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2021 Lexus IS revealed: New look for luxury sedan, but a lot hasn't changed

June 16, 2020

The 2021 Lexus IS luxury compact sedan will begin a new decade sporting much of the same hardware as it had in the last decade.

The small four-door car that was unveiled Monday sports a new body and new look, but under the hood is most of the same hardware found in 2020 versions. When it goes on sale later this year, it will be available in three powertrain configurations: IS300, IS300 AWD, and IS350. Lexus didn't say how much the car would cost when it goes on sale but it's not likely to stray far from the $39,585 ask for a base 2020 version. 

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

The most noticeable changes to the IS are at the front and rear, where Lexus has shaped a new nose and tail for its small sedan. The sedan is about an inch longer and wider than its predecessor, although its wheelbase is the same. The familiar pinched Lexus grille has been revised and is now slightly lower under the hood of the IS. That grille is bookended by new headlights for the 2021 Lexus IS that feature integrated boomerang LED daytime running lights. Those lights sit above vertical strakes that point toward the ground, visually lowering the IS toward the corners and ground, although the car is slightly taller than the outgoing version.

Along the body sides, the IS is still lightly sculpted with small hockey stick-shaped bends toward the bottom of the doors.

Around back, a wide strip of LED lights spans the tail and is nestled beneath a tall decklid and a few angled surfaces. In early photos, the rear bumper appears larger than before with a large black sill between the exhausts.

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

Under the hood, the IS uses a familiar trio of powertrains that appeared in the outgoing model. The IS300 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 241 horsepower and drives the rear wheels only via an 8-speed automatic. The IS300 AWD (all-wheel drive) subs in a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 260 hp and a 6-speed automatic. The top of the IS performance pyramid for now is the IS350 that uses a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 311 hp and drives the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic or all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic. Lexus estimates that the IS350 with rear-wheel drive will take 5.6 seconds to sprint from 0-60 mph.

The F Sport package is limited to the IS350 this year and adds sportier accents and available performance hardware such as adaptive dampers and a rear limited-slip differential (only on rear-wheel-drive models).

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport

Inside, the IS is nearly identical with the model it's replacing. The driver gets a digital instrument cluster, borrowed from the LFA supercar, and the IS is equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A 10.3-inch version is an option. The center stack and console are largely the same as the 2020 version, including a maligned touchpad controller for the infotainment system. As a potential remedy, Lexus said it moved the touchscreen and dash roughly 3 inches closer to the driver, presumably making it easier to use the screen than the pad.

The new Lexus IS will go on sale in late fall 2020.

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