Is the 2021 Lexus ES 250 a good car? 4 things we like and 3 things we aren’t crazy about

2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD photo by Joe Bruzek

At a time when most automakers are ditching luxury sedans along with their customers in favor of high-quality SUVs, Lexus has the instead ES lineup for 2021 with its first all-wheel drive variant. The result is the ES 250, and it’s something of a mixed bag. While some of the few remaining sedan buyers may applaud the choice of all-wheel drive, Lexus paradoxically only made it available in the ES with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 203-horsepower engine, which brings both the power and sophistication of the 3.5 Liter engine is missing V-6 in the ES 350.

Connected: 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD Review: A Weird But Needed Lexus ES

With 99 horsepower less to work with and the added weight of the four-wheel drive to lug around, the four-banger cut its job out for this – and it doesn’t sound hpy, with a harsh and gasping sound, especially when pushed.

Unfortunately, the smaller engine doesn’t result in any significant increase in fuel consumption compared to the ES 350, and base pricing is the same at $ 41,025 (all prices include destination). Even so, the ES 250 is still a bargain in its class, with a friendly price tag and a luxurious and spacious interior.

2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD photo by Joe Bruzek

To delve into the details, please read our full review by Joe Bruzek via the dedicated link above. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at what we like and don’t like about the 2021 Lexus ES 250:

Things we like

1. AWD works as advertised

The AWD system does the job, as we found out when 8 inches of wet snow comfortably fell during our time in the car. It turned out to be more than ready for the task of crawling out of an unploughed driveway onto snow-covered roads. The system transfers the torque seamlessly from front to back or decouples it to reduce fuel consumption. However, it’s not the type of setup found in sportier sedans for increased performance on dry roads.

2. Standard Driver Assistance Tech

A generous list of standards Features include adaptive cruise control at full speed, pedestrian detection and automatic braking, as well as lane departure warning with lane centering, traffic sign recognition, automatic high beam, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic warning and parking assistant.

2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD photo by Joe Bruzek

3. F Sport Performance version

It’s not a replacement for the now-departed rear-wheel drive GS F-Sport, but the F Sport version of the ES 250 is helping Lexus fans fill the void for a more engaging driving experience. With a firmer suspension and an improved driving experience, the ES 250 F Sport enlivens things without affecting the driving quality. Note, however, that it has the same four-cylinder drivetrain as the non-F Sport ES 250. So don’t expect higher performance or faster acceleration.

4. Relatively friendly pricing

With a starting price of $ 41,025, the ES 250 is competitively priced for the class, especially given the list of standard features. It’s also about $ 5,000 less than the starting price of a midsize Lexus RX SUV. Even so, like others in the class, the price can go up quickly: our ES 250 F Sport came in at $ 53,400.

2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD photo by Joe Bruzek

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Things we don’t like

1. About this engine

The concept of a four-cylinder ES makes just as much sense as the idea of ​​making one with all-wheel drive. But combine both? Not so much, and especially not without the help of a turbocharger, as is used in the basic four-cylinder BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. The lack of a turbo forces the Lexus to run at higher revs to get the job done, which only makes the engine’s lack of refinement even more apparent.

2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD photo by Joe Bruzek

2. Annoying control interface

Describing the Lexus touchpad-based user interface as dangerous and distracting may seem like a bit of an effort, but it’s fair to say it’s not one of our favorites. The system is finicky and nowhere near as simple as tapping a touchscreen. However, the ES 250 does not offer this option and forces you to use the touchpad mounted on the console to navigate the screen. It can be mastered with practice, but customers are advised to do some serious test drives with it before breaking out the checkbook.

3. No price advantage compared to ES 350

It may be reasonably priced compared to a loaded BMW 3 Series or Audi A4, but the ES 250 seems less of a bargain compared to the ES 350 at the same price. Sure, you can’t get an AWD with an ES 350, but it’s increased power and sophistication make it a tastier package. If you don’t live deep in the snow belt, an ES 350 with a good set of winter tires may be all you need.

Related Video: 2021 Lexus IS 350: Review

The editorial team is your source for automotive news and reviews. In accordance with’s longstanding ethical policy, editors and reviewers do not accept gifts or free rides from automakers. The editorial team is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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