The Lexus IS has made a tremendous leap in recent years, cementing itself as a luxury car coupled with Japanese reliability. For 2021, Lexus gave the IS a new look and interior. However, it isn’t an all-new vehicle, given that it carries over the same chassis, engine, and transmissions from the previous generation. Motor1 recently tested the 2021 Lexus IS and found that it is severely underpowered despite being stunning to look at and fairly comfortable.
What does the Lexus IS get right?
On the surface, there is a lot to like about the Lexus IS. According to Motor1, the new aesthetic is a major plus. Upfront, the new IS gets redesigned headlights that are both slimmer and sharper than the previous generation. The taillights look sleek as well, featuring the notorious Lexus “L” shape with a lightbar stretching across the rear trunk.
Motor1 notes that the side profile is a massive improvement given the greater definition in the door panels. The main new design element begins at the bottom of the driver’s door and carries through to the rear fender, making it appear wider.
According to Motor1, the interior gets a major upgrade as well, with incredibly comfortable seats. Motor1 also claims that having the 10.3-inch touchscreen on top of the dash rather than embedded in it also makes the cabin look upscale. Interior quality was also noted as being excellent.
In terms of safety, the 2021 Lexus IS comes loaded with standard features. According to Motor1, the IS now gets standard safety features such as emergency braking with pedestrian detection, road-sign assist, and adaptive cruise control, to name a few. The result is that you don’t have to splurge on the highest trim IS to get excellent safety equipment.
Great looks with lackluster performance
While the Lexus IS’ looks, comfort, and safety impress, its engines are a major letdown. According to Motor1, the IS feels underpowered and borderline slow for a V6. Despite having a decent amount of power, the transmission can’t seem to make proper use of it.
Powering the 2021 IS is a choice of two engines. The first is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder developing 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The second is a 3.5-liter V6 developing 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is available as an optional extra. According to Lexus, the cars equipped with AWD get a six-speed automatic transmission while the RWD models benefit from an eight-speed automatic. It is important to note that Motor1 tested a Lexus IS 350 F-Sport with the V6 engine and all-wheel drive.
According to Motor1, there are two main reasons why the IS feels so slow. The first is the automatic transmission, which didn’t seem to kick the engine high enough in the RPMs to make any real power. The V6 generates peak power quite high in the rev range, meaning it needs to be floored to get the best out of it. According to Motor1, some turbo four-cylinder competitors such as the BMW 330i xDrive are quicker to 60 mph.
The second major drawback is the Lexus IS’ weight. According to Motor1, the all-wheel-drive variant it tested weighed around 3,880 pounds before options. That is a significant amount of weight to move around, even with a 311-hp V6.
How much does it cost?
Despite its lackluster performance, the Lexus IS remains a great value option, especially compared to other luxury competitors. The IS has a base price of $39,000, but keep in mind a mandatory delivery, processing, and handling fee of $1,025 for all trim levels.
The sporty F-Sport trim level is reserved exclusively for the IS 350 and its $42,900 starting price. Oddly enough, all of the 350 trim levels are sold exclusively with the F-Sport package.
Fully optioned out, an IS 350 F-Sport with AWD costs a hair over $56,000. While it can definitely be quite pricey, standard features and good looks across the board mean you don’t need to spend the most to get the best of the Lexus IS.