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If you’re shopping for a luxury sedan but don’t want to spend more than $50,000, then the 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD is a great choice. Aside from its affordable price tag and all-wheel-drive capability, the ES 250 presents a great value proposition as it’s just as fuel-efficient as it is comfortable. However, there is one potential drawback to the equation.

The 2021 Lexus ES 250 is efficient but slow

Let’s talk about Lexus ES 250’s engine first, because that’s the main highlight for the 2021 model year. This new four-cylinder powertrain joins the existing V6-powered ES 350 and fuel-sipping ES Hybrid in order to present a more budget-friendly, luxurious package.

The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine produces 203 hp and 184 lb-ft and it’s the same engine that you’ll find under the hood of the lower-trim Camry and Avalon as well as the RAV4. From a conceptual standpoint, the four-cylinder formula works considering it’s able to achieve an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway when bolted into the Lexus ES. However, it makes the car feel pretty slow.

a shot of the 2021 Lexus ES 250 driving on a dirt road
2021 Lexus ES 250 | Lexus

According to Lexus, the ES 250 AWD can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, which isn’t that much faster than the hybrid model and a whole two seconds slower than the V6. Needless to say, you won’t be winning any drag races.

Also, we found that while the four-cylinder engine does provide adequate acceleration during normal driving around town, the growl that it exudes when you pin the accelerator doesn’t make the ES 250 sound like a luxury car, nor does it make it feel very premium. Fortunately, it’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission as opposed to a CVT.

a rear shot of the 2021 Lexus ES 250
2021 Lexus ES 250 | Lexus

The rest of the car is very comfortable, though

the interior of the 2021 Lexus ES 250
2021 Lexus ES 250 | Lexus

While the four-cylinder engine is a bit of a hindrance, the rest of the Lexus ES 250 is as comfortable and opulent as you would expect. There are soft-touch materials found everywhere including the dashboard, the climate control is neatly laid out, and we appreciate the tuning and volume knob.

However, we did find the center console area to be quite busy as there are many buttons that you’ll have to memorize and get used to. Our tester was fitted with the optional 12.3-inch infotainment screen, which has a great resolution and is easy to navigate, but the touchpad that controls it is a little cumbersome to use.

Once you get used to the controls though, you’ll enjoy the ES 250’s plush ride that soaks up all of the road imperfections with ease. Additionally, there’s ample passenger room for up to five occupants and the trunk space is large enough for a few carry-on bags. Although, the cargo capacity is down a little from last year due to the AWD setup.

a shot of the center console on the 2021 Lexus ES 250
2021 Lexus ES 250 | Lexus

How much does the ES 250 cost?

As we said before, if you’re looking for a luxury sedan that won’t break the bank, then you’ll like that the 2021 Lexus ES 250 starts at just $39,999. That’s comparable to others in its class like the Audi A4 and Acura TLX, but beware that the available options can jack up that starting price.

a front shot of the 2021 Lexus ES 250  in red
2021 Lexus ES 250 | Lexus

Why Would You Get the 2020 Toyota Avalon Over the 2020 Lexus ES?

Our tester is outfitted with just about every option including the Premium package, the Navigation/Mark Levinson premium audio package, blind-spot monitoring, a hands-free power trunk, and a 10.2-inch head-up display. There are other options like a trunk spoiler and a wireless charger present, but altogether, the price as tested comes out to $52,900 including the $1,025 destination charge.

At that price point, you could make a better decision of opting for the more powerful ES 350 and then add the options. But if you really don’t care about acceleration, then the ES 250 could be for you.