The 2021 Lexus IS Gets a New Design, More Rigidity, and Better Handling

Brian Silvestro
·4 min read
Photo credit: Lexus
Photo credit: Lexus

From Road & Track

After numerous teasers and delays, Lexus has finally unveiled its 2021 IS sedan. Set to compete against cars like the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Audi A4, it's been given some striking new looks, the latest tech, and a host of chassis upgrades to remain relevant in a market where crossovers dominate.

The 2021 IS shares its basic platform with the outgoing model, but it has reinforcements in key areas. It has upgrades in its radiator side supports, C-pillar section, and front side-member points, that make it more rigid than before, reducing unwanted vibrations and improving things like comfort and performance. The suspension has been reworked as well, with 20 percent lighter coil springs, forged aluminum A arms, and upgraded anti-roll bars. And that's not all. From the release:

Engineers equipped the IS with new swing-valve shock absorbers equipped with ultra-low velocity valves in their pistons to manage oil flow in response to the most minor of road irregularities. Even when the stroke speed of the shock absorbers is low, the new velocity valves provide excellent responsiveness to apply appropriate damping force on all varieties of road surfaces. The result is consistently even ride quality. New bound stoppers are also employed to help manage the sprung weight more effectively for enhanced ride comfort.

Engine-wise, not much has changed for the 2021 IS. There are two trims available: a base IS 300 with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four making 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, making used of the Otto and Atkinson combustion cycles, as well as things like variable valve timing. It's available exclusively in rear-wheel-drive form, getting power to the road via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The IS 300 is also available with all-wheel drive, though strangely, it comes with a different drivetrain: a 3.5-liter V-6 making 260 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, connected to a six-speed automatic. According to Lexus, it has a 30:70 torque split front to rear in normal conditions, with the ability to send up to 50 percent to the front wheels depending on traction available.

The trim we're most interested in, though, is the IS 350. It comes with a 3.5-liter V-6 making 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, equipped with an eight-speed auto if you choose the rear-wheel-drive variant, or a six-speed torque converter if you go for AWD. Because of the differences in transmission, the rear-drive car is actually a tenth of a second quicker to 60 mph, able to achieve the sprint in just 5.6 seconds, according to Lexus.

Those with sporty intentions will be pleased to know Lexus will continue to offer an F Sport trim for the IS 350, which includes things like 19-inch wheels, unique cosmetic upgrades, a cold air intake, upgraded interior trims, and a specific exhaust setup. Additionally, F Sport buyers can also option a Dynamic Handling Package, which includes an adaptive variable suspension, lighter forged BBS alloy wheels painted in black, a handful of carbon fiber trim pieces, and, if you get your F Sport in rear-wheel-drive, a Torsen limited-slip differential.

Inside, buyers are greeted to a new eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard, or 10.3 inches if you option navigation. Things like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa integration are standard, though sadly, it seems as if Lexus has decided to stick with its woefully user-unfriendly touchpad menu navigation system. As with pretty much every new luxury car out today, there are a wide range of active and passive safety systems onboard to keep you on the road.

Pricing has yet to be released, though expect the 2021 IS to start in the $40,000 range. First deliveries are expected to start later in the year.

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