- Alexander Mitich
2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD F SPORT - Style Above All
The IS was introduced as a sports model priced below the ES. For 2021, the Lexus IS 350 gets a completely refreshed exterior with slim headlamps, full-width taillamps, and restyled rocker panels.
While it's still the same car underneath, the 2021 IS looks to solve the most pressing issues. Among the changes are structural and suspension revisions and a much-needed rethink of the infotainment system.
The Lexus IS 350 is a small five-passenger luxury sedan, offered in a single trim level, the IS 350 F Sport.
The F Sport gets staggered-width 18-inch wheels with either summer or all-season tires, a sport-tuned suspension, a limited-slip rear differential, upgraded brakes, an intake sound generator that amplifies engine noise during acceleration, heated and ventilated front sports seats, and a special sports-oriented gauge cluster.
The Navigation Package replaces the standard infotainment control dial with Lexus' Remote Touch-type mouse controller and adds a navigation system with a larger 10.3-inch screen.
A 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is also available, but only when included with the navigation system.
Stand-alone options include upgraded LED headlights (tri-beam), a power rear sunshade, front and rear parking sensors, an automatic parking system, and a heated steering wheel.
It's available with a V6 engine, which can be paired with either an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive or a six-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive.
The rear-wheel drive IS 350 model starts with the 311-horsepower, 280-pound-feet of torque V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
All-wheel drive versions, such as our tester here, use a six-speed automatic transmission.
Inside you'll find an attractive interior accented by premium materials, yet it struggles to strike a balance between innovation and complication. Aside from the leather on the steering wheel that looks and feels like thumb-crumpled skin, this interior is well done, with a tight panel fit and solid door seals. The seats have quality stitching and all contact surfaces are smooth.
The front seats offer good comfort and with the support of the power adjustable seats, it will be easy for you to find an ideal driving position. Rear seat occupants aren't so lucky, as this is a very hard back seat that's only useful in a pinch. This is a cabin with mediocre functional efficiency. Trunk space is small at 10.8 cubic feet and it doesn't fold. Inequality limits what you can carry with the seats down.
The infotainment system now uses a touchscreen interface, so controlling features like audio, Apple CarPlay integration, and Android Auto is relatively simple.
The IS also features voice commands, although these are limited compared to some rival systems. Gauges and controls are clear and intuitive, though the navigation system makes it a bit more difficult to use. The touchpad is still present, but you can bypass it entirely by using the touchscreen. The user interface is generally the same, but the on-screen menus are much easier to navigate.
It's slower than most of the competition, and less sporty than its European rivals from Audi and BMW, but the V6-powered IS 350 is significantly less expensive than other small luxury six-cylinder sedans, and it has Lexus' trademark dependability.
Overall exterior styling
Equally sporty and comfortable seating
Chassis could use more power
Powertrain, although smooth, is not as advanced as competitors'
Engine: 3.5L V6
Power: 311 hp
Torque: 280 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Comb.): 23/20/28 MPG
Curb Weight: 3,801 lbs
Base Price: $36,490
Price as Tested: $39,685