2021 Lexus IS Preview

Christian Wardlaw | Jun 16, 2020
  • Significantly reworked version of existing IS
  • Comes in IS 300 and IS 350 model series
  • Turbocharged 4-cylinder and V-6 engines
  • Rear-wheel or all-wheel drive
  • All-new exterior styling
  • Updated interior with new infotainment system
  • Next-generation safety technologies
  • On sale in late fall

Introduction - Find the best Lexus deals!

Charged with communicating a dynamic new Lexus Driving Signature to the company’s youngest and most diverse group of buyers, the restyled and re-engineered 2021 Lexus IS arrives by the end of 2020. Available in IS 300 and IS 350 model series, with or without all-wheel drive, the car continues to offer a performance-oriented F Sport variant but only for the IS 350 model.

2021 Lexus IS 300 Gray Front View

Lexus says the new IS is a “celebration of the love of driving.” Tuned at parent company Toyota’s new Technical Center Shimoyama, which includes a road course modeled after Germany’s fabled Nurburgring Nordschleife, the 2021 Lexus IS aims to be “the purest expression of a sports sedan.”

Though it looks like it, the 2021 IS is not an all-new car. Rather, it is a major upgrade of the existing Lexus IS, which dates to the 2014 model year. The new Lexus IS will continue to overlap the bigger Lexus ES in terms of price but will appeal to a completely different type of car buyer.

Exterior Features - Find the best Lexus deals!

Slightly longer and wider than the outgoing Lexus IS, equipped with a lower hood, and sitting on an identical wheelbase, the new Lexus IS is simultaneously familiar and fresh.

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Silver Rear View

Jutting forward and dominating the front styling, the spindle-style grille is flanked by handsome lighting elements incorporating the company’s L-shaped LED running lights and available triple beam LED headlights.

The edges of the upper grille flow into the hood and windshield pillars to define broad front fenders that sweep back into a strong shoulder line. That shoulder continues all the way to the rear of the car where, to some surprise, the Lexus looks like a Bangle-butt BMW of 15 years ago. The clearly defined decklid is underscored by a “blade” taillight crossing the width of the car, anchored at each corner by L-shaped motifs.

Returning to the new Lexus IS model’s flanks, the previous car’s signature upswept character line is preserved and amplified, flowing into swollen rear haunches. The IS includes standard 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, with 19-inch wheels available as an option. New colors include Iridium, Cloudburst Gray, Grecian Water, Matador Red Mica, and for the F Sport, Infrared.

Interior Features - Find the best Lexus deals!

If you’re familiar with the outgoing Lexus IS interior, you’ll feel right at home in the new 2021 IS. Aside from a handful of changes, such as round outboard air vents, a larger and closer infotainment system screen, and a revised center console arrangement that ditches the old mouse-style Remote Touch Interface controls for a new touchpad, they’re pretty much the same.

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Circuit Red Interior Dashboard

As was true before, the only seat upholstery choice is NuLuxe, which is what Lexus calls its soft simulated leather. Standard equipment includes 10-way power driver and 8-way power passenger seats, dual-zone automatic climate control with touch-sensing sliders for temperature adjustment, and keyless entry with push-button engine starting.

Optional Features - Find the best Lexus deals!

A popular choice, especially for driving enthusiasts, the new 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport adds numerous upgrades to the car.

Starting with the exterior, it has a unique grille with a black surround, functional brake cooling ducts, and aerodynamic enhancements. Around back, a rear lip spoiler is perched on the trailing edge of the flat and tall rear deck, while the back bumper is redesigned and includes a large diffuser panel flanked by dual F Sport exhaust outlets. The IS F Sport sits on 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels with a black chrome finish, wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza performance tires.

Inside, drivers face a heated F Sport steering wheel and special F Sport instrumentation. The sport-bolstered seats include standard heating and ventilation, and an Active Sound Control system emphasizes the enjoyable parts of the V-6 powertrain’s soundtrack. New Circuit Red NuLuxe replaces the darker Rioja Red color found in the previous version of the car.

Under the Hood - Find the best Lexus deals!

Three different engines are available for the 2021 Lexus IS. The standard power plant in the IS 300 is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 241 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Peak torque is available from 1,650 rpm to 4,400 rpm, providing satisfying thrust across a significant portion of the rev range. An 8-speed sport automatic with G-Force Artificial Intelligence is standard with this engine.

If you live where snow regularly accompanies winter, the IS 300 offers an all-wheel-drive system. And when you choose it, you get a 260-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The AWD system isn’t terribly sophisticated, splitting power 30% to the front and 70% to the rear under normal driving conditions. When the rear wheels slip, up to 50% of engine power flows to the front wheels.

For the best performance, choose the IS 350. It has a 3.5-liter V-6 generating 311 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque and comes with rear- or all-wheel drive. The RWD versions have an 8-speed sport automatic, while the AWD versions use a 6-speed automatic. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 5.6 seconds, according to Lexus (5.7 seconds with AWD).

Circling back around to Lexus Driving Signature, the concept is embodied in what the automaker says is balanced, linear, and confident performance and handling traits honed at Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama.

Naoki Kobayashi, Chief Engineer for the new IS, said during the car’s introduction: “The new IS is not only about specs, but our constant pursuit of exhilaration that appeals to the senses.”

Since the 2021 Lexus IS is not an all-new car and uses the same platform as the previous-generation model, the company achieved this goal by increasing structural rigidity, reducing weight, and completely reworking the suspension while using lighter components.

For the IS 350 F Sport, a new Dynamic Handling Package installs an adaptive damping variable suspension, a Torsen limited-slip rear differential (RWD), forged aluminum 19-inch wheels in a matte black color, carbon fiber side mirror caps and rear spoiler, and center console knee padding. With this package, the car includes both Sport S+ and Custom driving modes that adjust throttle, transmission, steering, and suspension response.

Is there more power in store in the future? Lexus isn’t officially commenting, but rumors are that a limited-production IS 500 is coming with a 5.0-liter V8 engine.

Safety - Find the best Lexus deals!

In addition to Lexus Driving Signature, the new IS introduces Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 (LSS+ 2.5). This is a collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) that boasts several upgrades over LSS+ 2.0.

Those improvements include upgraded camera and radar units for greater responsiveness, heightened sensitivity to pedestrians and cyclists, a new automatic braking function if a driver attempts a left turn when traffic is approaching, and an Emergency Steering Assist system “cued by the driver.”

The standard adaptive cruise control system gets a new overtaking function and can also automatically adjust speed based on the road sign recognition system. Additionally, LSS+ 2.5 features enhanced lane centering assistance technology.

Lexus says blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning systems are also standard for the new IS.

Technology - Find the best Lexus deals!

Citing customer feedback, Lexus is changing its mind about touchscreen infotainment systems. The company has already started offering them in other models, and the new IS also benefits from this new approach.

Standard equipment includes an 8-inch touchscreen, while a larger 10.3-inch display is available as an option. The company’s Remote Touch Interface with its often aggravating touchpad continues, as does voice command operation for some functions.

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Lexus+Alexa integration are standard, along with free trial subscriptions to Lexus Enform Safety Connect (three years) and Service Connect (ten years). Navigation is available as an option, along with a new Mark Levinson high-end audio system with 17 speakers and 1,800 watts of power.

Lexus is the source of the information in this article. It was accurate as of June 15, 2020 but may have changed since that date.

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