2021 Lexus IS 350 Review: Lightly Tweaked Under the Skin

 

If you’re looking at the 2021 Lexus IS 350 and immediately assume it’s a new generation compact sedan, think again. This is a heavily refreshed iteration of the outgoing car because it’s the same under the skin. The front fascia has been changed with the addition of new LED headlights that now integrate the swoosh into the cluster and a new grille. In the back, you now get full-width LED taillights connected by a single strip. The IS 350, which is only available in F Sport trim, gets a unique blacked-out version of Lexus’ corporate spindle grille and its own rear bumper accented by dual exhaust tips.

What’s the same with the 2021 Lexus IS 350?

The 2021 Lexus IS 350’s interior reveals the car’s older underpinnings because the design hasn’t changed much. Much of the layout remains the same including the steering wheel and horizontal dash orientation. Its center stack is virtually unchanged featuring the same haptic feedback controls and physical knobs. The main display is now a touchscreen and gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as standard equipment. The touchpad controls behind the gear shifter remain should you prefer to use that instead.  F Sport models get sport seats with more bolstering and a digital gauge cluster inspired by the one found in the LFA supercar. The steering wheel, however, appears to be the same one found in the outgoing car.

The 2021 Lexus IS 350 is one of the last naturally aspirated entries in the compact luxury segment. It uses a 3.5-liter V6 with 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. If you get the RWD model, the engine is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. AWD variants, however, get an older six-speed unit. The IS 300 RWD uses a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 241 hp and 259 lb-ft while the IS 300 AWD has a detuned 3.5-liter V6 with 260 hp and 236 lb-ft. Like the IS 350, the IS 300 RWD gets an eight-speed automatic, and the IS 300 AWD makes do with a six-speed.

How Does the 2021 Lexus IS 350 Drive?

If you’re looking for the sportiest model and can’t wait for the upcoming IS 500, the IS 350 F Sport will be it. That variant gets 19-inch allows wheels shod in summer tires (RWD only; AWD models get all-season tires) and F Sport suspension turning. The available F Sport Dynamic Handling package adds adaptive variable suspension, a Custom and Sport S+ drive mode, lightweight 19-inch BBS alloy wheels, a carbon fiber rear spoiler, and a Torsen limited-slip differential (RWD only).

The 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport has one of the most connected driving experiences in its class. Although it’s not as quick as its turbocharged rivals, the naturally aspirated V6 provides linear power delivery and a sweet soundtrack to go with the engaging drive. The nicely balanced suspension offers agile handling in its sportiest setting yet knows how to chill down in comfort-oriented ones. As a result, the IS 350 F Sport is a safe choice for an all-around luxury sedan and remains one of the last ones that has remained squarely within the compact segment alongside the Genesis G70 and Alfa Romeo Giulia.

0 to 60: 5.6 seconds
60 to 0: 109 feet
Handling: B
Ride: B
Cabin Noise: B+
Fuel Economy: B-

 

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