Lexus ES 350 F Sport — A stylish luxury sedan

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(November 14, 2021) We have never given the mid-sized Lexus ES sedan much of a thought in terms of a purchase. Yes, we have liked the ES through the years and praised its quiet interior, refined ride and its very acceptable performance from a healthy V-6 engine. Our likability quotient has changed just a bit after a week behind the wheel of a 2021 ES 350 F Sport.

We know that Lexus — as well as most other luxury vehicle manufacturers — are constantly
attempting to skew buyer age downwards. They seek more 30 and 40 somethings and less retirement age folks, so they might not be overly impressed that we of advanced age have suddenly decided the ES 350 would serve our needs quite well.

The ES 350 is no sports sedan, but it is a well-styled car that can accomplish all the chores of driving life in excellent fashion even if we have to forsake some weekend road carving. Straight ahead performance is measured at about 6 seconds from 0-to-60 propelled by a 302-horsepower V-6, which is rather swift even measured against today's elevated standards of quickness.

This level of performance comes with decent gas mileage, especially for longer trips that require a lot of time on the highway — 22 mpg city, 31 highway and 25 combined. And regular gas works just fine for the V-6.

The ES it is especially fetching in F Sports guise, clocked in Nebula Gray Pearl paint as was our test car, together with a red-themed interior. The ES 350 we think can make a styling statement for years to come or at least until the auto loan is paid off and you can head off in another direction.

While the ES 350 starts at $47,020 and our well appointed test car carried a bottom line of $53,430, for 2021 Lexus has made getting into an ES a less costly experience with the addition of the ES 250. The 250 can save you about $2,000 with all the same equipment sans the 302 horsepower engine. The ES 250 is powered by a 203-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It loses none of the appeal of the ES 350 expect performance, which is measured at about 8 seconds from 0-to-60.

What the 250 does bring to the nameplate is all-wheel drive, which is not available in the ES 350. This may be a strong selling point for people living in cold-weather climates. The smaller engine also offers better gas mileage measured at 25 mpg city, 34 highway and 28 combined.

If gas mileage is paramount in your life and you feel you need for at least a modicum of electrification, the ES can be purchased as a hybrid — the ES 300h. Gas mileage is definitely better measured at 43 mpg city, 45 highway and 44 combined. What you sacrifice with the hybrid is performance. It is powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and two electric motors making 215 combined horsepower resulting in rather slow times for a luxury car with 0-to-60 measured in mid-8-second territory.

We tested the hybrid model a couple years ago and found it lacking the performance we desire in a mid-sized luxury car. The sweet spot for the mid-sized sedan in our opinion — unless you must have AWD — is the ES 350.

The ES 350 comes in four trim levels — Base, Luxury, F Sport and Ultra Luxury. In addition to exterior and interior design enhancement, the F Sport gets 19-inch wheels, bolstered front seats and a sport-tuned suspension that gives it perhaps more cornering prowess than the other models.

New for 2021 besides the ES 250 is a Black Line Special Edition package that brings black exterior trim, a black lip spoiler, a white interior, and a two-piece matching luggage set from Zero Halluburton. Blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is now standard on the Ultra Luxury and F Sport and Lexus's Enform Safety Connect suite of connectivity features, which includes onboard WiFi, in now standard across the lineup.

With its stylish dash and high-quality materials, the ES's cabin creates a welcoming environment for passengers. Rear-seat legroom is generous, even for taller passengers. the cabin remains quiet and restful, even when the ES is being driven at highway speeds. All models provide 17.0 cubic feet of room in the trunk giving the ES more cargo space than many rivals. Unfortunately, the rear seatback does not fold down preventing the loading of long-sized items.

There are now 8.0-inch and 12.3-inch touchscreens replacing the non-touchscreen displays in older models. We found that the addition of the touch interface makes the ES infotainment system much less frustrating to operate, but on the larger screen some of the icons are hard to reach from the driver's seat. And because there is no "home" button on the screen, the maddening touchpad on the center console still has to be used for some functions. The 2021 ES now provides both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.

If you added just one option, we recommend the $2,900 Navigation/Mark Levinson audio package, which brings the 12.3-inch color multimedia display and 17-speaker 1,800-watt sound system. It's worth the cost and your ears will be pleased with the outstanding audio presentation.

The ES 350 starts at $47,020 and moves to $50,030 for the F Sport, $51,695 for the Luxury, and $53,670 for Ultra Luxury.
2021 Lexus ES 350 F Sport


Base price: $47,020; as driven, $53,430
Engine: 3-6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 302 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm
Torque: 267 pound-feet @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 113 inches
Length: 195.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,690 pounds
Turning circle: 38 feet
Luggage capacity: 16.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 22 city, 31 highway, 25 combined
0-60: 6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Genesis G70, Cadillac CT5, Toyota Avalon

The Good
• Nicely styled
• Quiet, peaceful interior
• Numerous standard safety features
• Excellent ride quality

The Bad
• The touchpad needs to be scrapped

The Ugly
• Rear seats don't fold down