2021 Lexus IS gets an exterior redesign.
Powertrain choices are carried over from the previous generation, while handling characteristics have been improved.
The new IS sedan will go on sale this fall.
The 2021 Lexus IS has just been unveiled via an online presentation, and the compact-sized sport sedan benefits from a new, yet familiar exterior design as well as new interior furnishings and improved handling characteristics.
First and foremost, the IS will once again rival the Cadillac CT5, the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series, the Volvo S60, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Acura TLX and the Infiniti Q50 in the performance lux segment. Lexus’s entry-level sedan will keep the current powertrain lineup along with the same trim level designations, including IS 300, IS 300 AWD, IS 350 and IS 350 AWD.
The 2021 Lexus IS 300 is equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that develops 241 horsepower as well as 258 pound-feet of torque from 1,650 to 4,400 rpm, matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission and a rear-wheel drivetrain. Meanwhile, the IS 300 AWD gets a 3.5-litre V6 that’s good for 260 horsepower and 236 pound-feet, managed by a six-speed auto. This all-wheel-drive setup feeds 70% of the engine’s torque to the rear gumballs under normal driving conditions, but can shift to a 50:50 split in slippery conditions.
The IS 350 benefits from a higher-output version of the V6 engine, which develops 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Again, the RWD variants are mixed with the eight-speed auto, while the AWD is connected to the six-speed box. According to the brand, the IS 350 RWD can rip from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, while the IS 350 AWD performs the same task in 5.7. It’s worth noting that the Canadian market won’t be getting the rear-drive IS 350.
The company says it worked hard to improve the 2021 Lexus IS’ handling characteristics, and spent many hours on the track to fine-tune the car’s reflexes, including the Nürburgring circuit in Germany and the 3.3-mile test course at Shimoyama in Japan. “What we had foremost in mind in developing the new IS was to make it a car that excelled in communicating with the driver regardless of the road conditions or driving situation,” said Chief Engineer Naoki Kobayashi of Lexus International. “We aimed to make the new IS a Lexus compact sports sedan that provides high-quality riding comfort while offering a high level of vehicle control.”
Although the IS rides on the same platform as before, and wheelbase in unchanged, the car is 1.2 inches (30 millimetres) longer, 1.2 inches (30 mm) wider and a scant 0.2 inch (5 mm) higher. However, engineers worked to increase body rigidity and decreasing unsprung weight, which obviously helps improve handling, in addition to reducing overall noise, vibration and harshness. And for the first time, the IS will be available with 19-inch alloy wheels, while a Dynamic Handling Package is available with the F SPORT—which will only be offered on the IS 350—that includes a more aggressive exterior design, a cool air intake and an engine sound generator.
An updated Lexus Safety Suite, called LSS+ 2.5, is now standard in the 2021 Lexus IS. It notably adds an enhanced version of the automatic emergency braking system with pedestrian detection and cyclist detection, along with Emergency Steering Assist. In addition, the adaptive cruise control can follow the vehicle ahead, bringing the IS to a full stop as needed and get it reaccelerating again as traffic clears up ahead. Lane Tracing Assist helps keep the car centered in its lane by applying slight steering corrections. Automatic high beams and blind-spot monitoring are also standard.
The 2021 Lexus IS’ cockpit has been reworked, although the overall design is the same as before. The F SPORT trim can be furnished with red, black or two-tone black and white coloured sport seats, while other variants get standard NuLuxe simulated leather upholstery and power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control and an intelligent key with pushbutton start. A power sunroof is optional.
As for the infotainment system, it remains the touchpad interface, but the eight-inch touchscreen is located three inches close to the driver for easier access. Also available in a 10.3-inch touchscreen, bundled with navigation and an 1,800-watt, 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system. All systems include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration.
The 2021 Lexus IS will go on sale this fall. Pricing will be announced at a later date.