2021 Lexus IS 350
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2021 Lexus IS 350 Review

The Lexus IS was overhauled for the 2021 model year with new sheet metal, a more rigid body and a revised cabin. This popular premium compact sedan is powered by four- or six-cylinder gasoline engines and is available with RWD or AWD.

Key Features:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Distinctive design
  • Outstanding seat comfort

Direct Competitors:

  • Alfa Romeo Giulia
  • Acura TLX
  • Audi A4
  • BMW 3 Series
  • Cadillac CT5
  • Genesis G70
  • Infiniti Q50
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class

We drove an IS 350 AWD with the high-end F Sport Series 3 package. Lexus recently revealed the IS 500, the new flagship for the IS range and the first car in a series of more performance-focused F Sport Performance models.

Price and IS 350 models available

  • IS 300 RWD: $43,800
  • IS 300 AWD: $44,650
  • IS 350 AWD: $54,100
  • IS 500 RWD: $72,900

2021 Lexus IS 350 with Infrared paint ($650) and the F Sport Series 3 package ($5,800), as tested | Photo: Lexus 

There are four basic models in the IS range for 2022. MSRPs are up by around $1,000 per model compared with the similar 2021 car tested here. The entry point is the RWD IS 300 with 2-litre turbo power ($43,800). 

The $44,650 IS 300 AWD gets a 260 HP V6 while the power goes up to 311 HP for the $54,100 IS 350. Topping the range is the new IS 500, which has a V8 and RWD, at $72,900.

2021 Lexus IS 350 interior and equipment

Lexus buyers expect premium features and the IS delivers. All ISs feature the full suite of Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 driving assistance technologies, including lane tracing assist and left-turn intersection support. 

2021 Lexus IS 350 | Photo: Lexus 

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is standard, as are eight-way power-adjustable driver and passenger seats, NuLuxe synthetic leather trim and a leather-covered shift knob and steering wheel. There’s also access to Lexus Enform connected services.

F Sport Series 3 package

The IS 350 AWD gets a bigger touchscreen than lesser grades (10.3in vs 8in) and a navigation system. Our test car additionally came with Infrared paint ($650) and the F Sport Series 3 package ($5,800), which includes triple-beam LED headlamps, adaptive suspension, Mark Levinson audio system and silver wood interior accents.

The IS 350’s revised exterior styling enhances what was already a distinctive, sharp look. Climb inside and you’re immediately struck by the low seating position and superb seats, which are some of the most comfortable we’ve come across. 

2021 Lexus IS 350 | Photo: Lexus 

The interior materials and fit and finish are excellent, as you’d expect from a Lexus. We did find however that the black-trimmed cabin got surprisingly hot when sitting outside on even a moderately warm day.

Performance: how does Lexus’ premium compact sedan handle?

The IS 350 feels like a Lexus on the road, too, which means refined progress rather than outstanding driver engagement. Especially in Normal mode, the throttle response can be frustratingly lazy.

A 3.6L V6 putting down over 300 horses and 280 lb-ft of torque

The proven 3.5-litre V6 engine is super-smooth in its operation with the 6-speed automatic transmission. One of the changes in switching to Sport S or Sport S+ mode is to force the transmission to hold onto lower gears for longer, resulting in more enthusiastic deployment of the motor’s 311 HP and 280 lb-ft of torque. Combined fuel consumption of 10.8L/100km is higher than some rivals.

Lexus says that this latest, more rigid iteration of the IS has reduced levels of unwanted noise and vibration as well as better ride comfort and enhanced steering response. We’d agree that it rides smoothly and quietly but overall, the chassis doesn’t feel as inherently dynamic as a BMW 3 Series or even an Acura TLX. We’d certainly have preferred more on-centre feel from the steering.

2021 Lexus IS 350 | Photo: Lexus 

Verdict: is the 2021 Lexus IS 350 worth it?

With new products like the IS 500, Lexus is working hard to add more driver appeal to its vehicles but for now, the more mainstream IS 350 still delivers a lot more style than dynamic substance. It’s great to look at, solid and very comfortable, but not especially sporty – which will suit many buyers just fine. 

There are many strong rivals in the premium compact sedan segment; we’d recommend taking a close look at a few of them, as well as the Lexus, if you’re shopping for a vehicle in this market.

Shopping for a pre-owned, certified 4-door? Here’s our current sedan inventory.

2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD key specs

Engine

V6, aluminum block and cylinder heads

Transmission

6-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Valvetrain

DOHC 24 valve with dual continuously variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i)

Horsepower

311 hp @ 6,600 rpm

Torque

280 lb.-ft. @ 4,800 rpm

0-60 mph Acceleration

5.7 seconds

Top Track Speed

143 mph / 230 kph

Suspension

Front: Double wishbone type with high-mount upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar

Rear: Multi-link with coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar

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