As consumers continue to move away from sedans and into SUVs, Lexus continues their “relentless pursuit of perfection” with the 2021 Lexus IS. While that may sound contrived, I would argue it’s not. Mainly because Lexus continues to improve upon a vehicle that has been around for 20 years and exists in a rapidly vanishing category; the rear-wheel drive luxury sport sedan.

The 2021 IS has been redesigned with sharper looks, updated tech, and improved powertrain offerings. Here’s to hoping the Lexus IS sticks around for another 20 years. Lexus has lengthened and widened the new IS ever so slightly to give it a more athletic stance. This is complemented by newly sculpted rocker panels and a sharper overall contour. The spindle grille now incorporates “mini-spindles” and out back, there is a full-width light bar that tapers tightly across the center. If you opt for the triple beam LED headlights and newly available 19” wheels, expect to be noticed. The IS has always had a unique design and Lexus has done a fine job punching it up for 2021.

The 2021 IS debuts the new Lexus Driving Signature, which encapsulates the effort made to imbue all-new Lexus vehicles with a uniform vehicle dynamics identity. This Driving Signature is most obviously on display in the F Sport trim, which can be had in both front and all-wheel drive. Packing a 311 horsepower naturally aspirated V6, the F Sport has unique body panels, exclusive staggered width 19” wheels, a cold air intake and other performance goodies. If you opt for the Dynamic Handling Package, you’ll find an adaptive suspension running on lightweight BBS rims and a Torsen limited-slip differential. And man does it look sharp painted in Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0.

Lexus is synonymous with luxury, which applies even to their entry-level vehicles. While leather isn’t standard, it can be optioned along with a moonroof and 17 speaker Mark Levinson audio system putting out 1800 watts of glorious surround sound. On higher trims, you’ll find heated and ventilated front seats, laser-etched Ash wood ornamentation, and embossed door panels. Another high-end touch is the Lexus App, which offers smartphone based remote start and vehicle system details. This works in tandem with the Lexus Enform systems which will keep drivers apprised of factory scheduled service, 24/7 access to response centers and more.

On the infotainment side, there is a standard 8” touchscreen for managing entertainment and climate systems. A larger 10.3” screen with pinch-and-zoom ability is optional and comes with in-dash navigation. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa integration is standard across the board with an optional Wi-Fi hotspot. There is also an available Panoramic View Monitor feature. This system comprises four high-resolution cameras to give a birds-eye exterior perspective along with a “See Through” mode for parking and tight maneuvering.

The new IS comes standard with the latest iteration of safety features known as Lexus Safety System+ 2.5. You’ve got the Pre-Collision System, which includes a frontal collision warning, automated emergency braking, pedestrian, and cyclist detection plus emergency steering assist. These systems work in concert with newly improved sensors to prevent, or at least limit, damage in accidents. The dynamic cruise control now includes a smooth overtake ability for passing slower vehicles and works with lane tracing and departure assist to keep drivers centered in their lane. Intelligent high beams, road sign reading, and rear cross-traffic alerts round out the safety features.

The 2021 IS 300 looks great with plenty of updates to keep it fresh. This includes a bolder front and rear design which complements its combination of sports car moves with luxury appointments. The interior is nicely laid out with plenty of soft-touch surfaces and the upgraded infotainment screen is excellent. On the downside, rear leg and cargo room is on the small side and most of the better features are optional add-ons. Be sure to check out the video above for more of George’s thoughts on the new IS.

Drivers Only ranks the 2021 Lexus IS 300 103, please click here to see how it stacks up against the competition: Best Luxury Cars for 2020 & 2021.

Front-engine, rear- or all-wheel drive, 5-passenger sedan


16-valve DOHC 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4: 241 hp, 258 lb-ft
24-valve DOHC 3.5-liter, V-6: 260 hp, 236 lb-ft
24-valve DOHC 3.5-liter, V-6: 311 hp, 280 lb-ft

6- or 8-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 110.2 in
L/W/H: 185.4/72.4/56.5 in
Curb Weight: 3715-3880 lb

0-60 mph: 5.6 sec
¼ mile: 14.2 sec @ 100 mph
Top speed: 143 mph
*F Sport

City/Highway/Combined: 19-21/26-31/22-25