Buyer's Guide

2021 Lexus Is
Select a Different Model (4 Available): 300 AWD Sedan
Zero to 60 $ 5.7 seconds
Fuel Economy 19 / 26 mpg
Horsepower 260@6,600
Torque 236@2,000
See All Specs
Free Price Quote From a Local Dealer
2021 Lexus IS MODEL OVERVIEW

Pros

  • Bolder (and polarizing) styling
  • Updated infotainment system
  • Great ride/handling balance

Cons

  • Cramped back seat
  • Aging powertrains
  • Not as quick as its competitors

Targeted at European compact sport sedans including the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, the Lexus IS returns to the segment thoroughly revised. It's not an all-new car, but extensive updates to exterior styling, interior features, and under-the-skin hardware distinguish the 2021 IS from its predecessors.

The IS300 with the 2.0T engine is a 2021 IntelliChoice Best Overall Value winner.

What's New

The Lexus IS receives a major overhaul for 2021, with updates including:

  • Stiffer, sportier chassis tuning
  • Restyled exterior design
  • More luxurious interior
  • Improved infotainment system
  • Enhanced driver assist features

What We Think

Introduced for 2001, the IS showed a new side of Lexus—its fun side. After a year with that car in our long-term test fleet, we posited that IS stands for "instant success." Fast forward to 2014, when we assessed several variants of the IS over a year. Again, we praised its comfortable composure, sporty handling, and faultless reliability. Since then, the segment has surpassed the IS dynamically, however.

Lexus' current focus is on crossovers; the cancellation of the slow-selling GS sedan demonstrates this. Not wanting to invest too heavily into a lower-sales-volume sedan could explain why the 2021 IS is built on its existing New N platform, instead of the latest TNGA-L architecture.

However, the 2021 IS isn't just a simple refresh—it's a major overhaul. Lexus engineers made numerous changes to the chassis and tuning to ensure it drives better than before. All-new body panels, redesigned lighting, and a relatively subdued spindle grille set its styling apart from the prior model. The theme continues inside with a new dashboard layout and a much-needed infotainment upgrade.

Drivetrain choices carry over. That means a turbo-four and eight-speed automatic transmission in the RWD IS 300. Perplexingly, the AWD IS 300 uses a V-6 and a somewhat archaic six-speed automatic. The sportier IS 350 gets a more powerful tune of the V-6, with an eight-speed auto on RWD cars, but a six-speed on AWD versions.

The 2021 IS succeeds in carrying the torch and making meaningful improvements over the car it replaces. Ride quality is noticeably more refined, with enough compliance to iron out most road imperfections and enough body control to stay stable and confident. It's still quick and fun, too, even if its performance numbers don't stand out in the compact luxury segment. Thankfully, drivers can now choose to operate the infotainment screen with touch controls.

Performance and Fuel Economy

As before, the 2021 Lexus IS offers RWD as standard, with AWD optional. The updated IS will continue to use the drivetrains offered on the previous model, which means RWD cars have an eight-speed automatic, and AWD versions are stuck with a six-speed auto.

The engine in the entry-level RWD IS300 is a 2.0-liter turbo-four producing 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Based on previous MotorTrend testing, 0-60 mph acceleration should take about 7.0 seconds. Fuel economy numbers from the EPA read 21/31 mpg city/highway.

The IS300 AWD features a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 260 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, and testing the IS300 AWD, we managed 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Efficiency figures come to 19/26 mpg.

The IS 350 features an uprated version of the V-6 engine, good for 311 hp and 277 lb-ft. When we tested a new RWD IS350 F Sport, it reached 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, and the model returns an EPA-rated 20/28 mpg. Examples with AWD deliver 19/26 mpg.

Although we once thought another eight-cylinder IS was out of the question, Lexus surprised us with the reveal of the IS500 F Sport. It features a 472-hp version of the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 we've seen before in the RC F, GS F, and the old IS F. The IS500 F Sport will join the IS lineup for 2022.

Safety

The 2021 Lexus IS delivers an excellent performance in IIHS safety testing. With the highest possible scores on almost every test, it earns a 2021 Top Safety Pick+. The IS also earns a five-star overall safety rating from the NTHSA.

Lexus has enhanced its active safety tech suite of features for the 2021 IS. The new model gets forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.

Cargo Space and Interior Room

Measurements and capacities in the 2021 IS should be similar to the 2020 model that was never known to be spacious—even in the compact luxury sport sedan segment. That means a trunk measuring about 10.8 cubic feet, with split-folding second-row seats to improve cargo space.

The 2020 model offered a generous 44.8 inches of front-seat legroom but only 32.2 inches for rear-seat passengers.

Technology

Lexus has given its infotainment system a much-needed update. The 2021 IS's system can be controlled by a touchpad on the center console, or now by tapping the central touchscreen, which measures 8.0 inches as standard or 10.3 inches optionally. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and Bluetooth streaming are among its standard features.

Several USB ports are distributed throughout the cabin, and there's also a reconfigurable information display in the gauge cluster. A 15-speaker audio system is standard, and Lexus offers a 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system as an upgrade.

Key Competitors

2021 LEXUS IS SPECIFICATIONS
OVERVIEW
FEATURES
WARRANTY/RECALL
SAFETY
REBATES
Engine Name
Engine: V6 3.5 Liter
Transmission Name
Transmission, ECT-i 6 Speed Automatic Mode Select with Manual Mode (A760H)
Trim
300 AWD Sedan
Class
Premium Compact Passenger Car
Horsepower
260@6,600
Standard MPG
19/26
Body Style
Sedan
Drivetrain
AWD
Fuel Type
Unleaded Premium
Seating Capacity
5/5
Package Invoice Retail
Show Full Specs
Corrosion Warranty Miles
Unlimited
Maintenance Warranty Months
12
Corrosion Warranty Months
72
Powertrain Warranty Miles
70,000
Full Warranty Miles
50,000
Powertrain Warranty Months
72
Full Warranty Months
48
Roadside Assistance Miles
unlimited
Maintenance Warranty Miles
10,000
Roadside Assistance Months
48
IIHS Best Pick
0
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
Not Rated
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
N/R
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
Not Rated
IIHS Front Small Overlap
N/R
NHTSA Rating Front Side
Not Rated
IIHS Overall Side Crash
N/R
NHTSA Rating Overall
Not Rated
IIHS Rear Crash
N/R
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
Not Rated
IIHS Roof Strength
N/R
NHTSA Rating Rollover
Not Rated
Amount Description Expiry Date
$1000 Lexus announces a College Graduate Reward Program on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.] 01-03-2022
$1000 Lexus announces Bonus Cash on select models for eligible Military personnel. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.] 01-03-2022
$2000 Lexus announces a Lease Cash on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.] 06-30-2021
$0 2.9% Financing for a maximum term of 72 Months - Lexus announces special APR financing on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.] 06-30-2021
$0 1.9% Financing available for varying term lengths : 36, 48, 60 Months - Lexus announces special APR financing on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.] 06-30-2021
$1500 Lexus announces a Retail Cash on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.] 06-30-2021