Japanese automaker shifts focus
Roseville, CA- Lexus decided to bid farewell to the GS sedan this year, a move that puts more focus on the more affordable ES 350 sedan.
While the ES has never generated tremendous sales, it has been a steady producer for Lexus since it was introduced in 1989 along with the flagship LS model. Together, the pair helped establish the Lexus brand, the luxury division of Toyota.
Now in its seventh generation, the Japanese automaker is hoping the 2021 Lexus ES 350 rebounds from a year ago when sales were 43,292 – it’s lowest since 2011. Believing it will exceed its best year in 2007 (82,867) would be too much to ask. However, the absence of the GS sedan could bolster sales.
AT A GLANCE – 2021 LEXUS ES 350
- Performance: – 3.5-liter, V-6, 302 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 22-32 mpg
- Price estimate: $40,100 to $49,100
- Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain: 6 years/70,000 miles; roadside assistance: 6 years/60,000; corrosion: 4 years/unlimited
The ES lineup features four trim models (ES, F Sport, ES luxury, ES ultra luxury) and the new all-wheel-drive-equipped ES 250, a 2.5-liter, inline-four with 203 horsepower. The ES 250 (not reviewed here) is less powerful than either the standard ES 350 or its hybrid version.
We drove the upgraded F Sport model for a week and enjoyed the sportier appearance and more engaging ride. With that said, the F Sport shares the same engine as the standard ES 350 and is not dramatically different. The F Sport trim has larger wheels and its suspension tuning adds to the performance. Yet it has a way to go to be more athletic than competing models like the BMW 5-series.
Other than adding the FS 250 to the lineup, there’s nothing exciting that greatly differentiates last year’s ES 350 to the 2021 model. Lexus made minor revisions to the midsize sedan’s standard and optional features, and added a new Black Line Special Edition that really is nothing all that special.
The ES 350 has a solid performing engine, a 3.5-liter, V-6 that produces 302 horsepower and 276 pound-feet of torque. The engine delivers good overall performance in a smooth fashion and combines solid fuel economy. It travels 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds (5.9 seconds in F Sport) and gets 22-32 mpg.
What we enjoy regarding the ES 350 is it’s a nice car to drive around town that can also provide smooth acceleration and up its game when the challenge arrives, like a steep grade or a trip into the mountains. It provides composed handling, good steering and road grip, resulting in a true feeling of confidence for anyone behind the wheel.
As one expects from a luxury sedan, the ES 350 comes standard with a multitude of safety features that includes adaptive cruise control, road sign recognition, lane keeping assist that minimizes road wandering, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
The ES 350 interior has a smart cabin that offers lots of comfort for the driver and passengers. Seating is firm and supporter in both the front and back seats, and gives its occupants plenty of head and leg room. The 17 cubic feet of trunk space allows plenty of room for multiple golf bags or luggage for several people. One downside is the rear seat does not fold down, so forget about transporting any over-sized items.
The interior has an 8.0-inch infotainment display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, a terrific 10-speaker sound system and standard SiriusXM satellite radio. The complaints continue regarding the touchpad controller that is difficult to master and distracting to the driver.
Overall, the 2021 Lexus ES 350 is a solid midsize luxury sedan that is offered at a reasonable price. While it doesn’t match some of its competitors, who typically have more performance, the appealing price and its overall quality makes it worth purchasing.