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2021 Lexus ES Performance Review


Performance: 7.8

The 2021 Lexus ES has well-rounded performance. It rides comfortably on uneven road surfaces yet remains stable around turns. Its four- and six-cylinder engines provide sufficient power for everyday driving, and the transmission operates smoothly. Good fuel economy is another highlight.

  • "Acceleration is powerful and smooth, and the V6 is strong throughout its rev range." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "Bumps are absorbed and muted. Gravel pavement is crushed and softened. The body doesn't lean big, just enough to ensure your passengers aren't too roughed up." -- Autoweek (2019)
  • "Unlike past iterations, the … ES achieves its calm demeanor without resorting to the sort of overly soft suspension that ultimately yields messy handling when pressed. And it does everything wearing a bold new look." -- CNET (2019)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque (ES 250)
  • Available engine: 3.5-liter V6 with 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque (ES 350)
  • Drivetrain: all-wheel drive in ES 250; front-wheel drive in ES 350
  • Transmission: eight-speed automatic

The four-cylinder engine shuttles the ES around town with sufficient punch, but it feels short on power at higher speeds. The V6 feels more energetic in both scenarios. The transmission shifts smoothly and promptly.

  • "The new-for-2021 ES 250 AWD has an intelligent system. When all-wheel drive is not required, it can disengage torque to the rear axle automatically. Then reinstate it when necessary. A 302-horsepower V6 propels the 2021 ES 350 and its F Sport variant with a refined eagerness. Progress can be respectably swift, but not to the detriment of comfort. The 8-speed automatic transmission is subtle in its shifting duties, while scrolling between the drive modes brings differences in feel and response." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Around town, smooth acceleration and imperceptible gear changes make the ES a pleasure to drive. Even in city traffic, the ES feels as if it's just gliding along thanks to its relaxed powertrain." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "Power from the 3.5-liter V6 is good; it doesn't feel slow. The F Sport version adds engine sound through the speakers to add a little drama to accelerations, and shifts come reasonably quick, but again, if I'm looking for a four seater that's more sport than luxury, this is not it … It's a quiet, comfortable cruising sedan, and that's OK. Passing power is good and getting from 65 to 85 mph is no problem. From a standstill you're looking at a respectable 6.6 seconds from 0-60 mph." -- Autoweek (2019)

MPG Estimates

Gas mileage in the ES 250 is good for a luxury midsize car. For even better fuel economy, check out the Lexus ES Hybrid, which we review separately.

  • ES 250, AWD: 25/34 mpg city/highway
  • ES 350, FWD: 22/32 mpg
  • ES 350 F Sport, FWD: 22/31 mpg

Handling and Braking

The Lexus ES succeeds at blending a comfortable ride with reasonably agile handling. The suspension sops up bumps and dips in the pavement smoothly, there isn’t much body lean around turns, and the steering feels quick and responsive.

  • "The suspension and steering are tuned to make the 2021 ES far more responsive and communicative than a typical luxury sedan. Yes, it’s a big car. But it manages to shrink around the driver, especially so in F Sport guise. This variant’s adaptive suspension is perfectly comfortable and well-damped, although road imperfections can be felt on occasion." -- Autotrader
  • "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." -- Car and Driver
  • "Comfort and isolation remain ES hallmarks, and neither has been sacrificed for improved handling." -- Edmunds (2019)
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2021 Lexus ES

MSRP: $39,900 - $48,900

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