Styling complexities. The 2021 Lexus ES is lithe and lean, giving it an athletic look we like. We think it also pulls off the brand’s styling complexities the best from bumper to bumper.

Yet, the front fascia is a point of contention for some, as it delivers a look that’s simply polarizing. You’re either a fan of Lexus’ spindle grille design or not. For some, it overwhelms the nose; for others, it advances a sporty look. The L-shaped LED accent lights have evolved and look less like a certain sport maker’s logo.

The ES’ profile features a high beltline that intersects with a falling roofline to meet the notched trunk. Sweeping character lines, body skirting, and distinct sculpting are touches we like.

Available all-wheel drive. Long absent from the ES’ repertoire was all-wheel drive. This deficiency put it at a disadvantage for some, particularly in a market dominated by rear-wheel-drive models with available all-wheel drive.

New vehicle architecture derived from one that also underpins modern Toyota models made it possible and cost effective to offer AWD. The way Lexus has done this is by slotting a 203-horsepower four-cylinder engine beneath the once standard V6. This represents a trade-off in power that nearly matches the hybrid but without the efficiency edge.

Like the V6, the new-to-the-ES engine works with an eight-speed automatic transmission. While we doubt the all-wheel-drive ES matches Audi in the handling compartment, it adds a measure of grip that’s useful on slick roads.

Lexus ES

Performance or efficiency. With three powertrain choices available, Lexus supplies a wide range of performance and efficiency options. As mentioned, the standard four-cylinder engine is new and serves as the gateway to all-wheel drive, which is standard with the ES 250. It's also the least powerful under certain driving conditions, generating 203 hp.

The ES Hybrid produces 163 hp, but under full throttle the gas engine and electric motor combine to deliver 215 hp The V6 ES is the performance leader with an output of 302 hp. Neither the hybrid nor the V6 offer all-wheel drive, however.

By far, the hybrid is the most efficient of the trio, earning an EPA-estimated 44 miles per gallon combined. The four-cylinder gets 28 mpg combined, while the V6 delivers 26 mpg combined.

Gorgeous interior, small trunk. If the ES had a larger trunk, it would easily achieve best-in-class among midsize luxury sedans. It measures 13.9 cubic feet, and that’s small for the segment.

Otherwise, the ES checks off all the important boxes with an interior sizable enough to seat five adults and the quality of materials to go with it. Indeed, whether they’re wrapped in imitation leather or real hides, the front chairs are long-drive comfortable thanks to multiple adjustments, and heating and cooling on many versions.

Choice materials throughout the cabin, beautiful color schemes, and impeccable fit and finish are Lexus hallmarks. The ES does everything to hold the banner high, while maintaining its appeal to traditional luxury car shoppers.

Final thoughts. Regardless of which 2021 Lexus ES powertrain you choose, we recommend the Luxury trim, as it swaps out the imitation leather upholstery for the real stuff.

Lexus also includes 18-inch alloy wheels, 14-way power front seats, a power moonroof, and front and rear parking sensors. For about $45,000, you get a well-equipped luxury sedan with a strong reliability record.

Check prices for the 2021 Lexus ES »