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Shopping for a luxury sedan can be a tough decision, but if you’re in the market for a 2021 Lexus ES then you might have an easier time. For the new model year, the Lexus ES is now offered with a fuel-efficient 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine aptly named the ES 250. But as efficient as it is, is the Lexus ES 250 worth buying over the Lexus ES Hybrid?

2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD vs Lexus ES 300h

While it’s easy to call out the fact that the Lexus ES 300h has a hybrid powertrain and completely trumps the ES 250 with its superb fuel economy, don’t think so fast. New for 2021, the ES 250 has an ace up its sleeve: An all-wheel drivetrain.

According to Lexus, the ES 250 AWD can send up to 50% of the power to rear wheels when the system detects the front wheels slipping. As you can guess, this is extremely handy when you’re driving in inclement weather or live in a snow state where icy roads are a regular concern. In contrast, the ES 300h is not available with an all-wheel-drivetrain as it is only available as a front-drive car.

Another plus for the ES 300h is that it does have a little more power than the ES 250, coming in at 215 hp versus 203 hp, but that shouldn’t equate to a huge difference in performance. In fact, Lexus says that the ES 300h will go from 0 to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds as compared to the ES 250’s 0-60 mph time of 8.1 seconds.

2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD | Lexus
2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD

Fuel economy difference between the two

While the Lexus ES 250 can drive on all four of its wheels when needed, the one major benefit to buying an ES 300h is its spectacular fuel economy ratings. According to the EPA, the Lexus ES 300h is able to achieve up to 44 mpg in the city and 44 mpg on the highway. The ES 250, on the other hand, is able to achieve an estimated 25 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway, so it’s clear that if you need fuel efficiency more than all-wheel-drive capability, then the ES 300h could be the better buy.

2021 Lexus ES 300h Engine
2021 Lexus ES 300h Engine | Lexus

Both cars are similar, otherwise

However, if you disregard the fancy hybrid powertrain and the all-wheel drivetrain that makes these two cars special, they are both similar in terms of features. Although the Lexus ES 250 is the entry-level model for the ES line, it’s fully stocked with plenty of standard and available features.

Some of the most notable include the Lexus Safety System Plus 2.0, 17-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable seats, an 8-inch infotainment screen, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, Wi-Fi, Amazon Alexa, and a 10-speaker Alpine audio system.

The Lexus ES 300h comes with all of the same features and both models can be upgraded via packages that include options like navigation and a premium Mark Levinson sound system with a 12.3-inch infotainment display.

2021 Lexus ES 300h
2021 Lexus ES 300h | Lexus

How much does each car cost?

The 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD has a starting price of $40,000 while the ES 300h starts at $41,910 (before destination). Even when you go up in the trim levels for both models and opt for the Ultra Luxury trim for each, you will be looking at a price of $49,000 for the ES 250, while the ES 300h will top out at $50,910. So it’s a $1,910 difference between the two for the hybrid powertrain.

If you’re into saving gas, you could technically make up for that price difference over time with the money you’ll save at the pump. However, if you would rather save the money upfront, or need an all-wheel-drivetrain, then the ES 250 could be the better choice for you. Either way, each one is a great value in its own right.


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