Outdated 2021 Lexus IS300 Powertrain Holds Back a Stylish Sedan

While Lexus and Toyota have a great brand image, some of their methods can be questionable. For example, Toyota hasn’t given the 4Runner any significant changes in a long time, and that has helped it stay as reliable as it is. Similarly, the 2021 Lexus IS300 doesn’t have many significant changes under the hood, and that’s holding it back.

7 years of the same generation of the Lexus IS

For better or worse, Lexus has yet to give the IS a major update. According to MotorTrend, the current 2021 IS has been stuck in its generation for seven years. Most automakers will give their cars a major update at around the four or five year mark, but Lexus hasn’t done that for the IS just yet. As a result, parts of the 2021 IS has started to show their age. 

For example, MotorTrend wrote that, not only does the IS have some “outdated portions” in its interior, but what’s truly outdated is what’s under the hood. That’s because, as far as non-hybrid trims go, the IS currently has two options. The first is the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, and the other is a 3.5-liter V6. In fact, MotorTrend wrote that some of the IS’s engines have been around since the late 2000s. 

The 2021 Lexus IS300’s performance

A red Toyota Motor Corp. Lexus IS300 sedan at a Lexus dealership in Tokyo, Japan
The 2021 Lexus IS300 | Toru Hanai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Although the Lexus IS300 AWD has the same 3.5-liter V6 as the IS350 does, Lexus, for some reason, decided to give the IS300 AWD significantly fewer horsepower. The 350’s V6 gets 311 hp and 280 lb-ft, according to MotorTrend, while the 300’s V6 gets 260 hp and 236 lb-ft. MotorTrend said that Lexus tuned down the IS300’s V6 so that its numbers matched the standard IS’ specs, but as it turned out, that went wrong.

Despite having a tuned down V6, the IS300 AWD still accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in 5.7 seconds. This acceleration time is actually 0.1 seconds slower than the 2021 IS350 F Sport’s 0 to 60 MPH time, according to MotorTrend.

In any case, the IS300’s competitors will also have a slightly better acceleration time than the Lexus will. That isn’t too surprising, since the IS300’s competition will typically have a more modern powertrain.

While the IS300’s engine is relatively old, Lexus is giving customers a new option. Like MotorTrend wrote, there will soon be a 5.0-liter V8 option for the IS, and it’ll be available on the IS500. Despite that, the IS300’s powertrain is still holding back the car, which received some interior upgrades for the 2021 model year.

A look at the 2021 Lexus IS300’s style updates

One of the more significant changes that Lexus has done to the IS for the 2021 model year happened in its interior. The 2020 IS, like many other Lexus cars, didn’t have smart features such as Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatibility, and nor did it have a touchscreen. The 2021 IS, on the other hand, does have all of those things.

The 2021 IS now has an 8-inch touchscreen display as standard, and like MotorTrend wrote, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are compatible as well. Customers also have the choice of upgrading their touchscreen to a 10.3-inch display instead. That being said, while this is a significant, stylish upgrade for the IS, it’s still not exactly a high-tech car, and its age still shows. For example, according to MotorTrend, wireless charging isn’t available right now.

What also hasn’t changed is the IS300’s driveline hump. This hump will simply make the IS a less comfortable car for taller folks to drive in. In any case, the IS300 RWD starts at about $42,000, and while it may be outdated, it is more stylish now.

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