Lexus’ luxurious mid-sizer gains four-corner traction for 2021, plus hybrid improvements and a new special edition.
The Lexus ES is one of the most comfortable, stress-free methods of transportation you can buy new in 2020. For the upcoming model year, the Japanese luxury brand is giving its stalwart sedan a range of improvements to maintain that role. The changes include an all-wheel drive model for the first time, plus tweaks to the fuel-sipping hybrid model and a new special edition.
It’s hardly surprising that Lexus would offer an ES 250 AWD. After all, the ES shares its platform with the Toyota Avalon, which received its own AWD version earlier this year. Nonetheless, if you’re in a northern state (or pretty much all of Canada), there’s now an all-paw ES. Which is good, since the GS is dying at the end of this year.
The part-time AWD system can send up to 50 percent of the engine’s power rearward as needed. When it isn’t, the system disengages the propeller shaft, turning the ES back to a front-driver. This helps the ES 250 AWD achieve an estimated 28 combined mpg, second only to the ES 300h in the lineup.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Lexus ES 300h Review
Like the Avalon (and Camry), the ES 250 AWD features a 2.5-liter four cylinder underhood, producing 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. It sticks to the smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission found in the ES 350. Lexus says the AWD ES has the same storage space and suspension tuning as the rest of the range. It’s also available in every trim, including F Sport.
Fun fact: this will be the first non-hybrid four-cylinder ES model in the North American market. A short-lived ES 240 existed about a decade ago in select Asian markets.
Moving on to the ES 300h, Lexus has updated the battery, swapping out the old nickel-metal-hydride unit for a more modern lithium-ion one. As the new battery is some 4.7 inches (120 mm) shorter than the previous one, Lexus has now moved it under the rear seats, putting the hybrid level with the gas car for trunk space.
Lexus hasn’t forgotten about the gas-powered ES 350 either. The V6 model gains a limited-run Black Line Special Edition. These 1,500 cars are based on the F Sport trim, adding blacked-out side mirrors, wheels, and a rear lip spoiler to the package. The interior is a two-tone black and white layout, and buyers will have the option of three exterior paints: white, black, and blue.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Lexus NX300 Review
All 2021 ES Luxury, Ultra Luxury, and F Sport trims now include blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as standard. The Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 suite of driving aids remains on all trims, including automated emergency braking, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and auto high beams.
Pricing for the 2021 gas-powered ES holds steady for the base trim, starting at $40,925 including destination. That sticker remains the same whether you pick the 302-hp V6 front-drive model or the 203-hp I4 AWD one. The ES 300h also sticks to last year’s price, starting at $42,835. Prices have increased for the Luxury and Ultra Luxury trims however, rising to $46,125 and $49,925, respectively (add an extra $1,910 for the hybrid). The Black Line sits in the middle, at $47,575.
2021 ES models will begin arriving in Lexus dealers this autumn.