The Lexus IS has done more than be redesigned. It serves as the nexus of sport and performance, inspiring Lexus to not just build a new sedan, but also a race track to test it on.
Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama is a new test facility for the Japanese automaker. It is an asphalt track that tests even the most expert driver, allowing research and development teams to hone a vehicle’s chassis and interaction with control surfaces. Toyota’s chief engineer has been tasked with “elevating the vehicles to a new standard of performance and handling” with the ultimate goal of delivering “a new generation of Lexus vehicles that is more balanced, refined in control, and confident than ever before.”
The IS has a large grille, just like the ES before it.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.
Toyota says that this is more than just a vision. It’s an evolution that uses what has been learned by the company through the design of the F brand variants of their vehicles and applies it to the future to help push the envelope.
With its redesign, Lexus has taken the edge off the exterior of the IS like putting a soft filter on a photo, but still manages to beef it up. The model is longer, wider, and taller than it was before with a more athletic stance. The grille is large and in charge up front. Traditional models get a three-dimensional polyhedral structure while F Sport cars have block forms that make a mesh pattern and a grille-bottom air intake.
Slender headlamps flank the grille with a new L-shaped signature. Triple-beam LED headlights are available. Side mirrors are clearly influenced by the design of the Lexus LC.
At the back, the car’s rear deck has been lowered for the new generation and a blade-style light bar extends across the entire rear of the model.
The car has a bit smoother of an appearance than its predecessor.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.
Lexus will offer the car in five new exterior colors: Cloudburst Gray, Matador Red Mica, Infrared, Grecian Water, and Iridium. They join Ultra white, Eminent White Pearl, Atomic Silver, Caviar, and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 as paint options. Infrared and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 are only available on the F Sport version of the car.
The new, rear-wheel drive IS is more rigid than before and had a weight reduction for this generation. It features coil springs that are 20 percent lighter and A-arms that are made of forged aluminum instead of steel that are 18 percent lighter. The stabilizer bar is 17 percent lighter thanks to a materials change as well.
It rides on standard 18-inch wheels while F Sport grades get the buyer’s choice between two different 19-inch varieties. All-wheel drive is available.
The taillights now consist of a longitudinally stretched LED strip across the rear of the car.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.
In addition to the unique wheels, F Sport models get a unique front bumper, rocker molding, cool air vintage with sound generator, unique exhaust and diffuser, carbon fiber rear spoiler, carbon fiber side mirror caps, and F Sport badging.
Lexus will sell the model in five variants: IS 300, IS 300 AWD, IS 350, IS 350 AWD, and IS 350 F Sport.
The base model IS 300 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated to deliver 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The IS 300 AWD gets down the road thanks to a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 236 pound-feet of torque. With all-wheel drive, the model drives 30 percent of its power to the front and 70 percent to the back under dry road conditions. Up to 50 precent of the car’s power can go to the front wheels when conditions require it. The engine is mated to a six sped automatic.
IS 350, IS 350 AWD, and IS 350 F Sport variants have a 311-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine under the hood. It achieves 280 pound-feet of torque. The IS 350 and IS 350 F Sport have an eight-speed automatic transmission while the IS 350 AWD has a six-speed automatic.
The car now rides on standard 18-inch wheels. Nineteen-inch are available.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.
Lexus has given the IS F Sport a Torsen limited slip differential. Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport+, and Custom drive modes are available depending on trim level.
The seats of the IS are covered in NuLuxe trimmed upholstery in the buyer’s choice of Black, Glazed Caramel, or Roja Red. The driver has a 10-way power-adjustable seat while the passenger’s is 8-way power-adjustable. Dual-zone climate control, push-button start, an 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa.
The Lexus track pad remains.
Available features include a power moonroof, 10.3-inch infotainment touch screen and navigation. The car is also available with a Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System that includes 17 speakers and 1,800 watts of sound. That’s two speakers more than the 2020 IS has and more than double the watts.
The cabin of the IS is still wholly recognizable as being from Lexus DNA.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.
Inside the cabin, F Sport modes get standard heated and ventilated sport seats (available in a new Circuit Red color). They feature two-way power-adjustable lumbar support and four-way headrest adjustment. F-Sport models also have a unique accelerator and brake pedal, and footrest as well as a console kneepad with contrast stitching and a Lexus card key.
Each new Lexus IS comes standard with Lexus Safety System+ 2.5, which includes a forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, bicyclist detection, adaptive cruise control (above 30 mph), lane departure alert, lane trace assist, intelligent high beams, road sign assist, blind spot monitor, and rear cross traffic alert.
The car’s adaptive cruise control system, called All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, includes a new feature. From Lexus:
“DRCC also includes a new feature that allows for smooth overtaking of slower vehicles. If traveling behind a vehicle traveling slower than the preset speed, once the driver engages the turn signal the system will provide an initial increase in acceleration in preparation for changing lanes; after changing lanes, the vehicle will continue acceleration until it reaches the original preset driving speed.”
The 2021 Lexus IS will arrive at dealerships this autumn and will be available for sale in approximately 40 counties around the world.