Three decades ago, Lexus launched as Toyota’s luxury brand. Two models were charged with helping it to relentlessly pursue perfection, as the Lexus advertising tagline promised.
The one that grabbed all the attention was the LS 400, a flagship sedan offering quality and comfort to match BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The other was the ES 250, a fancied-up Camry that gave people a more affordable pathway to Lexus ownership.
Now, for the 2021 model year, the Lexus ES 250 returns to the lineup, equipped with a 203-hp 2.5L 4-cyl. and featuring standard all-wheel drive. Lexus will offer the ES 250 AWD in standard, Luxury, Ultra Luxury and F Sport trim levels, and prices will mirror those of the ’21 Lexus ES 350, which starts at $39,900.
This drivetrain is pulled from the same parts bin that feeds the Toyota Avalon AWD and Toyota Camry AWD and uses an 8-speed automatic transmission to transfer power to the ES 250 AWD’s front wheels.
When the driver accelerates hard, or the front wheels slip, an electromagnetic controlled coupling engages a propeller shaft to activate the rear drive axle. Lexus says up to 50% of the engine’s power can flow to the rear wheels, and that the ES AWD will average 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km) in combined driving.
Lexus also upgrades the ES 300h’s drivetrain for ’21. This is the gasoline-electric hybrid version of the ES, and it swaps its nickel-metal hydride battery pack for a more compact lithium-ion unit.
As was true of the previous battery, it is housed under the rear seat and preserves cargo space, allowing the ES 300h to offer the same trunk volume as other ES models.
For ’21, the ES 350 continues with its 302-hp 3.5L V-6. A limited-production run of ES 350 Black Line Special Editions is new, though.
Based on F Sport trim, the ES 350 Black Line SE is offered with a two-tone black and white leather interior with gray stitching (pictured above).
Detailing includes black exterior mirror caps, a black rear spoiler and dark-finish wheels with matching lug nuts. Just 1,500 examples will be available, painted Obsidian, Ultra White or Ultrasonic Blue 2.0. The price is $46,550, including a 2-piece set of custom Zero Halliburton luggage.
Additional changes for the ’21 Lexus ES lineup include standard blindspot warning with rear cross-traffic alert for all versions of the car except for the base model. Buyers who upgrade to the ES Ultra Luxury can select a new Rich Cream premium leather option paired with Espresso wood trim.
Though Lexus no longer uses its original tagline from the 1990s, it continues to strive to build the best cars and SUVs it can through a program of continuous improvement. That much is clear in the upgrades to the ’21 ES lineup.