2021 Lexus IS 300 overview: Nonetheless so near greatness

The IS 300 is one engaging sedan.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Regardless of the corporate’s concentrate on crossovers and SUVs, Lexus does nonetheless make sport sedans. Bypass the model’s family-haulers and you will find the compact IS, a sweetly styled four-door that is been closely refreshed for 2021.

LikeResponsive chassisExtremely quiet cabinRacy appears to be like

Do not LikeInfotainment stays lacklusterNo inside storageAging transmission stymies efficiency

I say “closely refreshed” as a result of, whereas the IS’ underpinnings and engine choices are principally the identical as earlier than, the sheetmetal will get a improbable makeover. In brief, the IS appears to be like superior. The Grecian Water blue of my IS 300 tester is attractive, and the redesigned spindle grille neatly tucks between the brand new headlights. I by no means thought I would find yourself liking Lexus’ large grille, however it actually works on the IS. There is a good little kick towards the rear while you view the automobile in profile, which emphasizes the broader hips. The truth that the LED working lights span the width of the trunk assist with that vast stance, too.

The IS’ platform is perhaps the identical, however Lexus’ engineers made a lot of tweaks to the suspension elements and elevated physique rigidity for higher general dealing with. It really works, too — the steering shortly responds to my inputs and is sweet and heavy. This automobile feels nimble in a method that previous IS fashions have not.

What hasn’t modified are the powertrains, and that is additionally the place issues get just a little complicated. The bottom IS 300 with rear-wheel drive makes use of a 2.0-liter turbo I4 with 241 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque and an eight-speed automated transmission. The IS 300 AWD — which is what I’ve right here — will get a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 with 260 hp and 236 lb-ft, however downgrades to a six-speed automated transmission. Step as much as the IS 350 and you will get a extra highly effective model of the identical 3.5-liter V6 with 311 hp and 280 lb-ft. The IS 350 RWD has the eight-speed auto and the IS 350 AWD will get the six-speed auto. Bizarre, I do know.

The six-speed transmission on this IS 300 AWD is fairly gradual to reply and would not actually encourage sporty driving. I can not get the transmission to downshift whereas braking for a nook, even on the IS’ most aggressive Sport Plus drive setting. Paddles on the steering wheel remedy that downside, however the shifts are hardly fast. The engine is robust and gives linear energy supply, and the chassis is actually good, too, however the transmission actually prevents the IS 300 from being correctly entertaining.

The three.5-liter V6 is okay, however it’s dragged down by an outdated six-speed automated transmission.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Gas economic system isn’t the IS 300’s robust go well with, with the all-wheel-drive model solely EPA-estimated to return 19 miles per gallon within the metropolis, 26 mpg freeway and 22 mpg mixed. Over the course of some days, I am averaging simply over 21 mpg. The turbocharged IS 300 RWD, in the meantime, returns 21 mpg metropolis, 31 mpg freeway and 25 mpg mixed.

The IS 300 is nice for freeway cruising, with supportive seats, an especially quiet cabin and a comparatively sturdy suite of driving aids. The usual adaptive cruise management has full-speed protection, which is sweet, however you may’t mix it with lane-keeping help for simpler freeway driving like you may in a BMW Three Collection or perhaps a Mercedes-Benz CLA.

New for 2021, the IS will be optioned with a 10.3-inch colour touchscreen working the Lexus Enform infotainment system. The display screen is positioned nearer to the driving force than within the earlier IS, and the contact capabilities are a godsend. Sure, Lexus’ silly touchpad controller remains to be right here, however I can not suggest anybody use it, particularly since it is so troublesome to function whereas driving. Lexus ought to actually simply take it out.

The inside is properly appointed, even when there is a lack of cupboard space.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Whereas I am glad the person expertise is best, the Enform design itself nonetheless is not nice. The menus and submenus are disorganized and hard to work by, although, fortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are customary. Moreover, the backup digital camera is terrible — it would not fill the complete show and it is fish-eyed, blurry and distorted. Backup cameras have been customary security necessities for years now; poor decision is unacceptable. You will get a panoramic-view digital camera as an possibility, however it’s $1,400. Come on.

I do not personally love my tester’s dark-tan-over-black inside, although different Roadshow staffers disagree (to every their very own). You will get a pleasant red-over-black possibility, and that is far more my model. All of the cabin supplies feel and appear nice, however there is not a lot in the way in which of inside storage. There’s room for a water bottle and possibly a small pill within the door pockets, however there is not actually anyplace to place your telephone. There is no wi-fi charging pad out there, both.

The IS 300 is an efficient automobile, however its rivals are higher.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The 2021 Lexus IS 300 begins at $40,025 together with $1,025 for vacation spot, and my well-equipped tester comes out to $47,975. For those who do not want the added traction of all-wheel drive, I say stick to the RWD IS 300 or improve to the RWD IS 350, merely due to the extra trendy eight-speed transmission.

Sadly, the Lexus IS 300 competes towards a bunch of actually nice choices. The BMW Three Collection is the obvious competitor, and the 330i is extra environment friendly and has higher tech. I am going to additionally say that I like, love, love the Kia Stinger, which appears to be like superior, is nice to drive and is an actual worth proposition, too — a twin-turbo V6 model with AWD prices as a lot as this loaded IS 300.

There are plenty of causes to love the 2021 IS. It appears to be like nice, the inside is cozy and it is nicer to drive than earlier than. However positioned towards its rivals, the IS — particularly the IS 300 — continues to fall brief. Till the powertrains and tech get an actual improve, the IS will all the time be one step behind.

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