My first go around in this current generation ES was 2 years ago when Lexus last redesigned it. I really embraced the changes but ultimately decided that the hybrid powertrain was simply not for me.
Well now, Lexus is offering the ES with all-wheel drive for the first time but unfortunately they’ve paired it with the wrong engine.
This car costs $53,555…about 3 grand less than a base Audi A6. And for that Lexus gives you a 203 horsepower all-wheel drive midsize sedan with F SPORT touches such as a sport-tuned suspension and a red faux leather interior. Prior to this model year, ES gas-only models were exclusively V6 powered and front wheel drive. But now, you can spec one with a RAV4 engine – the only way to get an ES with all-wheel drive.
Weighing 90 pounds more and producing 83 pound-feet of torque less obviously results in much slower acceleration, adding 2 seconds to this car’s 0-to-60mph time of 8.6 seconds.
How slow is that exactly? A Mitsu Outlander Sport will leave it in the dust. But the ES is one of the maturest cars Lexus sells and the over 60 crowd doesn’t necessarily crave speed anyway. So maybe this paring is acceptable? But with an F SPORT badge? Now things are getting silly.
Just to make it clear, I like the ES… but not like this. With the 4-cylinder engine, this has to be the slowest luxury car I’ve ever driven and I’m not one that believes everything has to be a sports sedan; far from it.
I love cushy, smooth rides and quiet cabins. But this here is a mistake and putting the F SPORT badge on it is an insult to the letter F and the word Sport. So just make sure the numbers after your ES begin with a 3 and not a 2.
This is not a torque vectoring all-wheel drive system so it can’t apportion power between the rear wheels to improve handling but it can direct up to 50% to the rear wheels when accelerating from a start or after there’s slippage at the front wheels.
There’s also a disconnect feature for when it’s not needed that benefits mileage earning this car a noteworthy 25mpg city/34mpg highway on regular nevertheless. A set of excellent, 19” Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season tires complete the contact.
The interior is spectacular – big kudos to Lexus for this gorgeous cabin. And it’s quiet and spacious and easy to use…after recently using Acura’s touchpad I’m starting to warm up to this one a little more. But as for life from behind the wheel, I can’t find much F SPORT. It’s sedate and deliberate and perfect for your grandparents.
F SPORT is more of an image than performance anyhow and that’s best displayed in here with specific materials and touches that imbue this car with some racier attitude. The sport gauges with the slide out are very cool, the bolstered heated and cooled seats feel great and automatically activate, the head-up display is cockeyed but large and informative, the 17-speaker Mark Levinson, 1,800 watt surround sound system provides rich audio and cool grilles, there’s an F SPORT heated steering wheel and a fast-response cabin heater and a wireless charger in the center console but no way to wirelessly project your phone so this mess is still necessary. My car also has embedded navigation for the touchpad-controlled infotainment, triple beam LED headlamps, a trunk with kick sensor and a power rear sunshade so this one is definitely loaded. There’s a neat dual stage front cupholder, a pair of USB ports in the legroom friendly rear seats and a high mounted drive mode selector that brings you to Eco, Normal or Sport. You’ve got adaptive cruise control with steering assist too but no 360 degree camera.
The firmer suspension tune and lateral dampers work in concert to approve stability and agility while adding ride comfort and lower NVH levels. It’s a solid, confident ride in the Lexus vein that has proven very capable on snowy roads and can hold its own on the curvy ones. As the driver, the control is palpable. But playing with the 8-speed’s paddle shifters just isn’t much fun because this car simply lacks the oomph to make it so.
The ES F SPORT is an attractive, conservatively styled car with a little extra flair that when V6-powered can make for a worthy luxury companion. But this particular build is an oddity that’s better left on the showroom.
2021 LEXUS ES 250 F SPORT TEST DRIVE | TestDriveNow 2021(c)