The 2021 Lexus ES line-up is nothing short of expansive. Lexus has earned a superb reputation over the years for creating high-quality luxury vehicles, and this model year's ES trims are no exception to this rule. Whether you go with the ES 250 or go all-out with the ES 300h Ultra Luxury, you are bound to get one impressive ride.
The pros? They are many. The ES is comfortable, and the interior is chock full of upscale design elements. The ride quality is perfectly plush, fit for a luxury vehicle. And, if you decide to get one of the F Sport models, you will likely be impressed with how effortlessly it handles cornering. Also, the 300h models have superb fuel economy numbers for being luxury vehicles.
So, what are the downsides? There honestly are not that many. The infotainment system is our biggest qualm; it is simply too finicky and lags a lot - definitely not something that you should expect to find in a high-end vehicle like this. Also, the rear seats do not fold down. For anyone who has to haul cargo, this is a huge turn-off. Most vehicles these days have rear folding seats with either a 60/40 or 40/20/40 split. The ES has none of the above. Yikes. And to top it all off, on the ES 300h vehicles, acceleration is absolutely lackluster compared to other luxury vehicles in this segment. Double yikes.
With that being said, we do recommend that luxury buyers check into the 2021 Lexus ES line-up. There are a ton of choices available, so drivers can pick something that is right for them. But that can make the decision-making process rather time-consuming. To help you narrow down your to-be-test-driven choices, here is our in-depth trim level comparison review of the 2021 Lexus ES. Be sure to stick around until the end, as that is where we will announce which trim level we think has the most appeal.
Compare the 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD vs ES 350 - What is the Difference?
Time to kick things off by discussing the ES 250 AWD and the ES 350 - the two lowest trim levels available in the 2021 Lexus EX line-up. As far as their interiors go, you will find some of the same features. Both have dual-zone automatic climate control that comes with a sensor for smog, air filters for the cabin, and a recirculation mode that kicks in automatically. They also share 10-way power adjustable front seats and perforated NuLuxe interior trim. Stand-alone options include a rear power sunshade, and packages can be equipped that give these vehicles the Lexus Memory System, a power tilt and telescoping steering column, and wood trim. You can also opt for a heated leather and wood trimmed steering wheel with a fast response inside heater and de-icer for the windshield wipers.
Exterior features on both the 250 AWD and 350 include headlights that are bi-LED, LED daytime running lights and taillights, a power moonroof, and 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels done with a dark silver tone and machined finish. A panoramic glass sun roof can be added to the 350, and there are stand-alone and package options that can give both trim levels windshield wipers that sense rain, a kick sensor on the power open/close trunk, a body-colored rear spoiler, premium LED headlights that are triple beam, side mirrors that are power folding, and 18-inch 10-spoke wheels done in a machined finish.
Standard technology features on both the ES 250 AWD and 350 include push button start/stop with the smart key system, drive mode select, an 8-inch color infotainment screen with the multimedia system, a premium 10-speaker sound system, and Lexus Enform Remote. Enform Remote can be accessed by using the Lexus App, which is compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. This feature is covered for your first three years of vehicle ownership.
In addition, you also get Enform Wi-Fi connectivity, smartphone app integrationthrough the use of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth wireless for phone calls and streaming audio, voice command, and a LCD color multi-information display. Optional features include a 10.2-inch head-up display, a wireless charger, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, a navigation system with a 12.3-inch colored multi-media display, Lexus Enform Dynamic Navigation, dynamic voice command, and a destination assist system.
Safety features abound on the ES, so you will get a broad array of features to help keep you secure on the road. Standard safety features and driver aids include a pre-collision system with a function for detecting pedestrians, an assist for tracing lanes, steering assist with the lane departure warning, an assist for reading road signs, dynamic radar cruise control that functions at all speeds, and intelligent high beams. A rear-view camera, vehicle stability control, Lexus Enform Safety Connect, and Lexus Enform Service Connect are also standard. Safety options include blind-spot monitoring with a rear cross-traffic alert or this same system but with automatic braking and an intuitive parking assist function.
Finally, we have to mention the mechanical specs. The ES 250 AWD is powered by an inline-4 cylinder engine that generates 203 hp and is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Meanwhile, the 350 has a V6 that musters up 302 hp and is also paired with an 8-speed. Paddle shifters get included on every single ES trim.
Compare the 2021 Lexus ES 350 vs ES 250 Luxury AWD. What is the Difference?
Now, let's move on to the 250 Luxury AWD. As you might reasonably expect, there is more luxury crafted into this vehicle. The 250 Luxury AWD gets a 14-way power-adjustable driver's seat, perforated leather trim inside the cabin, a cushion extender on the driver's seat, the Lexus Memory System, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, wood trim with ambient lighting, and a power sunshade.
On the outside, the vehicle gets upgraded to standard rain-sensing windshield wipers, power-folding side mirrors, and the 18-inch 10-spoke wheels. An option for 18-inch 5-spoke wheels opens up on this trim level.
The only tech-related change is that the blind spot monitoring system with automatic braking and intuitive parking assist becomes standard. You can opt for one that adds rear pedestrian detection and a panoramic view monitor.
Compare the 2021 Lexus ES 250 Luxury AWD vs ES 350 Luxury - What is the Difference?
Upping the ante is the 350 Luxury. This trim level is basically a combination of all the standard features that come on the 250 Luxury AWD and the mechanical specs on the 350. The real difference here is that the 250 Luxury AWD has all-wheel drive while the 350 Luxury has front-wheel drive like the ES 350.
Compare the 2021 Lexus ES 350 Luxury AWD vs ES 250 Ultra Luxury AWD. What is the Difference?
The ES 250 Ultra Luxury AWD adds even more luxury features to the ES. On the inside, it gains perforated semi-aniline leather trim, a power rear sunshade with manual sunshades on the rear doors, and the heated leather and wood trimmed steering wheel that has the fast-response heater and de-icer for the wipers.
On the exterior, this trim level gains the standard power trunk opener/closer with the kick sensor and the 18-inch 5-spoke wheels done in alloy with a noise reduction design.
The big change in technology is the standardization of the 12.3-inch multi-information display screen with built-in navigation. The blind-spot monitoring system with additional rear pedestrian detection and the panoramic view monitor becomes standard as well.
Mechanically, the one big addition is the inclusion of lateral performance dampers to increase vehicle stability.
The 2021 Lexus ES 250 Ultra Luxury AWD vs ES 350 Ultra Luxury - What is the Difference?
Now, as you probably have already guessed, the ES 350 Ultra Luxury includes all of the features found on the 250 Ultra Luxury AWD but has the 350 mechanical specs. It does, of course, also include the lateral performance dampers.
Compare the 2021 Lexus ES 350 Ultra Luxury vs ES 250 F Sport AWD. What is the Difference?
Let us move on into the F Sport realm, starting with the 250 F Sport AWD. This trim level comes with the 10-way adjustable front seats, perforated NuLuxe upholstery, and F Sport bolstered front seats with heating and ventilation. You can opt for the F Sport NuLuxe perforated heated steering wheel with de-icer and the fast-response heater.
Exterior features include a standard body-colored rear spoiler, unique F Sport exterior styling details, and F Sport 19-inch split-5-spoke alloy wheels done in Dark Graphite with a machined finish.
This trim level reverts back to the base 6.0-inch infotainment touchscreen system. The blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert and automatic braking as part of intuitive parking assist.
Mechanically speaking, there are some important differences. The F Sport has special tuning for its suspension. The engine is a 2.4-L inline-4 cylinder suspension that gets 203 hp.
Compare the 2021 Lexus ES 250 F Sport AWD vs ES 350 F Sport. - What is the Difference?
The 350 F Sport is powered by the V6 engine that gets 302 hp, and the 19-inch 5-spoke wheels come standard. Front-wheel drive is, of course, standard too.
Interior features include the F Sport bolstered seats with heating and ventilation, and the outside has all the same F Sport styling elements as the 350 F Sport AWD. In other words, they share basically all of the same features, just with the engine being different.
Compare the 2021 Lexus ES 350 F Sport vs ES 350 F Sport Black Line Special Edition Trim. What is the Difference?
The 350 F Sport Black Line Special Edition makes a few style-based changes. It gets the F Sport White NuLuxe upholstery with gray stitching included on it. The standard infotainment and safety features, however, are all the same as what you will get on the regular ES 350 F Sport trim level.
Compare the 2021 Lexus ES 350 F Sport Black Line Special Edition vs ES 300h - What is the Difference?
The 300h is the ES's answer to the demand for a hybrid powertrain. It is powered by a 2.5-L inline-4 cylinder engine and a high-output electric drive motor that is a permanent magnet type and has EV mode. Altogether, the system generates 215 hp. 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels with all-season tires are standard. An electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT) and front-wheel drive come equipped as well.
Compare the 2021 Lexus ES 300h vs ES 300h Luxury Trim. - What is the Difference?
The 300h Luxury takes the hybrid powertrain and adds all of the features found on the Luxury trim levels. This means that you get the perforated leather upholstery, the cushion extender on the driver's seat, and the wood trim with ambient lighting. The rain-sensing windshield wipers come equipped, as do the power-folding side mirrors, 18-inch 10-spoke wheels, and blind spot monitoring with intuitive parking assist and automatic braking.
Compare the 2021 Lexus ES 300h Luxury vs ES 300h Ultra Luxury. - What is the Difference?
The 300h Ultra Luxury combines the hybrid powertrain with all of the features found on the Ultra Luxury. You get the 18-inch 5-spoke wheels, the heated and leather-trimmed steering wheel, power rear sunshade and manual rear door sunshades, and the advanced blind spot monitoring system.
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Which Trim to Choose?
Whew, there sure are a lot of options to choose from on the 2021 Lexus ES line-up! Each one has something to offer, but the price tags can jump quite a bit. So, which one do we recommend?
The ES 350 Luxury trim level is our top pick. It packs in a good amount of standard features and has the more powerful V6 engine. For the price, this trim level is pretty reasonable. However, if you do want something sportier, the 350 F Sport is a good choice. But the 350 Luxury is a nice middle-of-the-road path.
• Compare the 2019 Lexus ES Trim Levels