2021 Lexus IS
2021 Lexus IS
Photo: Lexus

The look of the new 2021 Lexus IS already completely leaked, but now we know the sculpted-on-sculpted exterior wraps around basically the exact same car we already had, bringing into focus exactly how disappointed I am that this is just a another refresh.

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Illustration for article titled Big Changes To The Seven-Year-Old Lexus IS Just Stuff Like Air Vents
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So what’s actually new besides the sheetmetal? Well, actually not a whole lot. This is the second “facelift” of the IS model introduced on the New N platform (it’s called that, but it’s not new anymore) back in 2013. I was hoping the full reveal would give me some clues as to why the very-dated look of the interior is carrying over from the outgoing car, and well, that’s why. They made some rectangle vents a circle now, and updated the infotainment trackpad.

Illustration for article titled Big Changes To The Seven-Year-Old Lexus IS Just Stuff Like Air Vents

Seems like an alarmingly soft move for a company as big as Lexus, and by extension Toyota, to not do a traditional update cycle on a model in a segment that was previously seen as very promising. Especially with a recently updated Audi A4 and a completely overhauled new BMW 3 Series on the market.

But anyway, the chassis has undergone an overhaul, reducing weight in the suspension, control arms, coil springs, and anti-roll bars by almost 20 percent with use of lighter materials. The car sheds another two pounds by replacing its old traditional wheel lug nuts with new LFA-inspired wheel bolts.

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Illustration for article titled Big Changes To The Seven-Year-Old Lexus IS Just Stuff Like Air Vents

The IS300 keeps its 2.0-liter inline-four with 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the IS 300 AWD gets a detuned 260 HP 3.5-liter V6 with 236 lb-ft of torque, and the IS 350 gets the more powerful V6 tune with 311 HP and 280 lb-ft of torque. Not gonna lie, that’s a bit of a letdown, even understanding it’s just a refresh.

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Rear-wheel drive cars still come with an 8-speed automatic transmission, and the all-wheel drive models still come with a 6-speed auto.The IS 350 F-Sport adds no additional direct performance, but you do get a cold-air intake and sport exhaust for a tuned noise, and BBS 19-inch wheels that are lighter than the car’s stock 19-inch option. You can get the F-Sport in rear-or-all-wheel drive.

Illustration for article titled Big Changes To The Seven-Year-Old Lexus IS Just Stuff Like Air Vents
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On top of that, you can option the Dynamic Handling Package. It adds an adaptive suspension system that electronically controls the shock absorbers, a Torsen limited slip differential to rear-wheel drive F-Sports, an additional Sport S+ drive mode and a custom mode, and carbon fiber exterior trim accents on the mirrors and spoiler.

To me, this was a car that appeared broken and now has been, as far as I’m concerned, fixed aesthetically. I’m fully sold on the exterior, alarmed by the interior, but now I want to drive it again. Shedding some weight can’t do much harm.

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Illustration for article titled Big Changes To The Seven-Year-Old Lexus IS Just Stuff Like Air Vents

But I do feel overhyped and undersold by this tease—granted, a large part of that is me desperately clinging for anything to come up nice and good at the moment. A powerful, sharp and loud Japanese sedan really could have scratched an itch.

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But regardless even if this is just a minor refresh despite the hype, Japan is diving into a luxury renaissance right now and I’m feeling good. There’s this Lexus, the new Acura TL, and the new turbo-four and inline-six Mazdas all coming up, and it should be fun.

Illustration for article titled Big Changes To The Seven-Year-Old Lexus IS Just Stuff Like Air Vents

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