Even though the Lexus IS has been around for 20 years, it doesn’t get much credit in the compact luxury car segment. With historically good alternatives like the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4 occupying most of the scene, it’s easy to forget the offbeat Lexus. But the Lexus IS 2021 hopes to change all that. Sporting a new look, more advanced features – both inside and out – and a revised suspension that would be sportier, Lexus hopes the new IS will make people talk… as long as they don’t talk about power.
Little has changed visually for the new SI (or below, really, because the SI is running on the same platform). The sedan still wears the brand’s iconic spindle grille – although a revised “three-dimensional” version of it – which now comes accented by a larger lower entry and two larger accent vents on each side. On the Lexus IS F Sport in particular (photo below), the grille and vents get more black elements and a unique mesh pattern that separates this trim from non-F Sport models.
The headlights are also lower and larger. The 2021 IS abandons the divided headlight luminaire of the previous model – with the main beam at the top and the “swoosh” accent LED below – for a more traditional configuration with the LED accent now integrated in the housing. Optional triple beam LED headlights are available.
The new Lexus IS also gets a more sculpted profile with a muscular shoulder line that extends up and over the rear wheel arches. The wheels are also new, with the optional 19-inch BBS wheels 2021 IS F Sport for the first time, while the 18-inch wheels are now standard on lower versions. The backend of the IS, meanwhile, has a full-width LED taillight bar that forms seamlessly into angular fixtures on each side. The company previewed this new rear design earlier this month in a teaser image.
Bigger, but not more powerful
Believe it or not, the Lexus IS 2021 uses the exactly the same engines like the previous model. And they also each produce the same amount of energy. The IS 300 base with rear-wheel drive maintains the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, good for 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. The IS 300 all-wheel drive gets a more powerful 3.5-liter V6 with 260 horsepower and 236 lb-ft. And at the top of the range, the IS 350 – available in RWD and AWD – gets a 3.5-liter V6 good for 311 hp and 280 lb-ft.
Both RWD models use an eight-speed automatic, while the AWD versions of the new IS get a six-speed automatic. The IS 350 with RWD can reach 60 miles per hour in just 5.6 seconds, while the AWD IS 350 gets there in 5.7 seconds. And now buyers will have to switch to the 350 model if they want the F Sport version; Lexus does not offer an IS 300 F Sport with this new model.
|IS 300 RWD||Turbo 2.0L||241||258||6-speed automatic|
|EST 300 AWD||3.5L V6||260||236||8-speed automatic|
|IS 350 RWD||3.5L V6||311||280||6-speed automatic|
|IS 350 AWD||3.5L V6||311||280||8-speed automatic|
Although the chassis isn’t entirely new, engineers have completely reworked the IS suspension to give the sedan an even sportier feel. The new coil springs of the 2021 model are 20% lighter than those of the previous version, the new A-arms are 18% lighter and the stabilizer bar is 17% lighter. And the Lexus IS 2021 is also growing; it is 1.2 inches longer, 1.2 inches wider and 0.2 inches lower than its predecessor. Buyers of the IS 350 F Sport model can also choose a dynamic handling package with adaptive suspension. Hopefully this new size and this engineering will lead to better overall dynamics.
Like its foundations, the interior of the Lexus IS 2021 isn’t entirely new either. But the refreshed cabin offers a little more technology. An 8.0-inch touchscreen comes standard – which is now three inches closer to the driver – while a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen is available as an option. Things like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa come standard, but the same maddening touchpad controller from the previous model is kept.
The new SI also receives the latest Lexus security equipment. Nicknamed “Lexus Safety System + 2.5”, the standard suite of active safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection and a pre-collision warning system. More advanced equipment – such as adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function, traffic signal assistance and even lane departure warning with lane centering technology – is available at an additional cost.
It is not known how much the Lexus IS 2021 will cost when it goes on sale, but we expect the new sedan to arrive at dealerships before the end of the year.