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Thirty-two years later, the Lexus midsize sedan is bigger and much, much better.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Even the entry-level 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD is stylish, refined, poweful and loaded with tech.Lexus has been producing the midsize ES sedan since the launch of the brand in the United States back in 1989. The first ES that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that year was an ES 250, and now 32 years later, Lexus is again producing a 2.5-liter version of the ES.

Comparing the original and the new ES, you can see how far the automobile industry has progressed over the 32 years of Lexus history. The first ES 250 carried a V6 engine that produced 159 horsepower, but the 2021 ES 250 carries a four-cylinder engine rated at 203 horsepower. The original ES returned 24 mpg on the highway, while the latest ES travels 34 highway miles on a gallon of gas.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD comes standard with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 203 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque.

The differences are even more pronounced under the skin. The new ES 250 comes with standard, all-wheel drive and an eight-speed, direct-shift automatic transmission, delivering a seamlessly smooth driving experience in all weather conditions.

Additionally, driver and passengers are protected by the Lexus Safety System 2.0, with a millimeter-wave radar pre-collision system, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, and road sign assistance. New for 2021, the ES includes standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts.

Interior comfort also is well beyond anything offered back in the 1980s. The 2021 ES line is 2.6 inches longer and 1.8 inches wider than the previous generation, and it has grown considerably compared to the original.

That translates to extra room in the cabin and 13.9 cubic feet of trunk space. Inside, you'll find a large selection of trim materials including several colors of wood trim, and your choice of comfortable NuLuxe or semi-aniline leather seating surfaces. All modern comfort features are available, including heated and ventilated seats.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD can be ordered with a 12.3-inch multimedia infotainment system mounted high on the dashboard so drivers don't need to take their eyes off the road.

An eight-inch multimedia infotainment system is mounted high on the dashboard so the driver need never take eyes off the road, and a 12.3-inch system is optional. All ES trims include support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A GPS navigation system is optional.

On the road, the ES 250 AWD has no faults. The engine power, as passed through the eight-speed transmission, is more than adequate to make the ES a comfortable and capable commuter or family car. The ride is smooth and quiet, and steering is responsive. In an era of larger and larger SUVs, a test drive in the ES sedan could remind you what you've been missing in terms of luxury and driving dynamics.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The interior of the 2021 250 ES AWD meets the high luxury standards set by Lexus.

The bottom line on the 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD is not only that Lexus has remained at the forefront of the luxury car market, but that you can step up to a Lexus without breaking your budget. As the base trim of the ES line, the ES 250 AWD is both affordable and sensible.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Rear-seat passengers ride in comfort and style in the 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD.

2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD

Base price: $40,000

Price as tested: $45,080

Type: Midsize sedan

Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder (203 hp, 184 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 8-speed direct shift automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 25/34

Overall length: 195.9 inches

Curb weight: 3,780 pounds

Final assembly: Georgetown, Kentucky

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The trunk in the 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD holds enough luggage for long road trips.


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