One week with: Lexus IS 350 F Sport 2021
Need a compact luxury sport sedan? You have a range of enticing options including the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Genesis G70, Alfa Romeo Giulia, and Cadillac CT4.
And then you have the Lexus IS, which was last redesigned for the 2014 model year, and received another pinch for 2021 to keep it competitive. Yes, it overtakes its American, Italian and Korean competitors, but the Lexus still lags behind its German antagonists. Is this makeover enough for it to impose itself in a class where German brands predominate?
The answer is no. While the SI receives a host of welcome updates for 2021, they don’t change his fundamental personality, although that’s not a bad thing, far from it. Offered in the IS 300 and IS 350 models, buyers have the choice of a rear wheel or all-wheel drive.
All models are equipped with a V-6 engine, with the exception of the base IS 300 rear-wheel drive. It is satisfied with two less cylinders. For 2021, for the first time, the athletic F Sport version will only be available on the IS 350. Lexus supplied a rear-wheel-drive IS 350 F Sport for this week-long test.
The new model’s design changes are subtle but effective. The grille is taller, the headlights thinner, and there are unique front and rear bumpers, rocker moldings, and updated side vents. The whole look is aggressive and perhaps the best iteration of Lexus’ aggressively angry, angular and lively design language – and perfectly suited.
There is nothing wise about this sedan, something that cannot be said about its visually quieter competition. It’s compact, but noisy. The 19-inch wheels and carbon fiber rear spoiler add the perfect touch. 18-inch wheels are standard on most models.
The optional Circuit Red F Sport (or faux) feathered seats on the test car were a classic contrast to the car’s silver exterior. The front seats are heated and ventilated as standard and come with a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. The special F Sport trim matches its personality so much that you are surprised that it is not offered in the entire range.
The interior is largely unchanged, and the overall look, fit, and finish are commensurate with the car’s starting price of $ 42,995, but feels a bit dated. F Sport seats keep you firmly in place without being extremely stiff.
The dashboard and console envelop you perfectly, although the head and leg room is good. The legroom in the rear seats is sufficient and depends on the kindness of those in the front. The trunk is an adequate 10.8 cubic feet, and clearly trimmed. There are no folding cargo hooks, and gooseneck trunk hinges rob the interior of what would otherwise be usable space.
The base IS 300 is equipped with an intercooled 4-cylinder engine that produces 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque through the rear wheels. The addition of all-wheel drive to your IS 350 comes with a 3.5-liter twin-overhead cam V6 that delivers 260 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. But the big dog on the block is the top-of-the-line IS 350. Its 3.5-liter twin-overhead cam V6 produces 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque and your choice of rear wheel or all – wheel drive. An 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is standard on all models except the all-wheel drive IS 350, it receives a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. All models require premium unleaded fuel.
Security and technology
Driver assistance safety systems include pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assistance, road sign assistance, lane keeping assistance, cruise control radar, automatic high beams and a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.
Technologically, the most welcome news is that compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is finally standard. An 8-inch touchscreen is standard, a 10.3-inch touchscreen is optional. Lexus’ infotainment user interface remains largely the same and is in dire need of an update in appearance and function. It lacks the simplicity and looks that one expects from a luxury drive. But at least you don’t have to use the car’s haptic touchpad anymore to get it to work.
In an age when absurd amounts of horsepower are now common on luxury vehicles and roads are clogged with slow traffic, the IS 350’s 311 horsepower seems sufficient. But the V-6 doesn’t sound that powerful in the rev band. Hit the throttle and it wakes up, but it shouldn’t be necessary given the IS 350’s place in the lineup.
Likewise, the 8-speed automatic is much more responsive when you manually operate the console-mounted shifter rather than using the slow-to-react paddles or leaving it on its own. For the energy hungry, most of these issues need to be addressed when the Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance 2022 model appears in the fall, powered by an atmospheric 472-horsepower V-8. However, only 500 will be produced.
The IS 350 F Sport has unique suspension tuning, which makes it a much more fun proposition than its fuller compatriots thanks to the test car’s optional dynamic management package with adaptive suspension and a slip differential. limit. This produces the handling you would expect in a sports sedan, but with the incredibly refined handling typical of a Lexus. It is a very easy car to drive quickly with a lack of body roll, crisp reflexes and precise linear steering. Its dynamics are exemplary.
And while the various drive modes are appreciated, including those unique to this trim level, would someone at Lexus rewrite the code so that it isn’t in Eco mode every time the car is started? It doesn’t help your street credibility, bubby.
While the 2021 Lexis IS 350 F Sport features welcome performance upgrades and a nicer exterior, the increasingly old-fashioned appearance of the interior remains unchanged. And while his performance is commendable, his competition is more dynamic than this angular athlete. While far from a bad choice in a compact luxury sports sedan, it is not at the top of the list.