In the battle of luxury midsize sedans, the 2021 Lexus ES and 2021 Genesis G80 compete by offering great value, but by no means does that mean they’re cheap. Each has a choice of engines, loads of features, and plenty of comfort. Which is better?
- ES 300h earns 44 mpg.
- G80 powertrain warranty lasts 10 years or 100,000 miles.
- Both are thousands cheaper than German competitors.
2021 Lexus ES
Base price: $41,015 / Read our 2021 Lexus ES review
What we like: Rock-solid reliability; available hybrid; great price; excellent build quality.
What we would change: F Sport package needs a stronger engine; at this price point, the infotainment system should be easier to use; bland styling.
Overview: For just over $40,000, the Lexus ES is a great bargain in the luxury sedan segment. It’s well-equipped, comfortable, and built to the highest standards of quality and reliability. The base engine is a turbocharged four-cylinder with all-wheel drive, or there are two front-wheel-drive options, either with V6 or hybrid power. Standard equipment is plentiful, including a 10-speaker Pioneer audio system, an 8-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, and three USB ports. Also standard is the Lexus Safety System Plus 2.0, with a slew of safety and driver-assist features. Despite there being an F Sport trim with an adaptive suspension, there is no upgrade sporty engine, with Lexus preferring to emphasize comfort over performance.
What’s new for 2021: The most significant change for 2021 is the addition of the ES 250 AWD variant, with its 2.5-liter four-cylinder coupled with all-wheel drive. There is also a new Black Line Special Edition, based on the F Sport. The Luxury trim level also gains blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Features and technology: The 2021 Lexus ES comes generously equipped, and there are 8 different trim levels based on the ES 250 AWD, ES 350, and ES 300h with various levels of equipment added. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, a powered moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, different driving modes, keyless entry and ignition, three USB ports, an 8-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, Wi-fi, Amazon Alexi compatibility, and a 10-speaker Pioneer audio system. Also included is the Lexus Safety System Plus 2.0, which adds such things as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, road sign recognition, and automatic high beams. Optional safety tech includes blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree camera system, and a head-up display.
There’s a laundry list of options, including a Premium Package that adds rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats, and a power-adjustable steering column. The Luxury trim adds leather seats and ambient cabin lighting among other things. An adaptive suspension comes with the F Sport, which also adds a rear spoiler, sport seats, and 19-inch alloys. Offered as a limited edition for 2021, the F Sport can be augmented with the Black Line Special Edition, which includes certain cosmetic additions and a two-piece Zero Halliburton luggage set.
What does the future hold: Lexus tends to be a cautious and conservative company, so changes are typically incremental over the years. We would like to see a little more sportiness on the F Sport models, more like an AMG Mercedes or M BMW. Find a 2021 Lexus ES for sale near you
2021 Genesis G80
Base price: $47,700 / Read our 2021 Genesis G80 review
What we like: Unique looks; optional all-wheel drive; plenty of driver assists; powerful optional V6; optional adaptive suspension; great warranty.
What we would change: Add a V8 option and a hybrid; increase the trunk size; console dial is challenging to use while driving.
Overview: Completely redesigned with a bold new look and a choice of engines ranging from a turbocharged four-cylinder to a twin-turbo V6, the 2021 Genesis G80 is a distinctive-looking midsize sedan that provides luxury, comfort, and a load of standard features at a reasonable price. Rear-wheel drive comes standard, but all-wheel drive is also available, as well as a camera-based adaptive suspension, and various drive modes change the response of the steering and throttle. Visibility is solid and the front seats are comfortable and supportive. Despite the sloped roofline, rear seat comfort is also good, although if we do have one complaint, the trunk is a little small. The interior is clean and uncluttered, although a 14.5-inch infotainment screen takes up a big part of the dash. It’s operated by a console-mounted dial that also incorporates handwriting recognition, although that isn’t terribly practical while one is driving. The G80 also comes loaded with standard features, including plenty of driver-assist and safety functions, 12-way power heated front seats, keyless entry, and both navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. For an extra bit of confidence, Genesis includes a class-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
What’s new for 2021: A complete redesign means everything is new for 2021, with a new shape and a new interior. A new camera-based adaptive suspension reads the road and adjusts the ride for more comfort and precise handling. Most significantly, the base V6 has been replaced with a turbocharged four-cylinder, and the top V8 engine has been dropped.
Features and technology: As with the Lexus, the Genesis G80 comes well equipped right off the bat, although there are only five trims compared with the eight of the Lexus. Standard features include 12-way power and heated front seats, keyless ignition, adaptive cruise control, 18-inch wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, and forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian protection. A 14.5-inch infotainment screen includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, and a navigation system.
Options include a camera-based adaptive suspension, surround-view monitor, both 19- and 20-inch wheels, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, Nappa leather upholstery, wireless device charging, remote smart-parking assist, and a panoramic sunroof, among other things.
What does the future hold: We expect Genesis to follow the lead of Lexus by staying the course and building its brand cachet against the Germans. Given that the 2021 redesign was significant, we don’t expect more than incremental changes in the years ahead, although we would like if there was a G80 hybrid. Find a 2021 Genesis G80 for sale near you
ES vs. G80: Strengths comparison
ES Benefits: Optional hybrid; lower starting price; bigger trunk.
G80 Benefits: Rear-wheel drive for handling; significantly more power; longer warranty.
2021 ES vs. 2021 G80: Which is better?
There is no doubt that the 2021 Lexus ES and 2021 Genesis G80 can hold their own against their German competitors, with smooth rides, great prices, and tons of features. Aside from the fact that the G80 starts about $6,000 higher than the Lexus, it’s a question of taste. Lexus competes with solid reliability, an optional hybrid, and plenty of features. But if you want a true driver’s car, the Genesis brings rear-wheel drive, some great and powerful engines, and unique looks to boot. Plus that great powertrain warranty. Find a 2021 Lexus ES for sale or Find a 2021 Genesis G80 for sale
|2021 Lexus ES||2021 Genesis G80|
|Engine||2.5-liter I4||2.5-liter I4, turbocharged|
|Horsepower||203 hp @ 6,500 rpm||300 hp @ 5,800 rpm|
|Torque||184 lb-ft @ 4,000rpm||311 lb-ft @ 1,650rpm|
|Transmission||Automatic, 8-Spd||Automatic, 8-Spd|
|Fuel Economy||28 mpg (25 city 34hwy)||26 mpg (23 city, 32hwy)|
|Also Available||3.5-liter V6; 2.5-liter I4 + electric motor; CVT||3.5-liter V6, twin-turbocharged|
|Basic warranty||4 years or 50,000 miles||5 years or 60,000 miles|
|Powertrain Warranty||6 years or 70,000 miles||10 years or 100,000 miles|
|NHTSA Overall Safety Rating||5 Stars||5 Stars|
|Max Seating Capacity||5||5|
|Wheelbase||113.0 inches||118.5 inches|
|Overall Length||195.9 inches||196.7 inches|
|Width||73.4 inches||75.8 inches|
|Height||57.1 inches||57.7 inches|
|Turning Diameter||38 feet||38 feet|
|Headroom, Front||37.5 inches||41.1 inches|
|Headroom, Rear||37.8 inches||38.1 inches|
|Legroom, Front||42.4 inches||42.5 inches|
|Legroom, Rear||39.2 inches||38.7 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Front||55.9 inches||58.3 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Rear||54.3 inches||57.1 inches|
|EPA Passenger Volume||n/a||103.8 cu. ft.|
|EPA Cargo Volume||16.7 cu. ft.||13.1 cu. ft.|