2021 Lexus 250 AWD: The New ES Mid-Size Luxury Sedan Isn’t Just Smart, It’s Thoughtful, Too

2021 Lexus Es 250 Awd

You can thank the car gods at Lexus for all the things you want in a luxury sedan.

When you’re over your mom car — just completely over it — and ready to move on to something that is all about you, look for something that looks at life the way you do. As in, you should be pampered. You should not have to do extra work to do things like open doors or find your favorite radio station. Taking your car to the dealership should be a pleasant experience, and that is a one area of car ownership where Lexus stands out. And you should still get all the things you loved about your mom car. In this case, all wheel drive in the Lexus 250 AWD. 

Want to live the Lexus life? Keep reading to learn how to enter to win a Lexus gift bag! 

Lexus agrees. Now, the company has added all wheel drive to the Lexus ES 250 midsize sedan, which has a starting price of about $40K and was priced at about $53K for the model we drove. This gives drivers the option of having more security on the road in challenging instances such as rain, snow, or on loose gravel. 

Related: The 2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport Is an Athletic 4-Door Sport Sedan that Will Thrill Your Socks Off

2021 Lexus Es 250 Awd

The front cabin in the Lexus ES 250 AWD. Photo: Scotty Reiss

And as I’m learning, rain can be a real challenge, much more so than snow. Just think about it: Suddenly wet pavement can be slippery. An unforeseen downpour or steady heavy rain can leave puddles that cause hydroplaning. Rain can rut dirt roads, wash gravel and flotsam into the road and cause flooding. If you live in the south, rain can jar up weeks of oil, rubber, and sand ground into the pavement. We adjust our driving when rain is heavy; why shouldn’t our cars adjust, too?

Related: The Family-Friendly Lexus ES Gets a 300h F Sport Makeover for 2022

2021 Lexus Es 250 Awd

The rear of the Lexus ES 250 AWD. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Smart All Wheel Drive For Power When You Need It

The Lexus system is called “Smart” AWD and probably the thing I like the most is that it only activates when you need it— hence the “smart” name. When the car’s computer senses wheel slippage, it sends power to the rear wheels giving you the traction necessary to manage the road conditions. 

The rest of the time, the Lexus ES 250 AWD is front wheel drive, meaning only the front wheels are powered; the rear wheels simply follow along. This allows for better fuel economy than all-time all wheel drive, another nice—and smart—advantage. 

Related: What Drives Her: Toyota Chief of Marketing Lisa Materazzo’s Journey from Finance to Automotive Marketing

2021 Lexus Es 250 Awd

The 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Redesigned for 2021 With a Sharper Look and More Intuitive Feel

For 2021, the ES got an update on the outside and inside. It starts with the front grille, which my friend Alexis Ruan described as an hourglass grille, and I’m with her on that; Lexus calls it a ‘spindle grille’ but I’m not sure I see spindles, but I do see the hourglass, and I like it! 

The hood lines and headlights are sleeker and more sculpted, but it can be hard to see the difference unless you’re a bonafide Lexus geek; to most us this luxe silhouette just looks a bit more refined. 

On the inside of the ES 250, it’s all lush Lexus: beautiful leather seating and trim details, chrome accents and function at your fingertips. The Lexus infotainment system has sharper, more modern graphics and a more responsive touchpad controller (though a touch screen is on the way in the next model, we’re told). There’s also a wireless phone charger in the center armrest, a clever phone storage slot, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, head up display and of course, sport modes. 

Related: Lexus LC 500 Convertible Review: What’s Under the Ragtop of this Exotic Luxury Sports Car

2021 Lexus Es 250 Awd

The rear seat is ample and offers passengers 2 USB ports and a power outlet. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Room For Rear Seat Passengers and Road Trip Ready

If you think you need the mom car for road trips, nah. You can road trip just fine in a sedan. I know, I’ve done it. With small kids. And we survived. Your passengers in the ES250 will survive just fine too. They may even love being able to relax into the luxe leather seats and let you do the driving. There’s plenty of leg room, dual USB ports and a power outlet and in the trunk, 13.9 cubic feet of cargo space. And everyone will enjoy the Mark Levinson premium sound system, great for relaxing or amping up the energy with great music.

2021 Lexus Es 250 Awd

A view of the front cabin in the Lexus ES 250 AWD. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What this Car Costs 

  • The Lexus EX 250 AWD comes in 4 different trims: Base, Luxury, Ultra Luxury, and F Sport. All models have a  4 cylinder 203 horsepower engine, and: 
  • The base model features leather seating, power front seats, power moon roof, smart key with push button starter, drive mode selector, Lexus infotainment system with 8” display, Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the LSS driver assist and safety system with adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, road sign reader, lane departure assist, pre-collision and pedestrian detection and stability control; price starts at $40,000
  • The Luxury trim adds heated and vented front seats, memory seats, wood trim, ambient lighting, power rear sunshade, rain sensing windshield wipers and blind spot monitors and starts at $45,200
  • The Ultra Luxury trim adds semi-aniline leather interior, rear door sunshades, heated wood and leather steering wheel, 12.3” display with navigation, panoramic rear view mirror and blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and auto braking, starts at about $49,000
    The wireless charger adds $75
  • Head up display adds $500
  • Mark Levinson premium sound system with navigation adds $1080
  • The price of our test Ultra Luxury model with delivery, about $54,325
2021 Lexus Es 250 Awd

The head up display in the Lexus ES 250 AWD. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What We Loved

  • All wheel drive— YAY— that is smart so you still get respectable MPG
  • That beautiful Lexus exterior with the hourglass grille
  • The elegant Lexus interior: Soft, plush, quiet, elegant
  • Head up display; this feature makes any car feel more luxe
  • LSS driver assist and safety features, and that most of them are standard, not extras
  • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
  • Wireless phone charger
  • A great spot to hold a phone!
  • Mark Levinson premium sound
2021 Lexus Es 250 Awd

Under the retractable cupholder cover there’s a clever place to put your phone. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What You Need to Know 

  • Alexa only operates features on your Alexa account, not the whole car (so, she can’t turn on the A/C but she can play your favorite playlist)
  • Fuel economy estimated at 25 MPG city/34 highway, combined 28
  • Smart AWD only operates when needed, not all the time
  • No need to activate AWD, it happens automatically
  • Front wheel drive is in effect until AWD is needed
  • Some of the best features (head up display, wireless phone charger, premium sound) are extras
2021 Lexus Es 250 Awd

The surround view camera gives a full circle view around the car. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Driving the Lexus ES 250 AWD

Four cylinder engines have gotten quite good; with 203 horsepower the EX 250 accelerates nicely and in sport mode is a bit more fun to drive. And with head up display and Apple CarPlay, everything you need is at hand, making time behind the wheel easy and relaxing. And when the deluge starts, or you wake up to a beautiful snowfall or you need to head out to your friend’s ranch that has a mile long rutted gravel drive, you’ll be ready. 

Lexus Gift Bag

Enter to win this Lexus gift bag, which includes a backpack, wool blanket, umbrella, mug and Ghiradelli hot coco. Giveaway not sponsored by or endorsed by Lexus. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Enter to Win a Lexus Gift Bag!

Want to try out the Lexus life before you take the leap to buy one? Enter to win this backpack with a Lexus blanket, umbrella and coffee mug. See the rules below and click to enter. And, share with a friend! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest Rules: Participants can enter to win a Lexus Gift Bag by submitting qualifying entries via RaffleCopter before midnight, June 17, 2021. No purchase necessary to enter. A single prize of one Lexus Gift Bag will be given away. Prize has an approximate value of $100, is not exchangeable for cash or other items; the assignment of the prize is at the discretion of A Girls Guide to Cars. A single winner will be chosen at random from among valid entries. Contest open only to US residents 18 or older. Winner will be notified by email or direct message by June 18, 2021. If a chosen winner fails to respond to notification within seven (7) days that winner will be disqualified and a new winner will be chosen. Winners must provide a valid US shipping address, not a PO Box, for prize shipment and may be asked to provide other information to verify qualification for this contest. This contest is not supported, hosted or endorsed by Lexus. Prize is provided by A Girls Guide to Cars and may arrive in alternative packaging and may not include original paperwork. Void where prohibited and subject to applicable law.

Disclosure: Lexus provided the ES250 AWD for this test drive and the gift bag as an added extra, but I decided I want one of you to have it. Lexus does not endorse nor is a sponsor of this giveaway. All opinions are my own. 

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss