Competes with: Chrysler 300, Genesis G80, Toyota Avalon
Looks like: A dead ringer for … the 2020 ES
Powertrain: Newly available 203-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine and eight-speed automatic transmission (ES 250 AWD); 302-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic (ES 350); 215-system-hp, 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder and electric motor with continuously variable automatic (ES 300h)
Hits dealerships: Early fall
Lexus redesigned its ES sedan for the 2019 model year, giving it a more aggressive-looking design that uses the brand’s signature spindle grille. For 2020, Lexus added Android Auto smartphone connectivity as well as blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert as a stand-alone option. Now in this generation’s third model year, the 2021 ES gains a new ES 250 AWD powered by a four-cylinder engine and paired with all-wheel drive, as well as a new Black Line Special Edition.
The ES retains its same dimensions and basic styling regardless of model, including the signature spindle grille with trim-specific patterns — mesh made of interlocking L’s for F Sport models and vertical bars for non-F Sport versions.
The new Black Line Special Edition, based on the ES 350 F Sport, offers some cosmetic changes, including black side mirrors, “darkened” F Sport wheels and a black rear lip spoiler.
Changes are minimal inside, as well. Ultra Luxury models will get a new semi-aniline leather upholstery and wood trim combination of Rich Cream leather and Espresso wood. Base, Luxury and F Sport models use faux leather upholstery, and the Black Line model will feature an F Sport-specific two-tone white and black interior.
Engine, Transmission and Fuel Economy
Most significantly, the ES is now available in an all-wheel-drive variant, the ES 250, which can be had in all standard ES trims, including the F Sport. The ES 250 AWD is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The newly available smaller engine makes 203 hp and, even with the added weight of AWD, Lexus estimates the ES 250 AWD offers the best fuel economy of any gas-only ES at 28 mpg combined.
The 3.5-liter V-6-powered ES 350, meanwhile, offers 26-mpg ratings estimates to go with its 302 hp. It’s also paired to an eight-speed auto but only powers the front wheels.
For the more eco-minded buyer, there’s the hybrid ES 300h, pairing a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and battery pack for 215 total system hp. The ES 300h now uses a lithium-ion battery pack instead of a nickel-metal pack, and the battery has been relocated from the trunk to below the rear seat. Lexus says this benefits trunk space and the car’s weight distribution, improving handling.
Both the ES 250 AWD and ES 350 are available in F Sport trim, which adds an adaptive suspension and 19-inch wheels to both models.
The previously available blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is now standard on all ES models except the base, and the Lexus Safety System Plus 2.0 suite of advanced safety tech is standard on all models.
LSS Plus 2.0 includes forward collision detection and automatic emergency braking, including daytime bicyclist detection and day- and nighttime pedestrian detection. It also adds other features including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane keep assist and a lane trace assist feature that can work with the adaptive cruise control for a semi-autonomous driving experience.