Sedans & Coupes

The 2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport Is a Beautiful Disappointment

Sports cars are a strange and somewhat general category that really doesn’t mean all that much. Is a Jeep Wrangler a sports car? Is a Tesla Model S a sports car? It’s not as cut and dry as you might think. I don’t know that I am willing to call the 2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport a sports car. I believe Lexus might think so. I mean, hell, it’s got ‘Sport” in the name! I believe sports cars are more a feeling or attitude than a strict category, and based on that, the Lexus IS350 F Sport doesn’t cut it. It may be sporty, sleek, pretty, and even have a growly motor at times, but ultimately, it’s a disappointment. 

Is the 2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport a good car?

Sure. Look, Lexus makes good cars. It’s kind of like if Toyota was regularly updating its cars, but not like, too much. For instance, the Lexus still has a CD player in it. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I am saying it’s not super up to date. Ok. On to more important things.

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport parked in the mountains
2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport parked in the mountains | Peter Corn

I have been driving the IS350 around the mountains all week. I can say I really look forward to driving it. Even more than that, I enjoy walking up to it. It really is a striking car that gives you a sense of pride to be seen getting in and out of it. It is very beautiful. Some aspects are a little disappointing, though.

The IS350 F Sport has a V6 that feels like an Inline-four

I try not to look up too much stuff before I drive anything to drive the car with a fresh, blank slate. I would have sworn the Lexus had a little four-cylinder, the cute little growl of the engine, the determined but still slow acceleration, and the fuel consumption all seem like a little 2.0-liter or something. Wrong. A 311-hp, 3.5-liter V6. Huh? How can it be this slow and have that much power and motor? 

2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport parked in the mountains
2021 Lexus IS350 F Sport parked in the mountains | Peter Corn

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It’s not that it’s slow; it’s just that it has no snap. If the revs are up, the power is there for you, but there is no bottom end. This is extra pronounced on steep, hard corner mountain roads. I found myself feeling invigorated and my heart pounding ripping long fast corners, which it did with ease. However, these sharp corners would come, and I would have to be hard on the brakes, get through the corner, and then flat-foot the exit only to be met with a sluggish downshift followed by a sloppy and buzz-killing trickle of power. It is truly maddening to go from fun and exhilaration to a slack-jawed plop of acceleration. 

The interior of the Lexus is another story

Although some aspects of the IS350 F Sport are a little dated, the cockpit’s seats and the overall feel are more fighter pilot than a grocery getter. The seats are low-slung and aggressive. As a man who is 6’5, a low driving position gives me a lot of confidence because I can feel apart of the car as opposed to feeling on top of it. The chairs are good, but the chassis is really nice. 

snowy back road in the Blue Ridge Mountains
snowy back road in the Blue Ridge Mountains | Peter Corn

I spent a couple of hours going down a snowy dirt road when I learned how tight the RWD system was. A quick pause to the traction control gives the Lexus plenty of leash to step out a bit, and step out it will. Even at 15-20 mph, the IS350 F Sport is a blast to get sideways. As soon as you are done or lose your confidence as a drifter, the Lexus is quick to correct your mistakes and set you back right. 

I want to love it

The Lexus IS350 F Sport is cool but ultimately not worth it. 
As much fun as it was in the snow, it really isn’t the sports car I feel it could be. As tested, the IS350 F Sport costs $55,200, according to Car and Driver. However, the base-model is only $43,925, over $2k less than the previous model.

If you think about what else you can do with $55k, the Lexus starts to lose the few shiny parts it does have. I’ll say it again; it is a great-looking car, that in the right circumstances, is a bucket of fun, but the whole package is ultimately disappointing compared to the rest of the market.