rear sunshades, a panoramic moonroof, and a hands-free power trunk lid

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay?, What Is Android Auto?, and What Is Amazon Alexa Auto?

Read more about interior »

ES Performance: Good All-Rounder

ES Engine

The 2021 Lexus ES is offered in two powertrain configurations: ES 250 and ES 350. The ES 250 has a 203-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive. This setup yields modest performance. Acceleration is leisurely – zero to 60 mph takes 8.5 seconds – and there isn’t much passing power at higher speeds, but it’s fine for scooting around town. The transmission executes smooth and well-timed gear changes, and the security of all-wheel drive may be a boon for those living in snowy regions.

If you can live without all-wheel drive, we suggest opting for the ES 350. This model has a 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. It feels much zippier in everyday driving – zero to 60 mph takes 6.6 seconds – and it has power to spare for climbing hills and passing other vehicles on the highway. As with the ES 250, the transmission shifts smoothly and promptly.

ES Gas Mileage

The ES 250 gets an EPA-rated 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, which is good for a luxury midsize car. The ES 350 returns a slightly lower 22/32 mpg city/highway. Consider the Lexus ES Hybrid if you’re looking for better fuel economy.

ES Ride and Handling

The Lexus ES has refined driving dynamics that favor comfort over outright performance. The ES glides smoothly over bumps and dips in the road. It remains stable and composed through tight turns, and the steering feels reasonably quick and nicely weighted. The brakes provide fine stopping power as well. Overall, it’s an easy and relaxing car to drive on a daily basis.

The F Sport model has larger wheels and an available adaptive suspension that enhance the car’s handling a bit, albeit not to the level of sports sedans like the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6.

Read more about performance »

ES Reliability

Is the Lexus ES Reliable?

The 2021 Lexus ES has a good predicted reliability rating of four out of five.

Lexus ES Warranty

Lexus covers the ES with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

ES Safety

ES Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Lexus ES an overall safety rating of five out of five stars. The ES received five stars in the side crash test, as well as four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not tested the 2021 ES, but the organization gave the similar 2020 model excellent ratings across the board.

ES Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane departure warning with lane keep assist
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Road sign recognition

Available advanced safety features:

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Surround-view parking camera system
  • Head-up display

Read more about safety »

ES Dimensions and Weight

The Lexus ES is 16.3 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,690 to 3,780 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Lexus ES Built?

Lexus builds the 2021 ES in Kentucky.

Which Lexus ES Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Lexus ES comes in a variety of configurations. We’ll break these down to make the purchase decision simpler.

First, choose from one of two powertrains. The ES 250 has a four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, while the ES 350 has a zestier V6 engine and front-wheel drive. Next, choose from one of four trim levels: base, Luxury, Ultra Luxury, and F Sport. We think the base model is the best pick for most shoppers since it’s offered with many standard convenience and safety features.

Lexus ES 250 and ES 350

The base model ES 250 and ES 350 both start at $39,900. Standard features include an 8-inch infotainment display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, Bluetooth, a USB port, HD Radio, satellite radio, 10 speakers, a Wi-Fi hot spot, keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, NuLuxe synthetic leather upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, a moonroof, LED headlights, 17-inch wheels, and a rearview camera. The ES also includes Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, which bundles forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, road sign recognition, and automatic high-beam headlights.

A few option packages are available. The Premium package costs $1,375 and adds heated and ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. The Navigation package is priced at $1,820 and adds a navigation system and a 12.3-inch infotainment display. Individual options include blind spot monitoring, a head-up display, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, wireless device charging, a heated steering wheel, a power rear sunshade, and a hands-free power trunk lid. These options range in price from $75 to around $1,500.

Lexus ES 250 Luxury and ES 350 Luxury

The ES 250 and ES 350 Luxury trims start at $45,100. These trims gain the contents of the Premium package plus genuine leather upholstery, 14-way power-adjustable front seats, a power rear sunshade, blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, and 18-inch wheels. Most options carry over unchanged.

Lexus ES 250 Ultra Luxury and ES 350 Ultra Luxury

The ES 250 and ES 350 Ultra Luxury trims start at $48,900. These trims add a 12.3-inch display and navigation system, a surround-view parking camera system, a heated steering wheel, and a hands-free power trunk lid. All other options carry over.

Lexus ES 250 F Sport and ES 350 F Sport

The ES 250 and ES 350 F Sport trims start at $45,700. These trims include all of the base model features in addition to the Premium package, front seats with larger side bolsters, a restyled front bumper and grille, a rear spoiler, a stiffer suspension, 19-inch wheels, blind spot monitoring, and front and rear parking sensors. All other options carry over.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Lexus dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Lexus deals page.

See 2021 Lexus ES specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Lexus ES is a great luxury midsize car that’s somewhat let down by its fussy infotainment system. If you can master it though, there is a lot to love about this Lexus sedan. The ES has an airy cabin with comfy seats and high-end materials. It rides gracefully over bumps and dips in the road, its lineup of four- and six-cylinder engines offer respectable performance and good fuel economy, and there are loads of standard safety and convenience features. The ES’ sub-$40,000 starting price makes it a great value as well.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "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 are looking for in terms of comfort, ride quality, and effortless cruising capability … [F]or 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." -- Car and Driver
  • "Today's Lexus ES comes with an impressive array of standard equipment and some choice options. The updated interior blends design elements from Lexus' flagship LS and LC models and has a crisp-looking infotainment system that uses a touchpad controller and incorporates Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa functionality. There are a few minor downsides. That touchpad controller, for instance, is cumbersome to use while driving. And you might find that some German luxury sedans are a little more appealing if you're looking for higher levels of performance. But overall, the ES remains one of today's best all-around performers and is a smart pick for a comfortable luxury sedan." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "The 2020 Lexus ES luxury-midsize sedan does the usual Lexus thing. That means superb build quality, tranquil traveling, great resale values, lots of standard equipment, and so on. Yet it also adds another element. After years of being the soft, spacious and somewhat anonymous one, the current ES … wears a bolder look and packs on a little more muscle. The implication is that while this new ES can still be roomy and relaxed, there's some extra involvement lurking, to be accessed whenever a driver wants." -- Kelley Blue Book (2020)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 8, 2020

Class-Leading Sales: The Lexus ES is the top-selling luxury midsize car, and in dominant fashion; it is outpacing both the BMW 5 Series and Acura TLX each by almost 2 to 1. Even so, Lexus dealerships have sold 21.4 percent fewer ES models in 2020 when compared with the same timeframe in 2019.

Research more buying advice »
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2021 Lexus ES

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