2021 Lexus IS Arrives With Improved Tech And Driving Dynamics

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Lexus says that the updated IS is more communicative than before.

Last week, Lexus confirmed that the significantly revised IS would break cover today, almost a week after originally scheduled, and here it is. Although the 2021 Lexus IS is often touted as a new model, it's more of a comprehensive facelift but couldn't have come sooner, as the IS faces stiff competition from newer rivals like the BMW 3 Series. But the new car's freshened styling, improved tech, and claims of a more engaging driving experience should bring it back into contention.

As previous spy photos have shown, the latest IS gains a more distinctive design, with the L-shaped blade-style light bar at the back being one of the bigger stylistic changes. The rest of the car hasn't been untouched, though, as there are new slim headlamps and a different take on the spindle grille. The bolder F Sport has its own mesh treatment for the grille, along with unique paint colors such as Infrared.

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Lexus
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Although the Lexus driving experience is often typified by top-notch comfort and refinement, the brand's new Lexus Driving Signature philosophy aims to change this single-minded approach. "What we had foremost in mind in developing the new IS was to make it a car that excelled in communicating with the driver regardless of the road conditions or driving situation," explained Chief Engineer Naoki Kobayashi.

As a result, the latest IS underwent hours of testing at the recently opened Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama. Body rigidity was enhanced, bigger 19-inch wheels are offered to increase cornering force, and unsprung weight was reduced. The latest car's coil springs, for instance, are 20 percent lighter than before.

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Lexus
Lexus

The engine updates are not as comprehensive as once rumored, with an updated 2.0-liter turbo-four in the IS 300 still making the same 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque as before. Both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are offered, with the mid-range IS 300 AWD using a 3.5-liter V6 with 260 hp and 236 lb-ft.

The IS 350 and IS 350 F Sport (an IS 300 F Sport is no longer offered) use a 3.5-liter V6 with 311 hp and 280 lb-ft, with the RWD model managing a 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds. All RWD versions use an eight-speed automatic, while the AWDs get a six-speed auto.

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Lexus
Lexus
Lexus

In the cabin, the default eight-inch touchscreen is mounted three inches close to the driver, and should hopefully be easier to use than Lexus' poor current system. A new 10.3-inch screen is available, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are equipped as well.

The interior remains as stylish as ever, and in the F Sport, flamboyant new trim with a graphic pattern adorns the door panels. The Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 has been improved, too; for instance, the pre-collision system can now detect not only a vehicle ahead, but also a preceding cyclist or pedestrian.

We expect pricing to be similar to the current IS when the facelifted version arrives at dealerships in late fall of this year.

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