2021 Lexus IS will turn heads, offers sporty and safe ride Featured

Posted On Sunday, 14 November 2021 00:15 Written by
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The Lexus IS features s sharp design and a strong slate of safety offerings. The Lexus IS features s sharp design and a strong slate of safety offerings. Photo courtesy of Lexus

If you’ve decided to purchase a new vehicle that will focus on thrills more than practicality, the compact luxury sports sedan category is good place to start — featuring strong competition from vehicles such as the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Genesis G70 and Cadillac CT4.

Another strong competitor in the segment, which I recently had the chance to explore the roads with, is the 2021 Lexus IS 300, a sharp-looking ride that returns in 2021 with some styling updates as well as improvements to the suspension.

Read on for a full assessment of how Lexus’ offering holds up and competes against a very tough bevy of competitors.


Take one look at the 2021 Lexus IS and you’ll be instantly impressed. It’s beautiful, sleek, low to the ground and head-turning, The racecar-style exterior design that is among best in class. I got plenty of reactions while driving the IS around town, and it was universally positive.

The in-your-face large grille may be a bit much for some people, but I loved it, along with the headlight design. It also features 18-inch split-five-spoke alloy wheels with all-season tires, rain sensing wipers, a rear spoiler, and Triple Beam LED headlamps.

Moving to the interior, the 2021 Lexus IS features extremely comfortable and attractive leather seating, as you would expect from a luxury ride. All aspects of the interior are classy and high end, and there’s a strong overall interior design.

One key thing to note, though, is that the rear seats are very tight and offer limited leg room and head room for adults. They are best left for kids or shorter grown folks. Ideally this vehicle would be used as a two-seater, where you treat the back seat as storage. Like all vehicles in this class, it’s definitely not a strong choice for families.

Also featured inside are 8-way power front seats, and the Comfort Package will get you heated and ventilated front seats, heated leather steering wheel, and a power tilt-and-slide moonroof.


The Lexus IS 300 I tested came with a 3.5-liter, V6 engine, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and boasting 260 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Zero-to-60 speed was decent, coming in at under 6 seconds.

The base engine on the Lexus IS 300 is a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder offering 241 hp and 258 lb-ft. Zero-to-60 times climb into the 7-second range with this engine, but fuel economy improves.

RWD is standard on the IS, and AWD is optional. The IS offers drive mode select (options are ECO, Normal, Sport & Snow), and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for those who want to control the gears.

Looking at the overall driving experience in the IS, it delivers a strong performance that drivers will enjoy on a daily basis. You get moving quickly, turns are smooth, braking is responsive, Sport mode is effective in enhancing the ride, and outside noise is kept to a minimum.

Is the Lexus IS the fastest or most powerful ride in its class? No it is not, considering it's facing strong offerings from Benz, BMW, Audi, Cadillac and more. 

But that's OK. The Lexus IS isn't trying to be everything to every buyer. That is not possible, and of course some folks will go for the German alternatives. However, the IS offers a strong performance, can still hold its own in the segment and will continue to attract a loyal fan base among buyers, especially when Toyota safety and reliability are factored into the decision-making process.

The centerpiece of the Lexus tech setup is its Lexus Multimedia System, which comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen display, and the option to bump up to a 10.3-inch screen. The system features a 10-speaker Lexus premium sound system, with the option to go even bigger and bolder with a Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 1,800-watt premium surround sound audio system.

The system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for phone mirroring, SiriusXM satellite radio, and the Lexus IS comes with an optional WiFi connection (3-months included).

Voice commands on the infotainment system worked perfectly for me, whether I was changing the radio stations or setting my next destination. You can also use touch commands on the center screen, which is a nice addition.

But while improvements have been made over previous versions of the Lexus infotainment controls setup, I still don’t find the experience as user-friendly as the setups in rival luxury vehicles, and more updates are needed to catch up.

On the positive side, the upgraded sound system is booming and sounds fantastic. Great even for music with heavy bass, nothing sounds muddled.

Moving on to safety, as usual with Lexus vehicles there is lots of positive to say on this front in the IS. A bevy of systems are in place to keep you safe, and they are not overly sensitive like some vehicles. You also get solid government safety ratings. 

Among standard features included are the Lexus Safety System + 2.5, which features: Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, all speed-dynamic radar cruise control, lane tracing assist, lane departure alert with steering assist, intelligent high beam headlamps and road sign assist.

You also get: Blind Spot Monitor with rear cross traffic alert, plus automatic on/off LED low and high beam headlamps with daytime running lights. Options include Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking, Rear Pedestrian Detection and a sharp Panoramic View Monitor.


Fuel mileage is one area where Lexus stumbles a bit in the segment vs. its rivals.

Official numbers for the IS 300 are 19 city/26 highway/22 combined., and I averaged 25 mpg during real world testing. Compared to its competitin, these numbers fall a bit short. Not a huge difference, so probably wouldn’t be the deciding factor for potential buyers, but something to keep in mind.


The 2021 Lexus IS 300 I tested was priced at $49,915 with all options, and the base price for the IS starts about $40K. This is a similar starting price to some competitors, and less than some German rivals.


The 2021 Lexus IS offers a fun driving experience, and once you add in its strong safety features and design prowess, you have a quality overall package for the segment. It’s not the most powerful offering in the class, but that won’t be the deciding factor for all buyers. Definitely worth a test drive if you are shopping in this category. 


AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2021 Lexus IS 300
  • Price as tested: $49,915; base price starts around $40K
  • Best feature: Beautiful design, strong safety features
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars  
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Compact luxury sport sedan buyers looking for a vehicle that will turn heads and is fun to drive.  
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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