2021 Lexus IS 300 review: Still so close to greatness

Victoria D. Doty

The IS three hundred is 1 desirable sedan. Steven Ewing/Roadshow Regardless of the company’s aim on crossovers and SUVs, Lexus does continue to make activity sedans. Bypass the brand’s family-haulers and you can obtain the compact IS, a sweetly styled 4-door that’s been seriously refreshed for 2021. Like Responsive chassis […]

The IS three hundred is 1 desirable sedan.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Regardless of the company’s aim on crossovers and SUVs, Lexus does continue to make activity sedans. Bypass the brand’s family-haulers and you can obtain the compact IS, a sweetly styled 4-door that’s been seriously refreshed for 2021.


  • Responsive chassis
  • Extremely peaceful cabin
  • Racy appears

Will not Like

  • Infotainment continues to be lackluster
  • No interior storage
  • Growing old transmission stymies efficiency

I say “seriously refreshed” since, while the IS’ underpinnings and motor possibilities are primarily the similar as in advance of, the sheetmetal will get a fantastic makeover. In limited, the IS appears awesome. The Grecian Water blue of my IS three hundred tester is stunning, and the redesigned spindle grille neatly tucks amongst the new headlights. I in no way thought I would close up liking Lexus’ massive grille, but it definitely performs on the IS. You can find a pleasant little kick towards the rear when you watch the motor vehicle in profile, which emphasizes the broader hips. The actuality that the LED operating lights span the width of the trunk support with that large stance, too.

The IS’ system may be the similar, but Lexus’ engineers produced a quantity of tweaks to the suspension factors and greater system rigidity for much better all round managing. It performs, too — the steering quickly responds to my inputs and is pleasant and large. This motor vehicle feels nimble in a way that previous IS versions haven’t.

What hasn’t altered are the powertrains, and this is also where by points get a little confusing. The foundation IS three hundred with rear-wheel drive works by using a two.-liter turbo I4 with 241 horsepower, 258 pound-toes of torque and an 8-velocity automatic transmission. The IS three hundred AWD — which is what I have in this article — will get a the natural way aspirated 3.five-liter V6 with 260 hp and 236 lb-ft, but downgrades to a six-velocity automatic transmission. Action up to the IS 350 and you can get a additional strong variation of the similar 3.five-liter V6 with 311 hp and 280 lb-ft. The IS 350 RWD has the 8-velocity automobile and the IS 350 AWD will get the six-velocity automobile. Bizarre, I know.

The six-velocity transmission in this IS three hundred AWD is very sluggish to react and would not definitely encourage sporty driving. I are not able to get the transmission to downshift while braking for a corner, even on the IS’ most aggressive Activity Additionally drive environment. Paddles on the steering wheel clear up that issue, but the shifts are hardly fast. The motor is solid and offers linear power shipping and delivery, and the chassis is definitely superior, too, but the transmission definitely stops the IS three hundred from currently being appropriately entertaining.

The 3.five-liter V6 is wonderful, but it is dragged down by an aged six-velocity automatic transmission.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Fuel financial state is not the IS 300’s solid match, with the all-wheel-drive variation only EPA-estimated to return 19 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg freeway and 22 mpg merged. Around the study course of a couple of times, I am averaging just in excess of 21 mpg. The turbocharged IS three hundred RWD, meanwhile, returns 21 mpg city, 31 mpg freeway and 25 mpg merged.

The IS three hundred is good for freeway cruising, with supportive seats, an extremely peaceful cabin and a reasonably sturdy suite of driving aids. The common adaptive cruise handle has comprehensive-velocity coverage, which is pleasant, but you are not able to combine it with lane-keeping assist for a lot easier freeway driving like you can in a BMW 3 Series or even a Mercedes-Benz CLA.

New for 2021, the IS can be optioned with a 10.3-inch color touchscreen operating the Lexus Enform infotainment method. The display is positioned closer to the driver than in the preceding IS, and the touch abilities are a godsend. Indeed, Lexus’ silly touchpad controller is continue to in this article, but I are not able to advise any person use it, primarily because it is so hard to run while driving. Lexus need to definitely just acquire it out.

The interior is nicely appointed, even if you will find a lack of storage house.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

While I am happy the consumer practical experience is much better, the Enform style and design alone continue to isn’t good. The menus and submenus are disorganized and tough to perform as a result of, however, luckily, Apple CarPlay and Android Car are common. On top of that, the backup digital camera is terrible — it would not fill the comprehensive exhibit and it is fish-eyed, blurry and distorted. Backup cameras have been common basic safety prerequisites for yrs now inadequate resolution is unacceptable. You can get a panoramic-watch digital camera as an alternative, but it is $1,four hundred. Appear on.

I do not individually like my tester’s dark-tan-in excess of-black interior, however other Roadshow staffers disagree (to each and every their personal). You can get a pleasant pink-in excess of-black alternative, and that’s way additional my model. All the cabin supplies glimpse and sense good, but there isn’t a great deal in the way of interior storage. You can find room for a drinking water bottle and it’s possible a tiny tablet in the door pockets, but there isn’t definitely any area to place your cell phone. You can find no wi-fi charging pad accessible, possibly.

The IS three hundred is a superior motor vehicle, but its competitors are much better.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The 2021 Lexus IS three hundred starts at $forty,025 like $1,025 for place, and my perfectly-outfitted tester will come out to $forty seven,975. If you do not have to have the included traction of all-wheel drive, I say adhere with the RWD IS three hundred or update to the RWD IS 350, simply since of the additional fashionable 8-velocity transmission.

Sad to say, the Lexus IS three hundred competes from a bunch of definitely good possibilities. The BMW 3 Series is the most noticeable competitor, and the 330i is additional productive and has much better tech. I’ll also say that I like, like, like the Kia Stinger, which appears awesome, is good to drive and is a authentic worth proposition, too — a twin-turbo V6 variation with AWD prices as a great deal as this loaded IS three hundred.

There are a large amount of explanations to like the 2021 IS. It appears good, the interior is comfortable and it is nicer to drive than in advance of. But put from its competitors, the IS — primarily the IS three hundred — continues to tumble limited. Right until the powertrains and tech get a authentic update, the IS will constantly be 1 move powering.

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