2021 Lexus IS Series: Racetrack tested for higher performance

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    Review by Veeno Dewan

    The Lexus IS series of high performance luxury sedans that have been the mainstay of the brand and now arrive with minor styling and engineering upgrades in a cycle of continuous improvement. Lexus say exhaustive testing for the 2021 IS at the new Shimoyama track in Japan has made for much improved performance, steering and reducing NVH through enhanced body rigidity. New features include: Restyled headlights, taillights and grille and a new Dynamic Handling package on F-Sport models.
    The IS has always been adept on the technology front and the new model features upgraded touchscreen, Apple Carplay and Android auto. The Lexus is certainly a looker with its sleek dynamic visage for the 2021 model year, starting at $42,950 for the base IS 300 RWD F Sport Series 1 — with the 241-horsepower turbo-four engine and rear-drive option, it is actually around $2,100 less than the 2020 model.
    The IS 300 AWD ($43,400) is powered by a 3.5L V6 with 260 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. Trim levels for the IS 300 include Premium ($43,800), F Sport Series 1 ($45,800), Luxury ($47,700), F Sport Series 2 ($49,500) and Ultra-Luxury ($51,000).
    The IS 350 AWD F Sport Series 2 ($53,300) adds all the F Sport trim and equipment a more powerfully tuned V6 engine with 311 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque. You also gain bigger wheels, ventilated seats, a power moonroof, GPS navigation and a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen… The top dog IS 350 AWD F Sport Series 3, ($58, 000) .adds Lexus’ Dynamic Handling Package with beautiful 19-inch forged BBS wheels, carbon fibre and wood interior accents, and more equipment.
    In terms of the cabin, it’s more of incremental changes than a complete redesign to keep the comfort and convenience up. Seats are comfortable and well designed and the dash has a nice racy, tech theme going on. I kind of like the unique switchgear and twin – panel dash. The cabin impressed with its use of quality materials and modern design. The infotainment system is uprated with a new more tactile trackpad and 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The center stack has a revamp offering more space, and there are nice looking new circular air vents. The optional 17-speaker Mark Levinson audiophile sound system is phenomenal as usual. There is an acceptable amount of in-cabin storage with nooks and cubbies. Moving to the rear compartment, the eats and trim is well finished, however the rear swooping roofline limits headroom, while legroom was just about adequate. The IS offers10.8 cubic feet of room, in the trunk
    On the road; the IS 350 feels agile, light and well balanced, Steering is a stand out, it feels light, but not loose at low speeds and then nicely tightens and firms up higher speeds. Our tester was powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that delivered 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration was peppy off the line and very willing, nicely timed down shifting helped make the most of the responsive. Sport S+ mode holds gears a tad longer developing provides a great combination of acceleration, steering, ride and great feedback. The Shimoyama race track tuned suspension does a great job of countering body roll on tight curves. The IS 350’s ride remains pleasantly smooth over road imperfections.
    Driver and passenger comfort is exemplary and the IiS350 provides a very entertaining combination of luxury with the sporty performance and is one of the top performers in this segment hats the hallmark of sedans in this segment. Downside are minimal, Try the firmly bolstered seat may be confining for the larger bodied and the rear seats lack headroom for the taller adult.
    To sum up the IS 350 is a smart, fastidiously engineered and well-presented premium Sports sedan. The base models are temptingly affordable and have everything you could want. It is all there with Audi. Mercedes and BMW standards. The Lexus IS is wonderful to drive and own. Highly recommended.

    2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD: Priced from – $53,300.
    More info at www.lexus.ca