The COVID-19 pandemic may have put the kibosh on traditional auto shows for the near future, but automakers still have new and redesigned products poised to hit the market, and those manufacturers are increasingly turning to the Internet to debut their soon-to-arrive new vehicles. Today there were two online unveilings, in fact—Nissan took the wraps off its redesigned 2021 Rogue compact SUV this morning, and this evening Lexus debuted a revamped version of its rear-drive-based compact sport sedan via a Facebook Live webcast.
2021 Lexus IS
The 2021 Lexus IS soldiers on its existing platform, but gets freshened styling, increased structural rigidity, updated suspension components, and some new tech features. Save for minor increases of a little over an inch in overall length and width, and a fractional decrease in height, the car’s dimensions are unchanged. The new bodywork sports crisper lines all around, a dramatic full-width taillight, and slimmer headlights that integrate the signature checkmark-shaped daytime running lights, which were previously separate. Chassis updates were aimed at reducing unsprung weight, and include 20-percent-lighter coil springs and forged-aluminum A-arms in place of the previous steel units.
The IS’s powertrains and model-naming structure carry over from the 2020 model. The rear-drive IS 300 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, while the all-wheel-drive IS 300 gets a 260-hp 3.5-liter V6 paired with a 6-speed automatic. The IS 350 is powered by a 311-hp version of the same 3.5-liter V6, paired with an 8-speed automatic in rear-drive form and a 6-speed automatic with AWD.
The performance-oriented F Sport trim level will now be available only on the IS 350; it had previously been offered on the IS 300 as well. F Sports get unique bodywork elements such as a front bumper with functional aerodynamic enhancements, distinctive grille, rear bumper, rear lip spoiler and rocker-panel moldings. Other F Sport exclusives include 19-inch wheels, cool-air intake with sound generator, sport pedals, and F Sport exhaust and diffuser.
A Dynamic Handling Package for F Sport models adds a Torsen limited-slip differential, Adaptive Variable Suspension, unique carbon-fiber rear spoiler and rearview mirror caps, and a unique BBS-brand 19-inch wheel. (Eighteen-inch wheels replace the previous 17s on non-F-Sport IS models.)
The interior is freshened with trim updates and a new infotainment system that features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility, as well an available 10.3-inch touchscreen. The available Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System is upgraded from 17 speakers from 15, and gets a substantial boost in wattage—to 1800 watts from 835. The Lexus Safety System+ suite of active safety features is upgraded to version 2.5, which means it gets enhanced radar and camera capabilities, and an updated adaptive cruise control system that can accelerate automatically when the turn signal is activated to overtake a vehicle moving slower than the preset speed.
The 2021 Lexus IS is scheduled to go on sale late this fall. Pricing info will be released closer to that time; we expect those numbers to stay close to the 2020 IS’s base-MSRP range of $39,000-$45,000.
Hmmm. Not a whole lot new here, but perhaps that’s to be expected. Premium compact sport sedans aren’t the hottest category in the market right now, so it makes sense that Lexus would take a conservative approach to the IS’s re-do. The IS’s basic platform dates back to the 2014 model year, and the 3.5-liter V6 goes back even further. Even though it doesn’t bring any substantial revisions, the 2021 revamp should keep the IS fresh in Lexus’s lineup for at least a couple more years.
2021 Lexus IS