The IS 300 is one engaging sedan.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Regardless of the corporate’s give attention to 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.

Like

Responsive chassisExtremely quiet cabinRacy appears to be like

Do not Like

Infotainment stays lacklusterNo inside storageAging transmission stymies efficiency

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

The IS’ platform could be 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 rapidly responds to my inputs and is good and heavy. This automotive 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 somewhat 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 am unable to 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 drawback, however the shifts are hardly fast. The engine is robust and provides linear energy supply, and the chassis is basically good, too, however the transmission actually prevents the IS 300 from being correctly entertaining.

The three.5-liter V6 is ok, but it surely’s dragged down by an outdated six-speed automated transmission.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Gasoline financial system just 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, a particularly quiet cabin and a comparatively strong suite of driving aids. The usual adaptive cruise management has full-speed protection, which is good, however you’ll be able to’t mix it with lane-keeping help for simpler freeway driving like you’ll be able to in a BMW 3 Collection or perhaps a Mercedes-Benz CLA.

New for 2021, the IS could be optioned with a ten.3-inch coloration touchscreen working the Lexus Enform infotainment system. The display 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 am unable to 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 commonplace. Moreover, the backup digicam is terrible — it would not fill the total show and it is fish-eyed, blurry and distorted. Backup cameras have been commonplace security necessities for years now; poor decision is unacceptable. You will get a panoramic-view digicam as an possibility, but it surely’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 fashion. All of the cabin supplies appear and feel nice, however there is not a lot in the best way of inside storage. There’s room for a water bottle and perhaps a small pill within the door pockets, however there is not actually anyplace to place your telephone. There isn’t any wi-fi charging pad accessible, both.

The IS 300 is an effective automotive, however its opponents 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. When you do not want the added traction of all-wheel drive, I say keep on with 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 3 Collection is the obvious competitor, and the 330i is extra environment friendly and has higher tech. I will additionally say that I really 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 a variety 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 opponents, the IS — particularly the IS 300 — continues to fall brief. Till the powertrains and tech get an actual improve, the IS will at all times be one step behind.

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