2021 Lexus IS 300 review: Still so close to greatness

Maria J. Danford

The IS 300 is one particular beautiful sedan.

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Irrespective of the firm’s emphasis on crossovers and SUVs, Lexus does however make sport sedans. Bypass the brand’s household-haulers and you can locate the compact IS, a sweetly styled 4-doorway that’s been heavily refreshed for 2021.


  • Responsive chassis
  • Very quiet cabin
  • Racy appears to be

Will not Like

  • Infotainment remains lackluster
  • No inside storage
  • Growing older transmission stymies efficiency

I say “heavily refreshed” for the reason that, while the IS’ underpinnings and engine selections are mainly the exact same as just before, the sheetmetal gets a wonderful makeover. In limited, the IS appears to be magnificent. The Grecian Water blue of my IS 300 tester is gorgeous, and the redesigned spindle grille neatly tucks involving the new headlights. I by no means assumed I would finish up liking Lexus’ big grille, but it actually is effective on the IS. There is a good minimal kick toward the rear when you watch the vehicle in profile, which emphasizes the broader hips. The actuality that the LED working lights span the width of the trunk assistance with that broad stance, much too.

The IS’ system could be the exact same, but Lexus’ engineers manufactured a selection of tweaks to the suspension factors and elevated human body rigidity for greater in general handling. It is effective, much too — the steering rapidly responds to my inputs and is good and significant. This vehicle feels nimble in a way that past IS styles have not.

What has not modified are the powertrains, and this is also where by points get a minimal bewildering. The base IS 300 with rear-wheel push utilizes a two.-liter turbo I4 with 241 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The IS 300 AWD — which is what I have in this article — gets a normally aspirated three.five-liter V6 with 260 hp and 236 lb-ft, but downgrades to a six-speed automatic transmission. Phase up to the IS 350 and you can get a extra powerful model of the exact same three.five-liter V6 with 311 hp and 280 lb-ft. The IS 350 RWD has the eight-speed automobile and the IS 350 AWD gets the six-speed automobile. Weird, I know.

The six-speed transmission in this IS 300 AWD is very gradual to reply and isn’t going to actually motivate sporty driving. I can’t get the transmission to downshift while braking for a corner, even on the IS’ most intense Sport Moreover push environment. Paddles on the steering wheel clear up that dilemma, but the shifts are rarely speedy. The engine is sturdy and delivers linear ability shipping and delivery, and the chassis is actually excellent, much too, but the transmission actually stops the IS 300 from getting correctly entertaining.

The three.five-liter V6 is high-quality, but it truly is dragged down by an previous six-speed automatic transmission.

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Gasoline economic climate is not the IS 300’s sturdy match, with the all-wheel-push model only EPA-estimated to return 19 miles for each gallon in the town, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg put together. Over the study course of a number of times, I’m averaging just about 21 mpg. The turbocharged IS 300 RWD, meanwhile, returns 21 mpg town, 31 mpg highway and 25 mpg put together.

The IS 300 is fantastic for highway cruising, with supportive seats, an particularly quiet cabin and a somewhat robust suite of driving aids. The regular adaptive cruise handle has full-speed coverage, which is good, but you can’t incorporate it with lane-retaining guide for much easier highway driving like you can in a BMW three Series or even a Mercedes-Benz CLA.

New for 2021, the IS can be optioned with a 10.three-inch colour touchscreen working the Lexus Enform infotainment technique. The display screen is positioned closer to the driver than in the earlier IS, and the touch abilities are a godsend. Certainly, Lexus’ stupid touchpad controller is however in this article, but I can’t advocate anybody use it, specially given that it truly is so tough to run while driving. Lexus must actually just get it out.

The inside is nicely appointed, even if there is certainly a lack of storage space.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Though I’m happy the person working experience is greater, the Enform layout alone however just isn’t fantastic. The menus and submenus are disorganized and hard to function by means of, however, luckily, Apple CarPlay and Android Automobile are regular. Furthermore, the backup digital camera is terrible — it isn’t going to fill the full show and it truly is fish-eyed, blurry and distorted. Backup cameras have been regular protection needs for yrs now weak resolution is unacceptable. You can get a panoramic-watch digital camera as an possibility, but it truly is $one,four hundred. Appear on.

I will not personally adore my tester’s darkish-tan-about-black inside, however other Roadshow staffers disagree (to each their own). You can get a good red-about-black possibility, and that’s way extra my style. All the cabin elements appear and feel fantastic, but there just isn’t a great deal in the way of inside storage. There is home for a h2o bottle and it’s possible a tiny pill in the doorway pockets, but there just isn’t actually any location to set your cellphone. There is no wi-fi charging pad obtainable, possibly.

The IS 300 is a excellent vehicle, but its competition are greater.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The 2021 Lexus IS 300 starts off at $forty,025 which includes $one,025 for desired destination, and my very well-geared up tester arrives out to $47,975. If you will not want the added traction of all-wheel push, I say adhere with the RWD IS 300 or up grade to the RWD IS 350, just for the reason that of the extra contemporary eight-speed transmission.

Regretably, the Lexus IS 300 competes in opposition to a bunch of actually fantastic selections. The BMW three Series is the most evident competitor, and the 330i is extra efficient and has greater tech. I am going to also say that I adore, adore, adore the Kia Stinger, which appears to be magnificent, is fantastic to push and is a genuine worth proposition, much too — a twin-turbo V6 model with AWD expenses as a great deal as this loaded IS 300.

There are a ton of motives to like the 2021 IS. It appears to be fantastic, the inside is comfortable and it truly is nicer to push than just before. But positioned in opposition to its competition, the IS — specially the IS 300 — carries on to tumble limited. Right until the powertrains and tech get a genuine up grade, the IS will often be one particular action at the rear of.

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