By on June 1, 2020

I must make a confession. Of all the vehicles on the market today — a diverse crowd if there ever was one — no car’s rear end annoys me more than that of the Lexus IS.

The brand’s sporty compact offering went in a controversial direction for its third generation, entering the 2014 model year with half-melted ice cream cone styling. Seems the taillights suffered worst from the heat, as the red plastic managed to bleed nearly all the way down to the rear wheel well. And the first-gen was so clean!

For Gen 4, it seems Lexus is prepared to correct this mistake.

A teaser image has landed of the revamped 2021 IS ahead of its June 9th debut — a reveal that would have taken place in Detroit, had a certain spiky virus not jumped from the animal kingdom to humans.

While little can be seen of the IS sedan, one feature Lexus thought important enough to highlight happens to the one that caused your author so much nausea and anguish these past several years. For ’21, the IS dons an uninterrupted, full-width taillight — a feature Corey would label “heckblende” despite that being an awful word no one should ever use. Let’s hope the unit and all associated plastic remains in its own neighborhood.

For the first time in a while, there’s sedan excitement in the air. Last week saw the debut of Acura’s slinky new TLX, which represents a concerted effort on behalf of the brand to rekindle interest in attainable premium three-box sport. Time will tell if Lexus put as much thought into the new IS.

2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD rear - Image: © Timothy Cain

The model that brought us Altezza taillights two decades ago has, like the TLX and earlier TL, seen its fortunes wax and wane over the past twenty years. The third-gen IS’ debut year of 2014 saw the model hit a post-recession high, though the peak was lower than that seen in 2007. Last year, the aging sedan recorded its lowest sales volume since 2005, with just 14,920 units leaving lots.

That’s less than a third of the sales the IS enjoyed back in 2014.

Currently offered in (2.0-liter) four-cylinder IS 300 and (3.5-liter) V6 IS 350 guise, with either rear- or all-wheel drive, the model offers F Sport variants of each of its models. V6 engines are becoming harder to find in Toyota products, as well as in similarly sized rivals, which could mean the new IS either stands apart or joins the crowd. Lexus has always had one wary eye on the Germans, meaning it’s likely to keep V6 power under hood if at all possible.

As well, given parent corp Toyota’s desire to (finally) be seen as a purveyor of exciting products, the pressure will be on to offer something with impressive specs. Will a hybrid show up, too? Another good question; it would be in line with Lexus’ product direction, for sure.

[Images: Lexus, © Timothy Cain/TTAC]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

17 Comments on “See Anything You Like? Next-generation Lexus IS Looms...”


  • avatar
    jack4x

    The rumored IS500 sounds awesome.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I am not crazy about these rear lights. Especially Dodges look ugly with their “frames”. I thought, we tried this in the end of 80s and dropped the concept.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I like the current IS. I take more issue with the front and the predator grill than I do with rear. I would love to have one of these, test drove one last time around and it was pretty great. The tiny rear seat is a dealbreaker though.

  • avatar
    Carmaker1

    Warning, blunt criticism:

    I don’t really understand the timeline gaffes in this article, as a typical rule of thumb means 1st MY – 1 = when a Job 1 or market launch occurred. Or a Google search would highlight when Lexus launched this generation.

    It’s clearly been 7 years since Lexus launched the 3rd generation IS in June 2013 and not in/since 2014 like claimed above.

    It’s pedantic, but not really, as this car is old and recognizing how long it’s been here, counts a lot. A good chunk of July 2013 to December 2013 Lexus IS sales, were the 2014 model, so it has been around 7 full years, not literally 2014.

    It isn’t even being redesigned. It’s not making the move to GA-N nor wider GA-L used by LS and LC, because it’s facelift #2.

    Just like the LS460 in late 2012. 2020 GS was killed in favor of the 2021 Mirai. Next IS was cancelled in favour of another update. This IS, ISN’T a 4th gen car. V6 will only be available on F-Sport.

    • 0 avatar
      Trucky McTruckface

      Thanks for this. The article would have you believe that it’s an all-new model coming. True to form, it sounds like Toyota is again choosing to completely phone it in on yet another product, performing a lazy refresh on a vehicle that was uncompetitive seven years ago.

      I wanted to like the current IS, I really did. But I couldn’t get past the switchgear that looks like it came from a 2002 Camry, the way the AWD transfer case intrudes into the driver’s footwell, and the industry-worst Lexus infotainment setup. I was waiting for an update on this car and gave up when 2020 turned out to be another rerun. Sounds like I’m not missing anything for 2021..

      I ended up with a Cadillac, of all things, and don’t regret it. The current crop of German sport sedans are certainly competent but uninspiring, and the other Japanese luxury brands are circling the drain, as today’s Infiniti article demonstrates. Was really interested in a Genesis G70 based on the reviews, but Hyundai effed up the brand launch and I didn’t feel like dealing with the crappy local Hyundai dealers that don’t know how to sell the car. I never would have even got around to looking at the Caddy if Lexus had invested a modicum of effort into the IS. Good job, Toyota!

      • 0 avatar
        Carmaker1

        Yup, but I also blame myself for taking info I got in 2016, in which a 400A program IS redesign was in development for MY 2021, but ended up becoming this vehicle called 940B internally.

        I mislead a lot of people, as sometime ago Toyota clearly changed course and abandoned a new IS. Such BS happening years ago doesn’t surprise me.

        I tried getting a G70 2.0T Sport 6MT as a little runabout vehicle down in West Texas alongside old SE SVT Raptor SCrew, E90 M3 and aging V36 G35S, but the (sole) Hyundai dealer experience pissed me off and brought back memories of getting my first, a 2007 Sonata LX V6 as a teenager. I just walked out, as I wanted a simple lease to write off of a business entity and they kept browbeating me.

        I’m making do with my E90 M3 6MT, M4 (6M), G35S 6MT and will see what the manual CT5-V is like. It’s my only remaining option at this point. Hyundai botched the Genesis launch horribly.

      • 0 avatar
        Carmaker1

        As usual it’s very obvious the one who moderates here, is slacking and my response from 2 days ago never got posted:

        Yup, but I also blame myself for taking info I got in 2016, in which a 400A program IS redesign was in development for MY 2021, but ended up becoming this vehicle called 940B internally.

        I misled a lot of people, as sometime ago Toyota clearly changed course and abandoned a new IS. Such BS happening 2 years ago doesn’t surprise me.

        I tried getting a G70 2.0T Sport 6MT as a little runabout vehicle down in West Texas alongside old SE SVT Raptor SCrew, E90 M3 and aging V36 G35S, but the (sole) Hyundai dealer experience pi**ed me off and brought back memories of getting my first, a 2007 Sonata LX V6 as a teenager. I just walked out, as I wanted a simple lease to write off of a business entity and they kept browbeating me.

        I’m making do with my E90 M3 6MT, M4 (6M), G35S 6MT and will see what the manual CT5-V is like. 3 Raptors and one M760i are the only auomatics I own worldwide. It’s my only remaining option at this point. Hyundai botched the Genesis launch horribly and 2.0T isn’t the time.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “…happens to the one that caused your author so much nausea and anguish these past several years…”

    If you are this emotionally invested in capricious choices made by youngsters in a far-off styling studio, your disappointment is just beginning.

    Decide this week whether you really want to go down the “Grumpy Old Man” road… :-)

    Book (make that Author) recommendation:
    https://tinyurl.com/Larry-Winget

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I’m afraid it’s going to be even bigger than before. Because everything gets bigger and IS is already too big. I’m still on Gen 2 and there’s nothing like it in the whole marketplace.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Not much to get about excited here.

    This is simply a 2nd (more extensive) refresh for the IS like what the LS 460 previously had undergone.

    Same old platform and likely won’t be seeing any powertrain upgrades.

    The next all-new IS purportedly will be using a Mazda platform and mechanicals.

    Also, the Mirai didn’t replace the GS and there weren’t plans for Lexus version of the Mirai (again, replacing the GS) either.

    • 0 avatar
      Carmaker1

      Definitely true about a reskinned Mirai not becoming a future GS replacement, it was dumb rumor which took things out of context at All Crap News. However, the reverse is correct with GS becoming Mirai.

      I know what I’m talking about in regards to 300B Toyota development program, which I reported on before anyone else, back in 2015-16, as very few people read or followed Japanese publications back then. They quickly realized after all that Lexus info spilling in 2016-2017, to start doing so.

      I was the first English-speaking person in the world, to report on the cancellation of the 5th generation GS, in a publicly accessible forum in December 2016. Indefinitely suspended, as development of GS was frozen in October 2016.

      No one in the rest of Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, and the Americas commented on this rumor, until I brought it from Mag X (Feb 2017 issue released 12/26) to a Lexus website owner on December 30, 2016 and he paid for his own translation in early 2017. March 2017 was when he published the first non-Japanese account of this GS information and it spread like wildfire throughout the rest of 2017.

      5GS design freeze was what was due in October 2016, ahead of April 2019 Job 1 for late spring and early summer 2019 launch as a 2020 model.

      Just 6-8 weeks earlier prior to my findings on December 29, 2016, the car had been cancelled by Akio Toyoda and then later repurposed as the hydrogen FC 2021 Mirai, which was a failure in existing econobox form, not yet even due for redesign.

      Unless you got your information directly from Toyota like I did, nothing contradicts what I’ve stated. It’s all dead accurate, because the GS was cancelled and outgoing car kept in production 16 months longer than planned.

      There will be no GS replacement indeed and IS might not even share RWD with Mazda, favoring some BS EV like the next Q50.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    The styling of current generation IS is the least of it’s problems. It is neither sporty or luxurious and is no way competitive with current compact sports sedan. It’s only ace in hole is the Lexus reliability. Hopefully Lexus will correct most of the underlying issues along with the styling otherwise it will be lipstick on a pig makeover.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Toyota puts all that into their expensive street racer halo model. Their bread and butter is hum-drum reliability for the price. “For the price” means cheapening the materials and reducing durability: Toyota has discovered planned obsolescence.

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    “For the first time in a while, there’s sedan excitement in the air. Last week saw the debut of Acura’s slinky new TLX, which represents a concerted effort on behalf of the brand to rekindle interest in attainable premium three-box sport. Time will tell if Lexus put as much thought into the new IS..”

    Are we really pretending that the new TLX is a competitive product that’s going to upset this segment? Please. It’s a front wheel drive Honda Accord with carryover styling from the old car. It’s embarrassing that it took the company an additional three years to update to the current Honda platform. Most car buyers won’t be able to tell it’s a new model, and that’s a major fail right out of the box.

    The single-scroll turbo V6 is vaporware for the time being, since Acura didn’t release numbers, but I have a hard time believing it’ll keep up with the twin turbo engines everyone else is offering. The interior doesn’t belong in an entry luxury car and while they finally got rid of that stupid dual screen infotainment setup, they appear to have benchmarked Lexus to replace it – not good.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I’ve driven the current IS in 350 and 250 form. The 350 is more than adequate, the 2.5L 250 is an absolute dog. With them having axed the GS :( I assume the IS will be moved a little up-market, with the NX/UX taking more of the lease-bait crowd. IS500? tell me more!

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • Lie2me: I actually like the way it looks, but whether anyone will want one, we’ll see
  • N8iveVA: New e-tron starts at $67k. Model X starts at $80k, Model X performance model is $100k. yikes
  • EBFlex: TTAC is probably right. The Mustang isn’t profitable yet they still make that. Or maybe only at Ford they can...
  • EBFlex: “ Does XXX amount of sales always translate to (acceptable) profits? Is there a magic number? What was the...
  • RHD: “After spending a fortune to purchase and then spruce up the track, it has to be maddening for him to see...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber