2021 Lexus IS
The Lexus IS debuted almost 20 years ago, adding a level of performance to Toyota’s relatively new luxury brand in the form of an entry-level sport sedan. The Lexus line has experienced many changes since the arrival of the first IS and its cool chronograph gauges. The automaker has not updated the IS in a while, so it’s great to see a refreshed 2021 Lexus IS break cover today with bold new styling, improved performance and a luxurious interior.
The 2021 IS takes on the latest design language from Lexus, adopting a front-end appearance similar to the ES and LS. Longer and wider than its predecessor, the new IS carries a more aggressive stance. The familiar spindle grill gets updated; it has tiny spindles within its design for a three-dimensional look. New slim headlights feature L-shape LED running lights for a signature look. Headlights blend seamlessly into the sculpted hood, creating character lines that flow from the lights toward the rear of the car.
The design is much crisper and clearly defined on the 2021 Lexus IS. When viewed from the side, the new IS has lines that flow up from the rocker panel over the rear wheel, emphasizing the sport sedan’s rear-wheel drive. At the rear is a light bar with L-shaped LED taillights. Available 19-inch wheels add to the bold look.
As one would expect from Toyota’s luxury brand, the 2021 Lexus IS features a luxurious interior with a long list of amenities. The 10-way power driver’s seat and 8-way passenger seat are trimmed in NuLuxe (a realistic synthetic leather). A new multimedia system features an 8-inch touchscreen display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa integration and an available premium 1800-watt Mark Levinson audio system. A larger 10.3-inch display is also available.
The 2021 Lexus IS will be available in two trim levels: IS 300 and IS 350. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and buyers can add all-wheel drive to either trim. Lexus will also offer the IS 350 with the F SPORT package.
For drivers who want additional performance with a sportier look, the IS 350 can be equipped as an F SPORT. That said, the engine remains the same, but the IS 350 F SPORT stands out with more aggressive aerodynamic enhancements, unique front and rear bumpers, a rear lip spoiler, a grille surround and special center-cap 19-inch alloy wheels with larger rear tires for improved performance. A Dynamic Handling Package can also be added, featuring adaptive variable suspension, lighter BBS wheels and a Torsen limited-slip differential for rear-drive versions.
The F SPORT treatment continues inside with sport front seats that have heat and ventilation, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and a unique instrument cluster. A standout new feature of the F SPORT is its available Circuit Red interior. The F SPORT also employs Active Sound Control to enhance the sound of the powerful V6 engine.
Engine options for the updated 2021 Lexus IS remain unchanged from the previous version. The IS 300 RWD gets a 2.0-liter 241-horsepower turbocharged engine teamed with an 8-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission. When opting for the AWD IS 300, the engine is swapped to a 3.5-liter V6 delivering 260 horsepower through a 6-speed automatic transmission. The electronically controlled AWD system will typically run with a 30/70 percent front to rear ratio, but the system can send as much as 50 percent of the power to the front wheels when needed.
The top-level IS 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that generates 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel-drive IS 350s use an 8-speed automatic transmission, while a 6-speed automatic gets coupled to the engine on all-wheel-drive variants. The IS 350 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds — this takes a tick longer with all-wheel drive.
Lexus Driving Signature
Vehicles wearing the Lexus name typically lean more toward luxury than high performance — of course there have been exceptions. Moving forward, the luxury brand wants to put more emphasis on performance and handling, with the new IS leading this charge. Engineers have created a Lexus Driving Signature that sets a standard of linear steering and braking response, optimized handling, as well as exceptional ride quality across the board for new models coming from the brand.
Comfort and Performance
“What we had foremost in mind in developing the new IS was to make it a car that excelled in communicating with the driver regardless of the road conditions or driving situation,” said Chief Engineer Naoki Kobayashi of Lexus International. “We aimed to make the new IS a Lexus compact sports sedan that provides high-quality riding comfort while offering a high level of vehicle control,” noted Kobayashi. The 2021 IS endured considerable testing on the 3.3-mile test course at a new Toyota Technical Center in Shimoyama, Japan.
Safety System +
The latest version of the Lexus Safety System + will be standard equipment on all trims of the updated IS. Features include frontal collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian and bicyclist detection, emergency steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and all-speed adaptive cruise control. The system uses a single-lens camera and millimeter-wave radar — both have been enhanced for the 2021 Lexus IS. Lane departure alert and lane-tracing assist have also been improved.
According to Toyota scheduling, the updated 2021 Lexus IS should begin arriving in U.S. showrooms this fall.