The 2021 Lexus IS certainly looks brand new. The styling is cleaner, the proportions are better, and when you start perusing the options list, there’s way more on offer than there was previously.
All versions of the 2021 Lexus IS feature LED headlights with auto high-beam, 18-inch wheels, heated and power adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, a 10.3-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat-nav and DAB+ radio as standard.
As for safety systems, the revamped IS comes with emergency steering assist, intersection turning assist, automated collision notification, SOS call and stolen vehicle tracking, active cruise control, lane tracing assist, road sign assist, pre-collision with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert+brake.
The IS 300 Luxury packs a 241 HP (245 PS / 180 kW) 2.0-liter turbo-four mated to a re-tuned eight-speed automatic transmission. The IS 300h combines a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four with an electric motor for a combined output of 220 HP (223 PS / 164 kW), whereas the IS 350 boasts a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 with 311 HP (315 PS / 232 kW).
Rear-wheel drive comes standard on both the base IS 300 and the IS 350, but our car carries the optional all-wheel-drive system. While power to all four wheels adds more grip, it also adds more weight; the IS 350 F Sport with AWD tips the scales at 3,880 pounds before options. No wonder it feels so damn slow.
The range-topper, which starts at US$56,650, features 19-inch alloy wheels, sportier body kit, scuff plates, high-grade LED headlamps, a five-mode drive selector, leather trim, sports seats with ventilation, an 8-inch TFT driver display and adaptive variable suspension.
The biggest technological improvement inside of the 2021 Lexus IS is that updated 10.3-inch touchscreen, which now comes with standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility, and offers navigation as a $2,750 option. The screen is crisp and the graphics are crystal clear, but CarPlay and Android Auto are still wired connections – no wireless option yet – and the dreaded touchpad controller carries over.
Standard on the 2021 Lexus IS is the brand’s latest Safety System Plus 2.5, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, high-beam assist, road-sign assist, and an advanced adaptive cruise control system, a first for the IS. And the adaptive cruise system control works very well.
The lane-centering tech is a touch aggressive but keeps the IS centered with little ping-ponging, even navigating its way around more aggressive curves in the road, while distance indicator offers smooth throttle inputs and braking all the way down to zero.
Several option kits are available for different versions of the facelifted IS, such as the Enhancement Pack and Enhancement Pack 2, with the former featuring a moonroof, Mark Levinson sound system and power rear sunshade and the latter offering a moonroof, 19-inch alloys, high-grade LED headlamps, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats and premium audio.
Pricing for the rear-wheel drive IS 300 starts at $40,025 including a mandatory $1,025 destination charge, which represents a mere $440 increase over the outgoing 2020 model. The IS 300 AWD raises that figure to $42,025. Buyers who step up to the IS 350 F-Sport will need to pay $43,925 if they want power sent to the rear axle, or $45,925 if they want it channeled to the four wheels. Our AWD IS 350 F Sport checked in at $56,650 with pretty much every option box ticked.