2021 Lexus IS first drive review: Sufficiently satisfying – Roadshow

In full-on F Sport Dynamic Dealing with Bundle guise, the 2021 IS appears to be like downright imply.


Time and a spotlight can revive a automotive that maybe by no means actually rose above the extent of underwhelming. The Lexus IS at all times felt like an also-ran that by no means acquired the eye it might have deserved. Now, there is a new (OK, facelifted) IS for 2021, and after a while behind the wheel, I feel this compact luxurious sedan is prepared for reconsideration.

A extra cohesive look

The outgoing Lexus IS has largely the identical design as when it debuted in early 2013, and boy, was that look getting previous. Different Lexus fashions got here, adopted comparable items of the design language and made them higher whereas the IS simply kinda… frolicked. A serious freshening for the 2021 mannequin 12 months offers the IS a extra cohesive and up to date look. Pre-’21 parts are nonetheless there, just like the checkmark-style working lights, however now they’re built-in right into a single-piece headlight that appears fairly slick — and sure, you possibly can nonetheless see the DRLs from a mile down the street.

The rear finish went via a fairly dramatic shift, too. Gone are the melting taillights of yore that virtually stretched to the asphalt. The brand new taillights higher combine with the all-new bodywork, mixing into character strains extra seamlessly. F Sport fashions like my tester get extra aggressive bumpers and bigger 19-inch alloy wheels, and an non-compulsory Dynamic Dealing with Bundle ramps that up even additional with BBS wheels and a carbon fiber rear spoiler. Each F Sport getups look fairly swell, so you will not miss out on too a lot for those who do not wish to spring for the efficiency pack ($4,200 with rear-wheel drive, $3,800 with AWD).

Solely the eagle-eyed amongst you’ll choose up on the adjustments inside. There are some new round vents and a redesigned heart console, in addition to a brand new display slapped atop the dashboard. I’ve to dig just a little deeper to seek out different adjustments, however as with the earlier generations, I just like the IS’ distinctive design. There’s some intelligent markings within the leather-based on the door panels, which in my tester are painted in an obscenely sporty shade of pink. It isn’t for me, however I do respect Lexus’ use of daring inside colours.

From a livability perspective, the IS’ innards are just a little tight, however they’re good total. The entrance seats are supportive and supply enough space and visibility, whereas the again seats are spacious sufficient for 6-foot passengers, however solely barely. The door panel cubbies supply up quantity of storage, however the massive heart tunnel means there is not a lot area on supply beneath the armrest.

A extra cohesive driving expertise

Since that is extra of a complete refresh than something, it isn’t essentially a shock that Lexus carried the powertrains over unchanged. Base rear-wheel-drive fashions make do with a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with 241 horsepower, and including all-wheel drive additionally provides a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 with 260 hp. I am packing essentially the most potent powertrain in my IS 350 AWD tester, which turns the V6’s wick as much as 311 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque.

A naturally aspirated V6 sounds a bit anachronistic in 2020, and it’s. The sound is good, and energy supply is linear, however a torque peak of 4,800 rpm means there’s quite a lot of time spent ready for ahead movement to build up, and it by no means actually feels peppy regardless of all that energy. Additional dragging out the expertise is an antiquated six-speed computerized transmission (eight-speeds are customary on RWD fashions). The ol’ slushbox does a very good job holding gears in sportier drive modes, however the truth that it is one tenth slower to 60 mph than the RWD IS 350 leads me to consider that Lexus treats AWD IS variants extra like automobiles born of a necessity for bad-weather peace of thoughts quite than further efficiency. 

The cabin hasn’t modified a lot, however what’s new could be very a lot appreciated — particularly the touchscreen.


Whereas older IS fashions left me feeling tepid after a brisk drive, I feel Lexus is lastly hitting its stride with the 2021 mannequin. Engineers elevated physique rigidity, diminished unsprung weight and changed suspension elements in an effort to improve the automotive’s agility, and so they nailed it. The steering is extra responsive and the physique feels a lot nearer to that of Lexus’ European counterparts when the going will get twisty. But, the IS nonetheless performs very properly on the freeway, with my tester’s adaptive suspension absorbing practically each unhealthy little bit of street and returning subsequent to no noise. Sport is my most well-liked drive mode, because it retains only a smidge of physique roll to maintain issues extra fascinating at decrease speeds, however swapping to Sport S Plus flattens all the things out within the identify of hugging the concrete. It doesn’t matter what the suspension’s doing, I’m having extra enjoyable (and experiencing a greater trip) than I’ve in any IS that got here earlier than.

It is price noting that my expertise will not be 100% the identical as yours, pricey shopper. My tester is a prototype, so it’s kind of of a Frankenstein. Sport S Plus mode and the adjustable suspension are solely accessible with the Dynamic Dealing with Bundle, however this silver sedan lacks the inside trim, lighter BBS wheels and carbon fiber exterior add-ons which are additionally mandated. This ought to imply {that a} correctly kitted IS will deal with even higher than mine right here, given a lower in unsprung mass, however who’s to say for certain.

Forgettable tech

Simply in case you thought it was all excellent news, do not fret, as a result of the 2021 Lexus IS sticks with the identical terrible infotainment system it is had for years. The display is positioned nearer to the driving force and picks up honest-to-goodness contact capabilities, thank god, however there’s nonetheless a trackpad-style manipulator on the middle console, and it stays as janky and unintuitive to make use of because it’s at all times been. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are each on supply, which is one other pinprick of sunshine shining via the darkness, however I want Lexus would spend the cash to try iDrive and MBUX and see what the Germans are doing so a lot better.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the perfect methods to overlook about Lexus’ personal system solely… till you need to dig into the menus to alter stuff.


When it comes time to cost, there are two USB-A ports beneath the middle armrest, and… that is it. If you’d like ports for the rear seats, both carry an obscenely lengthy cable or choose a unique automotive.

Security programs are all over the place within the 2021 Lexus IS. All variants include ahead collision warning, computerized emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, radar-based adaptive cruise management, lane-keeping help and lane-departure warning. The adaptive cruise is good and clean, and I like that it now accelerates once I sign for a lane change, however the lane-keeping support is bizarre. It appears to assume the driving force’s place needs to be in the midst of the lane, so the passenger aspect tends to hold too near the dashed white line for my style, and convincing the automotive to deviate from that place takes a stunning quantity of acutely aware steering effort. It is a type of uncommon programs that’s price turning off and warding off.

All the way down to brass tacks

The 2021 Lexus IS has some work to do. Its German opponents — the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class — supply up compelling driving dynamics and a number of the newest and best tech. Heck, even the Individuals are stepping their recreation up as Cadillac reinvents its portfolio. It’s going to be an uphill battle for this compact Japanese luxurious sedan, however with newfound dealing with prowess and aesthetics, the struggle is nearer than it has been in years.

#Lexus #drive #assessment #Sufficiently #satisfying #Roadshow


Andrew Krok