2022 Lexus ES250 AWD F Sport review
Sedans are nearly as rare today as a functioning VHS tape player, even in the luxury market. Rarer still are sedans with all-wheel-drive and a starting price well below $50,000.
I never thought I’d say this, but Lexus offers a cost leader, a high-value premium mid-size luxury sedan with its stylish ES250 AWD F Sport. That was my tester for the week, the top-level ES in Iridium, a bright metallic silver that costs $500 extra.
Some folks bemoan the massive maw that is the Lexus grille, but I think its design blends so well with the hood and jagged Z-shaped headlights that it creates a unique and exciting look, especially compared with some staid European brands. In profile the ES is svelte. Consumers must agree, as Lexus continues to be among the top three luxury brands in U.S. sales and the ES a steady seller.
Beyond slinky looks the ES has a lot going for it — first is that AWD system that is standard on the entry-level ES250 that starts at $41,875, including delivery.
The ride is pleasant and the power is delivered in the typical smooth Lexus manor via an 8-speed automatic transmission. There are ample safety features, a comfy leather interior, big trunk, a new larger touchscreen that has moved closer to the driver for easier access and if you prefer a hybrid powertrain, that’s also available for just $1,100 extra.
Standard power is the solid Lexus 2.5-liter I4 that generates 203 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s on the low side for a luxury sedan and even with three drive modes (Sport, Normal, Eco) there’s not much oomph here. I occasionally turned the rotary knob atop the instrument panel hood for Sport mode, but I decided Normal wasn’t much different.
Sport holds the lower gears a tad longer and adds a smidge more acceleration, but mainly it just firms the steering feel. That’s fine, but the car feels more luxurious in Normal mode when the engine isn’t cranking so hard.
One would think the F Sport trim might help that, but no — it has the same engine as the base model. What F Sport does is firm the suspension and wraps you in wonderfully supportive race-style seats. I could do with less ride firmness, but loved the seats.
The F Sport also puts a spoiler on the trunk, adds rain-sensing wipers, fancier 19-inch black alloy wheels, a moveable main instrument cluster and those bolstered seats that are also heated and cooled.
If one wants more power though Lexus offers the ES350 with a much gutsier 3.5-liter V6 that makes 302 horsepower. Car and Driver magazine says the V6-powered ES does 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, a full two seconds quicker than the ES250. And irony of ironies, the ES350 starts at the same price as the ES250. But, and it’s a big one, the 350 does not come with AWD, nor is it available as an option. That seems odd. Surely a luxury car buyer wouldn’t mind paying another grand or so for AWD, at least if they live in the upper Midwest.
While on the power point, Lexus also offers the ES300h, a hybrid with 215 horsepower. It delivers an impressive 44 mpg average. That’s about double what I got in a week’s drive in the F Sport, a mediocre 22.5 mpg and easily half at 50 mph or more. The EPA estimates this model at 25 mpg city and 34 highway. I was nowhere near that.
Inside the ES F Sport is stylish with an aluminum trim ring that runs from the doors across the dash. That trim is part of the F Sport upgrade. Otherwise the interior is black perforated leather seats, soft door and center console armrests and satin chrome door releases, dash buttons and a bit of trim.
Everything is neat and tidy too with a big 12.3-inch touchscreen (8 inches in the base model) with an analog clock in its driver’s side edge for easy time keeping. And thank goodness for the touchscreen, plus a dual-function interlocking knob for radio tuning and volume.
In the past there was only the awkward remote touchpad on the console for adjusting the info and radio screen. It’s still there if you’re addicted to it and love it, but the touchscreen is much easier. Plus Lexus moved the screen about four inches closer to the driver for easier use. Bingo!
Seats as mentioned earlier are snug and powered, providing maximum lower back and hip support. Several riders commented on their comfort, which is something Lexus has delivered on consistently.
The interior is roomy enough for four average size adults, plus there’s a big trunk in back featuring a power trunk lid. I think that's unnecessary on a sedan, but for $550 it’s yours. Oddly those rear seats don’t split and fold down though, so you won’t be carrying any oversized cargo.
Overhead is a sunroof and shade, but the roof is small especially if you’re used to driving a crossover or SUV which now go panoramic for nearly all their sunroofs. A wireless charger is located in the console storage box/armrest. I’m not a fan of hiding these as it’s so easy to forget your phone when exiting the car, but this one also occasionally failed to charge. There’s a light there to indicate a charge, but who watches that while driving, especially if it’s inside a box?
A $2,900 navigation and stereo upgrade added a snazzy 17-speaker, 1,800-watt Mark Levinson surround sound system, the big info screen and voice recognition system. The stereo sounded great and satellite radio brought me everything from Willie Nelson to Lynyrd Skynyrd along with Larry the Cable Guy and Jim Gaffigan. How did we ever exist without satellite radio?
Standard safety features include a pre-collision system with pedestrian recognition, smart cruise control, lane keeping assist and departure alert with steering assist, smart high-beam headlights, road sign assist, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and smart stop technology.
A $565 package that normally adds some of that to lower trims also includes park assist and automatic braking. The parking sensors were quite loud and touchy which becomes annoying in grocery store lots where it warns you there are cars on either side and, oh, that big cement light post in front that you may not see.
The sedan’s big A-pillars could make it hard to see some side cross-traffic too, but that’s where all those safety sensors should help.
While the F Sport starts at a relatively modest luxury sedan level of $46,525, including delivery, this one added 12 options (a few were frivolous though). I’ve mentioned a couple, but there also was a $500 head-up display, $210 for a power rear window sunshade, and $180 for the F Sport style heated leather steering wheel with wiper deicer and fast response interior heater. Hmm, shouldn’t an F Sport wheel come standard on the F Sport model?
Speaking of which, there were a few minor options that seem like they too should be standard on a luxury car, such as carpeted trunk mat ($120), cargo net ($75), door edge guards ($145) and a rear bumper applique ($80).
Total damages for the tester were $53,565, which sounds like a lot of money, and is. But really that’s quite economical in the premium midsize sedan market. Consider a BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 or Mercedes-Benz E Class all start about $54,000 to $55,000, and THEN add options.
That’s probably why Kelly Blue Book has rated the ES250 its best midsize luxury sedan value for three straight years. That, and the fact the Lexus has a superior resale value.
I’d prefer the ES250 with a turbo to boost its power, or just go with the hybrid, which seems just as quick if not quicker and will save you money at every fill-up.
Overview: 2022 Lexus ES250 AWD F Sport
Hits: Sporty styling inside and out, smooth power and shifts, AWD, and pleasant ride. New large touchscreen, big trunk, comfy interior, super supportive seats, heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, sunroof, wireless charger, fancy stereo, good safety features.
Misses: Modest power, Sport mode doesn’t help acceleration much, small sunroof, big A-pillars, wireless charger hidden in console storage box and didn’t always charge.
Made in: Georgetown, Ky.
Engine: 2.5-liter I4, 203 hp/184 torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 3,780 lbs.
Wheelbase: 113.0 in.
Length: 195.9 in.
Cargo: 16.7 cu.ft.
Base Price: $46,525 (includes delivery)
Major Options: Blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, intuitive parking assist w/auto braking, $565
10.2-inch head-up display, $500
Triple beam LED headlights, $1,215
Power rear sunshade, $210
Nav/Mark Levinson audio package (nav system w/12.3-in. touchscreen, Enform Dynamic nav system, voice command, destination assist, Mark Levinson 17-speaker and 1,800 watt premium surround sound system), $2,900
Hands-free power trunk, $550
Premium paint, $500
F Sport heated leather steering wheel w/windshield wiper deicer and fast response interior heater, $180
Carpeted trunk mat, $120
Cargo net, $75
Rear bumper applique, $80
Door edge guards, $145
Test vehicle: $53,565
Editor's Note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.