The first through fourth generation Lexus ES sedans shared body styling elements with Japan-market Toyota sedans, and a domestic market equivalent, the Toyota Windom, was sold until the launch of the fifth generation ES in 2006. The fifth generation ES 350, featuring Lexus' own L-finesse body styling, was unveiled in the spring of 2006 as a 2007 model. Like the previous generation ES 330 model, the fifth generation Lexus ES is geared towards the comfort luxury segment, with an emphasis on interior amenities, quietness, and a smooth ride.
The first Lexus ES (codename VZV21) debuted in January 1989 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit as part of the launch of the Lexus division. In order to avoid introducing the nameplate with only one model, the LS 400, Lexus debuted the ES alongside their flagship sedan. The smaller representative of the initial two-sedan Lexus lineup was designated the ES 250, and powered by the Camry's 2.5L, 156hp (116kW) V6. The ES 250 was partly based on the Toyota Vista, a Japan-market sedan which was never sold in the United States, which in turn shared the chassis of the Toyota Camry.
On the exterior, the ES 250 shared the same general body style and overall dimensions as its Toyota counterparts, but had a more prominent grille, bigger tail lights, chrome trim, frameless windows, and distinct wheel design similar to its LS brethren. Inside the cabin, the ES 250 featured a six-speaker Pioneer sound system, genuine wood trim, one-touch power windows, and leather seats. A four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission was offered. The Electronically Controlled Automatic Transmission (ECT) featured "normal" and "power" modes.
Safety features included a driver's SRS airbag and anti-lock brakes. In typical specification, the ES 250 further included 15-inch alloy wheels, a power driver's seat, power moonroof, and CD player. Leather upholstery was common equipment, despite being listed as an option, while some ES 250s were also produced with cloth interiors.