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2021 Lexus IS 300 review: Still so close to greatness

The IS three hundred is one attractive sedan. Steven Ewing/Roadshow Regardless of the company’s concentration...

The IS three hundred is one attractive sedan.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Regardless of the company’s concentration on crossovers and SUVs, Lexus does still make activity sedans. Bypass the brand’s spouse and children-haulers and you may find the compact IS, a sweetly styled four-door that’s been seriously refreshed for 2021.


  • Responsive chassis
  • Extremely silent cabin
  • Racy appears to be like

Will not Like

  • Infotainment continues to be lackluster
  • No inside storage
  • Ageing transmission stymies functionality

I say “seriously refreshed” since, while the IS’ underpinnings and engine choices are primarily the exact same as right before, the sheetmetal gets a fantastic makeover. In short, the IS appears to be like brilliant. The Grecian Water blue of my IS three hundred tester is magnificent, and the redesigned spindle grille neatly tucks amongst the new headlights. I in no way considered I’d finish up liking Lexus’ substantial grille, but it truly operates on the IS. There is a good little kick toward the rear when you perspective the car in profile, which emphasizes the broader hips. The fact that the LED operating lights span the width of the trunk support with that huge stance, far too.

The IS’ platform may possibly be the exact same, but Lexus’ engineers made a selection of tweaks to the suspension elements and amplified system rigidity for far better overall managing. It operates, far too — the steering immediately responds to my inputs and is good and large. This car feels nimble in a way that earlier IS models have not.

What hasn’t transformed are the powertrains, and this is also where points get a little baffling. The foundation IS three hundred with rear-wheel generate utilizes a two.-liter turbo I4 with 241 horsepower, 258 pound-ft of torque and an 8-speed computerized transmission. The IS three hundred AWD — which is what I have in this article — gets a normally aspirated 3.five-liter V6 with 260 hp and 236 lb-ft, but downgrades to a 6-speed computerized transmission. Step up to the IS 350 and you may get a additional highly effective edition of the exact same 3.five-liter V6 with 311 hp and 280 lb-ft. The IS 350 RWD has the 8-speed vehicle and the IS 350 AWD gets the 6-speed vehicle. Odd, I know.

The 6-speed transmission in this IS three hundred AWD is pretty sluggish to reply and won’t truly persuade sporty driving. I won’t be able to get the transmission to downshift while braking for a corner, even on the IS’ most aggressive Sport Furthermore generate placing. Paddles on the steering wheel clear up that issue, but the shifts are barely fast. The engine is potent and provides linear electric power supply, and the chassis is truly great, far too, but the transmission truly helps prevent the IS three hundred from becoming thoroughly entertaining.

The 3.five-liter V6 is great, but it’s dragged down by an aged 6-speed computerized transmission.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Fuel financial state is not the IS 300’s potent suit, with the all-wheel-generate edition only EPA-believed to return 19 miles for each gallon in the metropolis, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. More than the system of a number of days, I am averaging just above 21 mpg. The turbocharged IS three hundred RWD, meanwhile, returns 21 mpg metropolis, 31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.

The IS three hundred is terrific for highway cruising, with supportive seats, an incredibly silent cabin and a reasonably robust suite of driving aids. The typical adaptive cruise handle has whole-speed coverage, which is good, but you won’t be able to incorporate it with lane-trying to keep guide for less complicated highway driving like you can in a BMW 3 Sequence or even a Mercedes-Benz CLA.

New for 2021, the IS can be optioned with a ten.3-inch color touchscreen operating the Lexus Enform infotainment technique. The display screen is positioned closer to the driver than in the past IS, and the touch abilities are a godsend. Of course, Lexus’ silly touchpad controller is still in this article, but I won’t be able to endorse any one use it, in particular since it’s so hard to work while driving. Lexus ought to truly just choose it out.

The inside is nicely appointed, even if there is certainly a absence of storage place.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Even though I am glad the user knowledge is far better, the Enform style and design alone still isn’t really terrific. The menus and submenus are disorganized and difficult to function as a result of, even though, luckily, Apple CarPlay and Android Automobile are typical. In addition, the backup digicam is awful — it won’t fill the whole display screen and it’s fish-eyed, blurry and distorted. Backup cameras have been typical security necessities for yrs now inadequate resolution is unacceptable. You can get a panoramic-perspective digicam as an solution, but it’s $one,400. Arrive on.

I you should not personally appreciate my tester’s dim-tan-above-black inside, even though other Roadshow staffers disagree (to every their own). You can get a good red-above-black solution, and that’s way additional my design. All the cabin resources seem and really feel terrific, but there isn’t really considerably in the way of inside storage. There is area for a water bottle and maybe a tiny tablet in the door pockets, but there isn’t really truly any put to set your cellular phone. There is no wi-fi charging pad offered, both.

The IS three hundred is a great car, but its competition are far better.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The 2021 Lexus IS three hundred starts off at $forty,025 which includes $one,025 for location, and my very well-outfitted tester will come out to $forty seven,975. If you you should not need the additional traction of all-wheel generate, I say stick with the RWD IS three hundred or up grade to the RWD IS 350, simply just since of the additional modern-day 8-speed transmission.

Regrettably, the Lexus IS three hundred competes in opposition to a bunch of truly terrific choices. The BMW 3 Sequence is the most clear competitor, and the 330i is additional successful and has far better tech. I will also say that I appreciate, appreciate, appreciate the Kia Stinger, which appears to be like brilliant, is terrific to generate and is a actual value proposition, far too — a twin-turbo V6 edition with AWD prices as considerably as this loaded IS three hundred.

There are a large amount of causes to like the 2021 IS. It appears to be like terrific, the inside is cozy and it’s nicer to generate than right before. But put in opposition to its competition, the IS — in particular the IS three hundred — carries on to drop short. Right until the powertrains and tech get a actual up grade, the IS will always be one step at the rear of.