2021 Lexus IS 300 AWD Review


In some ways, the 2021 Lexus IS 300 AWD feels just like the automotive equal of a time capsule. Although refreshed and restyled, the current-generation IS nonetheless dates again to 2014; you’d be forgiven for questioning whether or not Lexus’ most inexpensive – and second-best-selling – sedan has fallen too far behind.

With the large cash in SUVs and crossovers proper now, Lexus took a focused strategy to shine up the IS’ tough edges. For the 2021 mannequin yr, the compact luxurious sedan received revamped entrance and rear styling, tweaks to the suspension and chassis, and upgrades inside, primarily to the infotainment system. Pricing kicks off at a aggressive $40,125 (plus $1,025 vacation spot).

That will get you a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that brings 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque to play, directed through an eight-speed automated transmission via the rear wheels. My Grecian Water IS 300 AWD evaluation automobile, in the meantime, has a 3.5-liter V6 with 260 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, and pairs its all-wheel drive with a six-speed automated.

Confusingly, there’s an IS 350 RWD which has the identical V6 – although tuned for 311 hp and 280 lb-ft – and an eight-speed automated. An IS 500, in the meantime, throws in a V8: it’s a pleasant reminder that Lexus hasn’t fairly given up on large displacement, naturally-aspirated engines but.

Regardless of what the figures say on paper, the IS 300 AWD is unexpectedly punchy. No, the six-speed doesn’t really feel as contemporary and full of life because the transmissions in a few of Lexus’ rivals, however so long as you’re not significantly pushing issues it retains up simply swell. It’s easy, too, and the tactile steel paddle-shifters imply you’ll be able to override its considerably reluctant downshifts whenever you need to push more durable.

Whereas the engines could also be previous, the chassis and suspension tuning is new. There’s extra reinforcement to make it stiffer, whereas the suspension has gone on a severe weight-reduction plan. Consider nicely-weighted steering and it leaves the IS 300 AWD feeling unexpectedly contemporary and lithe. Flick to Consolation mode, in the meantime, and although there are not any trick adjustable dampers it’s nonetheless refined and easy. Lexus clearly paid consideration to what actually wanted it, and that focus has paid off.

You may say the identical for the outside modifications. Although the IS wears Lexus’ sizable entrance grille, it handles the size of that maw properly; higher, I’d argue, than a number of the automaker’s bigger sedans. Design is subjective, however the tasteful creases and even handed (however not lavish) software of chrome repay. I notably like the brand new rear remedy, the place the angular lamps, trunk-spanning gentle bar, and a few intelligent interaction of the deck lid spoiler and concave surfacing beneath depart the IS wanting contemporary and distinctive.

Inside, a lot of the cabin is unchanged. The seats are comfy, the switchgear sturdy, and Lexus’ plastics stay firmly top-notch. On the flip aspect, there’s an notable absence of storage, and the entire thing feels comfortable, notably within the rear the place passengers in rival sedans get extra legroom. The identical goes for the comparatively small 10.8 cu-ft trunk. Lexus, after all, couldn’t make any significant modifications there, however it did deal with the IS’ most typical criticism.

Reward be, the usual 8-inch infotainment display screen is now finger-friendly. There’s a touchpad within the heart console, however you’ll be able to attain out and faucet the touchscreen as a substitute to work together with Lexus’ Entune system or, much more gratifyingly, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. They’re wired slightly than wi-fi, however I’ll take what wins I can get.

Enform itself is, properly, not the best system on the market. Lexus clearly is aware of that, because it has already developed a alternative, although it’s unclear when which may percolate via the vary. The $2,750 Mark Levinson audio bundle provides the audio system a 1,800W improve and sounds nice, in addition to throwing in navigation on a bigger, 10.3-inch touchscreen.

$1,950 provides the Consolation Package deal, with heated and ventilated entrance seats, a heated leather-based steering wheel, and an influence moonroof. I’d begrudge, although, paying $1,400 for the 360-degree digital camera, parking help, and rear pedestrian detection. It appears like that basically ought to be commonplace within the Lexus Security System+ 2.5, which incorporates pre-collision with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise management, lane-tracing help, lane departure alert with steering help, highway signal help, and auto headlamps. No less than, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross visitors alert is commonplace, which is greater than you’ll be able to say about a number of the competitors.

In all, it introduced my evaluation automobile to $49,915 together with vacation spot. You’ll pay a bit of extra in fuel, unsurprisingly, for the V6: the EPA says it’s good for 19 mpg within the metropolis, 26 mpg on the freeway, and 22 mpg mixed. With common driving, although, I managed 24 mpg.

2021 Lexus IS 300 AWD Verdict

Lexus’ upgrades to the IS have undoubtedly made it a extra interesting automobile, however it’s combating in a fiercely aggressive section. For old-school luxurious sedan lovers there’s the perennially profitable BMW 3 Collection, each extra participating and with extra brand-appeal than the Lexus, and – for the second at the least – spared BMW’s extra controversial outsized styling parts. The Genesis G70, in the meantime, is the new-money wildcard, with participating design, aggressive pricing, and a correctly enjoyable drivetrain setup.

The shock, although, is simply how efficient Lexus’ modifications right here have been at tightening up the IS expertise general. It might not be a brand new automobile, however it’s gained a brand new lease on life at the least; extra rewarding to drive, know-how that’s simpler to stay with, and styling that feels extra cohesive.

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