The Lexus IS has always held a special place in our hearts as far as the luxury mid-sized sedan segment goes. Probably because this was the first new vehicle launch that we were invited to attend as we started down this automotive journey that has introduced us to a world that we would never have imagined.
We have met so many great people and made lifelong friends, and had so much fun on this adventure! That first time in San Francisco turned into memories that we will never forget and we fell in love with the Lexus IS.
As far as mid-sized sedans go, the IS really cannot be beat, combining luxury, performance and a commanding presence all in one package. With the 2021 model year, Lexus has done a large refresh on the sedan and more importantly it is the first to carry what the manufacturer is calling “The Lexus Driving Signature.”
What is this, one may ask. Well, it is a new testing facility located in Shimoyama, Japan, which Lexus describes as more than just a track environment. Vehicles will be put through all kinds of differing terrains and weather conditions, to optimize handling, brake response and safety features, with a goal of propelling the brand’s evolution and reinforce its identity in the luxury space.
“What we had foremost in mind in developing the new IS was to make it a car that exceled in communicating with the driver regardless of the road conditions or driving situation,” said Chief Engineer Naoki Kobayashi, of Lexus International. “We aimed to make the new IS a Lexus compact sports sedan that provides high-quality riding comfort while offering a high level of vehicle control.”
With all this new technology and roads available very close to the home base of the designers, they were able to come up with what we would agree is the best IS to date. With everything being looked at, even the tires for this year have changed with the F Sport getting larger 19-inch wheels that helped to ground the sedan in cornering and braking.
Sometimes it is the smallest of things that make a huge difference in the driving experience, as we found with the new IS. After taking some technology from the LFA supercar, the engineers at Lexus have added what are called hub bolts to take the wheels on and off the car.
At first this would seem unimportant, although it shed almost 2 pounds of weight from the car and made a more ridged seam between the wheel and the rest of the sedan. Yes we found it handled better with a firmer grip and we were more confident in our inputs on the wheel. Best of all they have designed these bolts with a black powder-coated surface so as to hide them inside the beautiful new wheel designs.
After all of that, we especially enjoyed all the extra power that comes with the IS, and more importantly with the addition of the F Sport package. Besides all the great extras that come on the inside and outside of the vehicle, that package also adds an adaptive suspension system that learns how you drive to help with the overall individual performance of the IS.
We have been witness to how this feature can help when driving in some short autocross courses with and without this feature turned on and it did make a difference in our outcomes on the course.
Equipped with a V6 engine that produced an awesome 311 horsepower for the mid-sized sedan, it was more than eager to take on any challenge we had during our week out on the road. On a day trip up to the Ogden area we were able to put it through the paces out on I-15.
Getting up to speed or just adding a little extra push to get around was very exhilarating. Coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission and included paddle shifters, dad will always be happy getting around in the IS.
We also loved how comfortable the seats were in the IS, having just gotten off a week with a luxury competitor, the Lexus seats were by far easier to sit in and proved to be better for the longer haul. Even though the previous week was a convertible, we would opt for the IS on the comfort side alone.
Along with all that comfort came an immense amount of injected luxury inside the cabin. This year the Lexus proved to be quieter than on previous occasions when we have had one, if that were even possible. We also loved the Mark Levinson audio package ($2,750) that also included navigation and a 10.3-inch touch screen that was easier to use than the included track pad system.
On the safety side the IS comes loaded with all the great systems that Lexus has continued to improve upon over the years. The adaptive cruise control worked flawlessly, even in heavy traffic on the way to and from Ogden.
With the lane trace assist on, the sedan was able to slow down, speed up and even stop and go at times, keeping itself centered within the travel lane. This system just makes a longer drive so much easier to handle out on the freeway.
Also included was blind spot monitor, forward collision alert and mitigation, which we found worked very well when traffic came to a sudden stop on the freeway. Rain-sensing wipers and adaptive high beams rounded out the package.
The new IS for us is the perfect example of an entry level executive luxury sedan. It’s fun and engaging to drive, has technology and safety features aplenty and surrounds its owners in luxury every time they are out on the road.
Base price: $44,900
Price as driven: $56,790