2021 Lexus IS
When the Lexus IS arrived onto the scene back in 2000, the comparisons were being made. Was this Lexus’ answer to the premium/luxury sport sedan segment? Would it be pretender and not a contender?
In the past 21 years, the Lexus IS proved to be a contender. A comparison in a major enthusiast’s magazine had the IS as their winner against the leaders in that segment.
For 2021, Lexus revamped its premium sports sedan with enhancements inside and out. Most of which would be invisible to us. We wanted to know if the Lexus IS still has that magic touch that gave it the reputation of a being a strong contender.
The latest IS continues to ride on a platform that debuted in 2013. However, it received a serious facelift as a part of a new wave of the Lexus styling language. The Spindle Grille was given some reshaping, especially at the bottom of the front clip. The rear end was completely reshaped with a tapered trunk area and a taillight arrangement now bridged by a strip across it. You will also find some subtle tweaks on the side glass and side profile.
Our F Sport tester adds more flair to the dramatic. The grille texture is more aggressive, as is the wider lower front fascia grilles, carbon rear wing and black rocker panel extensions. The matte black 19-inch BBS alloy wheels are the perfect finishing touch to this car.
Stepping inside our tester, we were welcomed by this beautiful Rioja Red perforated leather upholstery. The F Sport’s front seats offer both comfort and superior support. They also instill control behind the wheel. Rear seat room can be a bit tight for some adults. The center driveshaft tunnel prevents even a fifth person to sit in the rear seats.
The driver has a sliding center dial that opens up to a full information screen. Both screens are fully digital and has a different view, depending on the drive mode you are in. The infotainment screen has been moved forward for touch capacitive active. You can also control the functions on that screen with a track pad on the center console or the controls on the steering wheel.
That wheel has a thick rim, but easily controllable. Many of the controls are accessible, with the stalks offering a light touch to operate.
Trunk space is officially measured out to 10.8 cubic feet. It appears to be a bit larger than that. There is a “step-down” off of the bumper for loading and unloading.
Our tester is the IS 350 F Sport, which means it is powered by a 311-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. Our all-wheel-drive model has the six-speed automatic transmission. Rear-drive models are equipped with an eight-speed automatic.
Performance is very good and offers great response at the throttle. You do get some extra exhaust noise when you put the IS 350 F Sport into Sport S or S+ mode. As for fuel economy, we observed an average of 25.6 MPG.
Overall, the driving experience was well balanced. The ride quality was very smooth. The suspension handled rougher roads without transmitting them into the cabin. It also cornered very well with superb control. Evasive maneuvers were executed without any drama from the vehicle. You can tune the suspension a notch by switching into Sport S+. The ride quality remains smooth, but the IS 350 F Sport will flatten out on the turns.
The steering system offered up sharp responses in all modes. The only difference was that the wheel is weighed down in Sport S+ mode. However, it had a good on-center feel and turning radius to boost. The brakes were very effective in normal and panic situations, offering solid stops in each situation. Pedal feel and response were also good with solid control overall.
The 2021 Lexus IS lineup is priced from $39,050. You have a choice of three engines and the availability of all-wheel-drive. Our IS 350 F Sport with AWD came with a sticker price of $58,040.
In the premium vehicle market, the smaller sports sedan is where you determine which brand you go with for the rest of your life. It is the entry for both enthusiasts and upmarket consumers. The Lexus IS is up against some stiff competition, including the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Genesis G70, Cadillac CT4 and CT5, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Volvo S60, and Infiniti Q50.
The completely improved Lexus IS should be among your top choices in that highly competitive list. If not because of its more aggressive looks and driving manners. It is because you will enjoy every mile in one.
Story Credits: CarSoup Editors