Lexus adds sophistication to 2021 IS compact luxury sedan
When buyers shop for a Lexus, they're looking for a particular combination of luxury, comfort, build quality, reliability, and performance. Lexus understands this and has invested heavily in creating and refining what the company calls the "Lexus Driving Signature." Lexus defines this holistic experience as being "more balanced, refined in control, and more confident than ever before."
The 2021 Lexus IS has been the beneficiary of this work, which Lexus says will be consistent across their entire product line. The result is that this next-generation Lexus is more sophisticated than the IS compact sedans of the past. That will be a plus for most Lexus buyers, except for those who valued the IS as the affordable bad boy of the Lexus line. The new IS refines the sports car attitude that the IS used to have.
The new IS is altogether more civilized, but just as quick as its predecessors. With the base 2.0-liter turbo engine, the IS will hit 60 MPH in 6.9 seconds, on its way to a governed top speed of 143 MPH. You can cut that down as low as 5.6 seconds if you buy the optional V6 (311 hp/280 lb-ft) included with the IS 350 and in the IS 300 AWD. All IS models come with an automatic transmission. You get eight speeds with rear-wheel-drive, and six speeds with all-wheel-drive.
For Portland winters, we really recommend spending the extra $2,000 to get the all-wheel-drive package. You get the V6 and the enhanced traction and stability, so it's a win-win for a small additional cost.
Inside, the new IS continues to reflect Lexus' legendary standards of comfort and quality. The seats are wonderfully comfortable and the entire car reflects the Japanese emphasis on ergonomics. Controls fall easily to hand, and visibility is excellent. The standard touchscreen infotainment system measures 8.3 inches, and a larger 10.3-inch screen is available. Lexus also moved the screens almost 6 inches closer to the driver for easy access.
One more thing: this sedan is quiet inside, not just for a compact but by any standard. Part of Lexus' development program has been to improve the entire chassis and body structure, and it shows. The extremely pleasant passenger cell makes it worthwhile to spend the extra $1,080 on the 17-speaker, 1800-watt Mark Levinson Audio upgrade package, especially if you spend significant time in your car.
A complete suite of active safety and driver assistance features is also included as standard equipment on the 2021 IS line. Adaptive cruise control, steering assistance, blind spot monitoring and automatic high beams stand out, but every safety feature known to the industry is included.
On the road, the extensive engineering work done on the IS all comes together. If you want to pull out and pass in the mountains, you've got that capability. The ride is smooth and confident. You'll hear bumps in the road more than you feel them. The steering is precise and responsive without any tendency to dart the car around. While the IS handles and parks like a compact, it rides the highway like a bigger car.
The bottom line on the 2021 Lexus IS is this: If you want the experience of a larger Lexus sedan in a quick compact package, this car simply must be on your test-drive list. You can compare it to the new Mercedes-Benz A-class, BMW 2-Series, or the Acura ILX.
2021 Lexus IS 300 RWD
Base price: $39,000
Price as tested: $45,975
Type: Compact sedan
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (241 hp, 258 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 21/31
Overall length: 185.43 inches
Curb weight: 3,715 pounds
Final assembly: Kyushu, Japan
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