Competing with: [Deep breath] Acura TLX, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac CT4, Genesis G70, Infiniti Q50, Jaguar XE, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, American Desire to Buy SUVs
Looks like: IS long gone to the gym (and maybe also plastic surgeon)
Powertrain: 241-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (rear-wheel drive), 260-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 (all-wheel drive) or 311-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 (IS 350); automatic eight-speed (RWD) or six-speed automatic (AWD)
Dealer hits: Late fall
Lexus has virtually launched the latest generation of its IS compact sports sedan, showing off a sporty, muscular, wider look, essential in a class where almost every competing manufacturer praises the fun factor of driving its models. Meanwhile, IS’s updated interior is trying to keep pace with the growing technological battle.
Related: 2021 Lexus IS Reveals Move to Monday
Changes also occur under the skin, with Lexus adding stiffness to the IS chassis while reducing weight. Is also offers 19-inch wheels for the first time in its history. The change yet to happen, however, is with sedan drivetrains available: Both the IS 300 and IS 350 offer the same engine and transmission options as previous generations. Lexus has also simplified the IS lineup by limiting the F Sport model to a more powerful IS 350 trim.
Up front, the 2021 IS gets a new version of the now-familiar Lexus spindle gril, with the F Sport and regular models wearing different designs. The F Sport model also gets air intake at the bottom of the gril to improve brake cooling. A new, slimmer headlight gives IS a more aggressive face. Along the sides, IS has a sculpted look with a new rocker panel that leads to a muscular rear quarter panel. The sculpted back deck cap gives the illusion of a wider and more impressive position, and an L-shaped LED backlight reaches the back.
The standard wheels are 18 inches in diameter, up from the previous 17 inches. The Model F Sport offers two 19-inch wheel options, including lightweight BBS wheels in an optional Dynamic Handling Package. Lexus said the 19-inch wheel “enhances cornering force and provides a larger contact patch with the road”. The F Sport model with Dynamic Handling Package also gets carbon fiber rear spoilers and matching rearview mirrors.
We have long regretted the Lexus Remote Touchpad infotainment system, and the first ray of light for change came with the refresh of the popular RX SUV for the 2020 model year, which finally has a touchscreen. Now, it’s on IS too. Buyers can choose between an 8- or 10.3-inch touchscreen, the latter of which comes with optional in-car navigation with or without a premium Mark Levinson stereo. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa connectivity are all standard.
The F Sport model features standard leather front sports seats and leather-clad and heated steering wheels, as well as custom clusters and gauge pedals.
Engine and Transmission
The new IS uses the engine and transmission options of the previous model. The IS 300 model with rear-wheel drive is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Choose an all-wheel drive and you get a 3.5-liter V-6 engine with 260 hp of power and 236 pound-feet, paired with a six-speed automatic engine. The more powerful IS 350 uses a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 311 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque. The RWD model gets an eight-speed automatic model and a six-speed AWD model.
Lexus says the IS 350 with RWD will travel from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds; the AWD model reaches the target in 5.7 seconds.
The F Sport model with dynamic handling package gets adaptive suspension to adjust the rigidity of the suspension, and Lexus says that the suspension has been tuned to improve performance by 2021.
For 2021, IS is getting lexus’ Safety System Plus 2.5 range of safety technology as standard equipment. Precollision components include emergency steering assistance, forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and Lexus says it can now detect vehicles in front of and earlier cyclists in daytime situations, plus pedestrians earlier in the day and dim light situations. Lexus also says that it is better at detecting and responding to potential collisions when turning left in traffic.
The included adaptive cruising control system worked until it stopped and now does a better job of overtaking slower vehicles. Lane departure warnings with lane-centered steering are also included, as are automatic headlights and blind spot monitors with rear traffic alerts.