The 2021 Lexus IS is unlike any other IS from previous generations. Lexus claims it's the best IS to date. It is also the first Lexus model designed with the new Lexus Driving Signature credo. We are all familiar with the Lexus brand and how it combines Toyota reliability and durability in a surprisingly luxurious and sophisticated package. However, Lexus has never been known for its amazing agility and superior handling. Even the mighty Lexus LFA, with all its trappings and Yamaha's high-revving V10 engine, can be difficult to push to the limit.
All of that will change with the release of the 2021 Lexus IS. Lexus says the brand is looking to rethink its offerings to deliver a new standard in performance and handling. In short, Lexus is finally waking up from its constant slumber and has decided to build luxury cars that are genuinely fun to drive (although my colleague Carl Anthony does think the Lexus ES 350 F Sport is cool to drive).
“First of all, when developing the new IS, we wanted to make it a car that interacts well with the driver, regardless of the road conditions or traffic situation,” said Naoki Kobayashi, Chief Engineer of Lexus International. “We aimed to make the new IS a Lexus compact sports sedan that delivers a high level of ride comfort and a high level of vehicle control.”
Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama
This is where the 2021 Lexus IS was born.
Prior to the 2021 Lexus IS, previous Lexus models were signed by its chief engineer. But now Lexus engineers must answer directly to Koji Sato, President of Lexus International, and Akio Toyoda, Lexus Chief Branding Officer and President of Toyota Motor Corporation. Ultimately, management aims to create a new generation of Lexus vehicles that are sportier, more communicative and more confident than ever before.
How will Lexus do it? By opening your own test center, of course! In particular, we are talking about the Toyota Technical Center in Shimoyama in Aichi Prefecture in Japan, just around the corner from the Lexus headquarters. Lexus is the first to admit that its newest 3.3-mile test track is similar to the Nürburgring Nordschleife, with varying road surfaces, dangerous curves and nearly 250 feet of vertical drop.
With the entire Shimoyama test track at his disposal, Kobayashi's chief engineer was signaled to build the best Lexus IS to date, and he began by improving the car's stiffness.
2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport. Photo: Lexus.
New and lighter dice set
Improving body rigidity is no easy task, especially when running on a proven platform. Do it the wrong way, however, and you'll get sharper handling in exchange for a hectic ride. The 2021 Lexus IS now has more front spars weld points and reinforced side radiator mounts to make the platform even more rigid. Strengthening the C-pillar and roof helps reduce noise and vibration while improving ride quality and steering feel, Lexus says.
The 2021 Lexus IS gets larger 18-inch wheels as standard, while the F Sport model can choose between two 19-inch wheel designs, one of which is bespoke BBS wheels as part of the Dynamic Handling Package. Lexus has been kind enough to revise the suspension layout and attachment points to accommodate these larger alloys. The new Lexus IS also uses lighter hub bolts, bringing the vehicle's unsprung weight down to two pounds.
Also new are 20 percent lighter coil springs, forged aluminum A-arms (18 percent lighter than steel versions), and a new anti-roll bar (17 percent weight reduction). The suspension consists of new swing-valve shock absorbers with ultra-low speed valves. The result of all this, Lexus claims, is a stable and comfortable ride.
2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport. Photo: Lexus.
2021 Lexus IS: Trim Options and New F Sport
Lexus is restructuring the trim levels of its latest IS sedan. The base IS 300 RWD has a 241 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. and 258 lb-ft. torque. You can get all-wheel drive (AWD) in the IS 300, but that also means you get a more powerful 260-horsepower, 236-pound-feet 3.5-liter V6 engine. torque.
Meanwhile, the IS 350 has the same 3.5-liter V6 as the all-wheel drive IS 300, but now the V6 puts out 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft. torque in this configuration. The IS 300 RWD and IS 350 have an eight-speed automatic, while the AWD IS gets a six-speed automatic. According to Lexus, both the IS 350 RWD and IS 350 AWD sprint to 100 km/h in less than six seconds.
Lexus still offers the F Sport package, but it is only available on the IS 350. The F Sport package adds unique front and rear bumpers, a new grille surround, rear spoiler and diffuser, air intake and F Sport. exhaust, among other things. You can also pair the F Sport package with the Dynamic Handling Package. It includes the aforementioned 19-inch BBS forged alloy wheels, adaptive adjustable suspension, carbon fiber rear spoiler and Lexus key card.
The 2021 Lexus IS electronically controlled all-wheel drive system maintains a 30:70 front-to-rear torque split. However, under certain conditions, the system can send up to 50 percent of the available power to the front wheels. Photo: Lexus.
Interior features and options
Standard features include an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment screen (a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen is optional for navigation or a Mark Levinson audio system). Drivers can relax in the 10-way power seat, while the front passenger can adjust the dual-zone climate control accordingly. The new IS is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa, and a power moonroof is also available.
Like the chassis and suspension, the interior of the 2021 Lexus IS has received an overhaul. Standard NuLuxe interior color options include black, glazed caramel, and Rioja Red. On F Sport models, interior paint options include black, contour red, and a two-tone white/black combination. The 2021 IS cab has three main finishes: Black Metallic paint, Black Geometric Film, or Ash Ornamentation. The latter is exclusive to F Sport models with the Dynamic Handling Package.
Exterior view of the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport in Circuit Red. Photo: Lexus.
2021 Lexus IS: Pricing and Availability
The base Lexus IS 300 RWD starts at $40,025, while the IS 350 RWD F Sport starts at $43,925 (prices include $1,025). Four-wheel drive costs $2,000 across the board. Standard is the Lexus Safety System+ (LSS+), which includes Forward Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning, just to name a few.
Exterior colors include Cloudburst Grey, Matador Red Mica, Infrared, Grecian Water, Ultra White, Eminent White Pearl, Atomic Silver, Caviar, and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0. The Blue Mica 2.0 infrared and ultrasonic are exclusive to the F Sport and require an additional $595 surcharge.
The 2021 Lexus IS is already available in showrooms.
Alvin Reyes is Associate Editor of BlogAvto. In his younger years he studied civil aviation, aeronautics and accounting and is still very attached to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also loves fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.
Photo and source: Lexus.