2021 Lexus IS First Look: The IS Goes to Driver’s School
One of the most common mistakes an aspiring runner can make is spending all of their money on speed coins and nothing on the pilot. Even a naturally gifted driver can benefit significantly from coaching. Lexus engineers took this truism to heart by developing improvements to the Lexus IS 2021 sedan.
The IS series is crucial for Lexus to retain all kinds of sport sedan credentials; Toyota’s luxury arm has announced it will kill the GS mid-size sedan at the end of the 2020 model year. But the compact sports sedan remains a necessary segment for a luxury automaker to prove its worth, in particular when new entrants such as the Genesis G70 and the Alfa Romeo Giulia won the MotorTrend The Car of the Year pays tribute to the advancement of the concept of what the BMW 3 Series had apparently perfected years ago.
Lexus has done a bit of work on the sheet metal and what’s underneath, but as we have already reported, the 2021 IS is not a brand new product but rather an upgrade from the existing car, which has already been refurbished once in 2016 This means that it continues to run on the New N platform on which it was driven in 2013, rather than migrating to the new Global Architecture-L luxury car platform from Toyota. Hopefully, this is only a pause to further develop a next generation IS that will arrive in a few years, rather than a last sigh before giving in to fate.
The engineers focused on strengthening the existing chassis to reduce vibration and bending with new reinforcements on the C-pillars and the radiator side supports and adding more welds to the front side member supports. From there, they moved to the suspension, which received 20% lighter coil springs, 18% lighter control arms (now aluminum) and new anti-roll bars (in undisclosed material) which help reduce weight by 17 percent. They even went so far as to steal something from the LFA supercar and replaced the wheel studs and traditional wheel nuts with wheel bolts, which save 2.2 pounds in total and are both stiffer and more solid.
Lexus will bolt new standard 18-inch wheels to the hubs, up from 17 previously. Lexus will also be offering 19-inch wheels for the first time, both for fun and performance. Special 19-inch BBS wheels will be available on the IS 350 F Sport and are significantly lighter than the other 19-inch wheel option.
For suspension, Lexus has equipped its new swivel valve dampers, which add a second valve specially designed for small movements. This allows engineers to adjust the primary valves for large moments of suspension while using the secondary valves to maintain driving comfort despite minor road imperfections. Adaptive variable suspension, with electronically controlled shock absorbers, is available on the IS 350 F Sport with the Dynamic Handling group only.
All of this updated hardware has been tuned to Shimoyama’s new R&D facilities in the mountains outside of Toyota City. With its test track inspired by the Nurburgring, Shimoyama is designed to develop the sportier “Lexus Driving Signature” for all future models, starting with the new IS. This new measure is so important that each Lexus will have to be approved by Lexus President Koji Sato, as well as by Akio Toyoda, the rare automotive CEO as comfortable on the track as in the conference room.
For a real driving experience, however, you will need this F Sport package, which is now only available on the IS 350, but with rear or all-wheel drive. Unique front bumper and grille allow brake cooling ducts larger than the standard car, while cold air intake and sport exhaust increase sound (but not performance), which is then improved through the stereo speakers. A piano black chest spoiler and a fake pair of rear diffusers with rocker arm extensions to complete the look.
Inside, the appearance is enhanced by heated and cooled sports seats with more settings, a unique door map trim, metal pedals, a perforated leather shift button, a heated leather steering wheel , stainless steel door sill plates and a more sporty instrument cluster.
For mechanical improvements, you must also specify the dynamic management package. In addition to the active shock absorbers and light wheels, it adds a Torsen limited slip differential to the rear-wheel drive IS 350 F. There are also two additional driving modes, Sport S + (the most extreme) and Custom (programmable by the driver). You also get a carbon fiber trunk spoiler and mirror covers, as well as silver ash steering wheel trim.
Under the hood, things are more familiar. Engine choices are unchanged, the IS 300 retaining the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 as the base engine with 241 hp and 258 lb-ft connected to an eight-speed transmission powering the rear wheels. The IS 300 AWD continues with its detuned 3.5-liter V6 developing 260 horsepower and 236 lb-ft and transforming the same old six-speed automatic on the road to all four wheels. The IS 350 continues with its 311 horsepower version of this 3.5-liter, 280 lb-ft V6, running an eight-speed automatic with rear-wheel drive and the six-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
The designers of Lexus have done a bit of cosmetic surgery from all sides. At the front, the sharper edges of the spindle grid have been slightly toned down as they take on a less sparse shape. In particular, the headlights have been reworked to move the DRL swoosh inside the headlight housings. LED headlights are optional.
At the rear, the previously drooping taillights have been tightened and are now connected through the trunk lid in an almost uninterrupted beam. Below, the lower bumper has been inflated and the reflectors and exhaust tips have been made lighter. On the sides, Lexus has inflated the fender flares to accommodate the larger wheels and a dramatic fold under the C-pillars gives the car unmistakable hips. Between the wheels, the sharp folds cannot decide whether they want to be straight lines or curves because they appear and disappear apparently randomly along the rockers. Overall, Lexus says the car is more aerodynamic, although any effect it can have on fuel economy remains to be seen.
Updates inside the IS are also limited, with a new dashboard fascia the standout piece. It has round vents at the ends instead of rectangular and pushes the infotainment screen more vertically and away from the rest of the dashboard. Looking more like an iPad than ever, the touchscreen comes standard with a width of 8.0 inches with a wider screen of 10.3 inches available. Just below, the analog clock and the central air vents have been slightly reworked.
The other major changes are happening on the center console, where things have moved. No more joystick controller for infotainment, replaced by a trackpad now located directly behind the gear lever. This moves the drive mode selector to where the joystick was located and allows the cup holders to advance further where the joystick palm rest was located.
Regardless of what you think of the trackpad (we’re strongly against it), it now controls updated software with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility. They can play via an updated Mark Levinson stereo if desired, which adds two additional speakers (for a total of 17) and a more powerful 1800-watt amplifier.
The on-board active safety systems have also been upgraded to the Lexus Safety System + 2.5 configuration. This allows the system to see pedestrians and cyclists during the day and night, and to react if you are about to hit one. He can now see cars and pedestrians better in left turns and also intervene to avoid collisions. Lexus says the camera also sees lane marks better, so the lane-keeping system can keep the car centered on the lane better.
In terms of convenience, adaptive cruise control will start to accelerate as soon as you turn your turn signal to change lanes and bypass a slower driver, rather than waiting until you have changed lanes. The system will also reset your cruising speed to the speed limit when the detection of traffic signs sees that the limit has changed if you wish.
Lexus plans to have the new IS on sale in late fall after a late start after the postponement of the New York Auto Show in April. Fuel economy and pricing will be announced closer to the date of sale, but we expect the two to remain the same as before or close to it. That would mean 18-21 / 24-30 / 21-24 mpg city / highway / combined and a starting price for the IS 300 base just under $ 40,000 with delivery.
The first look at the Lexus IS 2021: The IS goes to driving school appeared first on MotorTrend.