By on June 12, 2020

Well, this week’s debut of the new Lexus IS didn’t go as planned, what with company execs opting to wait until things cooled down in the streets and Twitter feeds of America.

Turns out we didn’t have long to wait. The 2021 IS, already teased in a shadowy image released by Lexus earlier this month, will make an online appearance on Monday, June 15th. Lexus offered up a few new views of the thing, too. Your day is made!

Expected to ride atop a reworked version of its existing platform, the IS is in line to receive a much needed styling update. Lexus seems awfully eager to show off this sedan’s new ass, choosing to highlight a full-width taillight array that appears to avoid the current generation’s rear-end excess. The existing IS haunts my dreams and pollutes my days.

That said, it appears that the rear lamps migrate forward along the car’s flanks, rather than trailing downward to the rear wheel well. Nothing could top what came before in terms of unpleasantness, but I shouldn’t get carried away on a rant here.

While we can’t see much of the vehicle’s flanks, the upward sweep of the lower window edge reminds this viewer more of the recent Lexus ES than the current IS.

The model on display here, an IS 350 F Sport, seems to confirm that V6 power will not go the way of polite online discourse for the model’s new generation. It’s assumed a turbocharged 2.0-liter returns to tempt bottom-end buyers. Last month, Motor Trend reported that the engine roster will carry over, with two flavors of 3.5-liter V6 at the top end. It also stated that the IS’ rear track stands to gain width, improving roadholding.

While Lexus seems to be sticking with an existing mold here, there’s valid reasons for doing so. For starters, IS sales pale in comparison to that of more popular models. The segment it finds itself in is one of the fastest-shrinking in the industry. As well, with the GS gone for 2021, the IS needs to carry on the attainable rear-drive sedan role single-handedly. Sticking with the existing recipe made more sense for Lexus, it seems, though there’s word that a hybrid variant and perhaps even a range-topping brute might make an appearance in the near future.

[Images: Lexus]

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16 Comments on “2021 Lexus IS Shows Just a Little Leg; New Debut Date Revealed...”


  • avatar

    This is still too small to satisfy the few GS-type customers; they really need to add more trims of the ES pronto. And add AWD.

  • avatar
    dwford

    So the “new” IS will be a heavy restyle of the current IS. Not really surprising considering the sales. I guess the IS will at least have RWD and a V6, which no one else in the compact luxury sedan class offers.

    The entry luxury sedan buyer is really getting mistreated lately. The Germans are all offering FWD based sedans, and BMW is even charging near 3 series money for the 2 series Gran Coupe. Cadillac just rehashed the ATS into the CT4 with 4 cylinder only, and now Lexus does a quickie rehash of the existing IS. All to service badge snobs willing to stretch their budgets to impress their friends.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Nothing says
    power
    performance
    prestige
    like a 4 banger.

    I know the power is similar. But I dont like turbos in gas cars. OK? Is that ok?
    A john deere 4855? OK
    Peterbilt 379? OK !

  • avatar

    Hi!
    Those who have been here for more than four years may remember my contributions to this site. I reviewed the XT4 for Hooniverse. I like the fact that my opinions were justified by Tim.
    Cheers!
    -K

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    If the IS is being upgraded a bit to take the place of the GS, that’s not so bad as the cars currently share a lot of their platforms and their interiors are very similar. The main thing is it’s a RWD primarily with a longitudinal engine layout. I took my 2000 GS400 in for service today and they gave me a GS350 F-sport AWD as a loaner. It’s interesting to make the comparison between my car and it’s newer version. First, it feels like a GS when you get in and start driving, same size, same ‘heft’ same overall dynamics. The new car handles quite a bit better with a distinct bite on corner entry. Where the current GS falls down for me is the engine/transmission. The 3.5L has the same power as my car’s 4.0L V8, but the new V6 is utterly lacking in character and unless you get hard into the throttle makes a typical V6 moo-cow noise, quite annoying. I also found the 6-speed (only one gear more than my car!) busier than I’d like, it’s always downshifting at even light acceleration. That’s where my old has presence, the V8 just carries you along all torque and quiet but nice noises. I’d be happy to buy a 4th gen GS, but I’d have to put a better sounding exhaust in it. Now looking forward to see what they do with the IS. Oh, also have driven the new ES, it’s an excellent FWD car and big improvement over previous, but it’s not a GS replacement.

    • 0 avatar

      You’ll have to revise your assessment, as GS 350 has had an 8AT since 2014.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      IMO they tuned the IS350 to sound better than the GS350.

      • 0 avatar
        Grahambo

        2015 IS350 F Sport AWD owner here. I’m only mildly curious about the new iteration since I plan to daily drive mine for another 15-20 years. (That said a new IS-F could tempt me). Car seems to produce wildly mixed reactions (at least online) but everyone who comments on mine seems to dig it (even the spindle grill which IMHO looks good on the IS but not as much on many other Lexi (save the LC). What’s most important though is I love the design – even the taillights. And even more importantly I love the car nearly 5 years into ownership. For me there still is no superior car in this class taking everything into consideration – again for me. YMMV. Certainly I much prefer the NA V6 over the turbocharged competition and agree with AJLA that it sounds great under throttle at least in the IS350 implementation. The car drives very harmoniously and holistically. It’s like an E90 with inferior steering but vastly better reliability. But yeah it’s small – although the rear seat is most definitely habitable in a way the prior gen (and many competitors) are not. I’ve had my son in law and three of his friends (all well over 6 ft) in it and they were fine. Not a fan of the stock Bridgestones (a big reason for not great numbers in magazines testing) but with the Pilot As3s on there it is amazing. Just a great car that handles everything – snowstorms, massive thunderstorms, the twisties – with aplomb. Great road trip car. The excellent build quality, durability and reliability is just a plus. I know that many are not looking for sport sedans anymore but if you are you owe it to yourself to live with an IS for a while.

        • 0 avatar
          Lightspeed

          Tomorrow I’ll pick up my 2000 GS400 from the dealer after driving a 2019 GS350 F-sport for two days. Pretty sure I’m going to again be shocked at how well my old car compares to the new one in terms of noise-vibration-harshness and driving experience. These old Lexus cars are darn near immortal. For me that’s a virtue that the Benz/BMW/Audi crowd don’t get. If they can afford a new one at warranty-end then good for them, I’m happy to give up some HP and speed for reliability, durability, longevity in a competent package.

          • 0 avatar
            Lightspeed

            Post-script. Picked my old GS400 and driving home it’s obvious why the current GS has sold so poorly, the V6 engine and drivetrain while powerful enough, is such a letdown and out of character for this car. Compared to my car’s V8 the new car sounds crude and doesn’t work well with the transmission, the new ES is a better driving experience. Sad end for the GS.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Lexus is making the same mistake they did w/ the LS460 by pro-longing its life cycle w/ a 2nd, more comprehensive refresh w/o any real power-train upgrades.

    By the time Lexus launched the replacement, the LS 500, the damage was done.

  • avatar
    ElSnuggles

    The last rental car I had before COVID kicked in was this. And it was…crap. My wife joined me on a business trip to Florida and we were staying the weekend so I kicked in a little extra to have a luxury.

    The delta between this and an another SUV was minimal. I can’t imagine paying a premium to drive this permanently.

  • avatar

    Every GM vehicle that gets reviewed needs only these three words – “What a disgrace!”

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