Chicago Auto Show Blog

Getting to Know the 2021 Lexus IS

Posted by: Jennifer Morand

In a typical year, automotive manufacturers traditionally unveil their latest and greatest models surrounding or during an auto show. However, due to the current state, carmakers are forced to “pull the sheet” off of new vehicles virtually, whether that’s through YouTube, Zoom or during a World Series commercial. While these virtual announcements certainly offer the public a front-seat glimpse at the newest sheet metal to soon hit the street, one could argue that they still can’t replace the tangible experience that an auto show provides.
One of many virtual new-vehicle debuts to take place last summer was the worldwide introduction of the 2021 Lexus IS. With a lineage that spans more than 20 years in the U.S., the IS slots in just below the ES as an entry-level rear-wheel drive sports sedan. Today, the IS expands upon its rich history for the third generation and ties in the new Lexus Driving Signature, which Lexus says will be the new development standard that every model will reflect moving forward. The Lexus Driving Signature refers to the “seamless transition from deceleration to steering and acceleration during cornering, in all types of driving situations,” according to the brand. 
The 2021 IS is offered in two different trim levels: the IS 300 and the IS 350 F Sport (note: the IS 350 only comes as an F Sport). Let’s dive into the sports sedan’s three most enhanced categories. 
Dynamic Performance
With the goal in mind to develop the 2021 IS to offer high-quality riding comfort with high-level vehicle control, the IS was honed at Toyota’s Technical Center Shimoyama — a vehicle research and development facility in the Shimoyama area of Toyota City in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. The country-road test course is based on Nürburgring Nordschleife, notorious for its grueling driving conditions.
First, engineers aimed to enhance body rigidity that starts with the chassis and body structure. Lexus said it finally achieved acceptable levels of rigidity following “countless hours” of testing. The enhanced rigidity helps improve riding comfort, reduce unwanted cabin noise and vibration and provide better overall driving performance/enhanced steering.
The rear-wheel drive IS 300 features a 2.0-liter, turbocharged and intercooled inline four-cylinder engine. The 2.0-liter engine is updated for 2021 featuring an adaptive transmission control and delivers 241 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. 
While many think of the IS as only a rear-wheel drive vehicle, all-wheel drive is indeed an option for those who want it. The IS 300 AWD is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 260 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque. For those who desire even more power, the IS 350 is offered in either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive and is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 311 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque. 
New for the 2021 IS 300, standard 18-inch wheels replace the outgoing 17-inch wheels and, for the first time, 19-inch wheels are an option. The IS 350 F Sport comes standard with 19-inch graphite alloy wheels.
Aggressive Styling & Enhanced Interior
According to Lexus, the IS is “athletically inclined and designed.” With that in mind, the bold new exterior is wider, lower and more muscular with an aggressive planted stance. The roofline tapers quickly to the trunk, creating a coupe-like impression. A new signature grille also accentuates the vehicle’s sportiness.
The IS now features running daytime LED headlamps that are slimmer and more compact than even those found on the Lexus LC. The taillamps sport an “L” shape blade style and three-dimensional bumper garnishes add to its aggressive look.
Five new exterior colors are available on the 2021 IS including Iridium, Cloudburst Gray, Matador Red Mica, Infrared* (*only offered on F Sport model).
On the IS 350 F Sport, an exclusive “F” mesh pattern can be found along with other unique offerings like grille-bottom air intake, specialized 19-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and a more aggressive rear diffuser. 
The interior was updated to refine the sporty cabin which features standard NuLuxe-trimmed seating, 10-way power driver and 8-way power adjustable front passenger seats, a dual-zone automatic climate control system with touch-sensitive controls and an available power moonroof.
An 8-inch touchscreen comes standard and is now almost 5.5 inches closer to the driver for easier access to the controls. A large 10.3-inch touchscreen (nearly 6 inches closer to the driver than previous models) is available on vehicles equipped with navigation or Mark Levinson audio system. The new infotainment system also offers Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility as well as Amazon Alexa integration.
Latest in Lexus Tech Advancements 
The 2021 IS is the first Lexus to come standard with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.5. The most significant enhancement to the system is the pre-collision system, which includes frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking and pedestrian/bicyclist detection. The radar and camera capabilities were updated so the system helps detect both a vehicle ahead and a preceding bicyclist in both daytime and lower light conditions. 
Additional functions include emergency steering assist — supporting the driver and preventing the vehicle from leaving its lane — blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert. The IS comes standard with 10 air bags designed to meet new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) standards.
Lexus also offers the Lexus Enform Service Connect system, designed to provide vehicle alerts to owners and allow them to send factory recommended maintenance alerts to specified dealers. Additionally, the Lexus app allows owners to start their vehicle remotely, schedule service appointments and lock or unlock their doors right from their smartphone. 
Pricing for the IS 300 rear-wheel drive begins at $39,000 and $41,000 for the all-wheel drive model. The IS 350 F Sport rear-wheel drives starts at $42,900 and climbs to a starting price of $44,900 for the F Sport AWD. Both trims are expected to hit dealerships late this fall.   
For more on the 2021 Lexus IS 300 and IS 350 F Sport, click here. Tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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