The competitor of the BMW 3 Series has just been revealed in an all-new design featuring new technology but that is where all the “new” things about this Lexus IS ends because it’s basically a revised previous generation IS. I cannot ignore the fact that underneath it is the same platform of the old IS, it shares the same engines and it has a similar infotainment setup. All that aside because Lexus says the new IS has been improved in every conceivable way and it should drive much more pleasant and agile.

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For a car that is non-German, it has managed to challenge the BMW 3 Series head-on amongst other German rivals such as the Mercedes Benz C-Class and Audi A4, and the new one seems to pack the same punch to do the same job as the previous model. The latter is said to be aimed at providing good driving dynamics as it stands by its rear-wheel drive motives since 1999. The new IS has been tested thoroughly at Toyota Technical Centre Shimoyama with the intent to “pursue the fun of driving” and ensure that the car is able to adapt to certain driving conditions whilst providing the signature Lexus comfort ride.

Engine and Drivetrain

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For 2021, there is no new engine that has been developed for this IS instead the engines of the last generation have been carried over with some modifications done to boost the power output and improve efficiency. Kickstarting the range is the base IS 300 with rear-wheel drive and it is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 241 hp (180 kW) and 350 Nm of torque. Next up is the IS 300 but with all-wheel drive and it comes with a 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 260 hp (194 kW) and 320 Nm of torque. The range-topping IS 350, which is available with F-Sport trim, comes with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and it has a much powerful 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 311 hp (232 kW) and 380 Nm of torque and it’s faster to 60 mph with RWD taking just 5.6 seconds to do so. There is no word on the hybrid powertrain for the new IS but we know for sure it’s in the books.

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The rear-wheel drive models come with a 6-speed automatic transmission whilst the all-wheel drive models have an 8-speed automatic transmission. Staying true to its RWD philosophy, the all-wheel drive system sends most of the power to the rear wheels with a 30:70 front-to-rear torque split to provide maximum performance but in certain conditions, 50% of the power can be sent to the front wheels to improve traction. It comes with Torsen limited-slip differential that can be found on Toyota models such as the GR Yaris.  The suspension has been improved and now features new coil springs that are 20% lighter than the previous IS.

Exterior

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The first noticeable factor is that the grille is much larger but not as disturbing as the one on the new BMW 4 Series, this one can be tolerated and that wouldn’t be a surprise because Lexus has been at it for years with large grilles. The headlights have been revised and are much slimmer featuring L-shaped LED daytime running lights. The side profile has a sculptured crease running from the side skirts all the way to the rear doors. The rear design is just marvellous to look at and the highlight is the strip taillight.

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As standard, the Lexus IS has 18-inch alloy wheels but can be upgraded to 19-inch which come in two designs as the other one is exclusive to the F-Sport trim and additionally it gets a sporty black front grille and side air intakes, F-sport logo on the front fenders, black boot spoiler and a rear diffuser. There are 5 additional new colours which include Iridium, Cloudburst Grey, Matador Red Mica, Infrared and Grecian Water. The dimensions on the new IS have increased as it is 30 mm longer, 30 mm wider and 5 mm taller but the wheelbase is still the same as the previous IS sitting at 2 800 mm.

Interior

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The inside has been tweaked and redesigned to look a bit more modern with new key features such as a touchscreen infotainment screen and that is good news meaning you can finally operate that difficult Lexus system. I say this because the previous system was hard to navigate using the touchpad only. As standard, it comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and a 10.3-inch touchscreen as an option. It now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and that brings a smile on my face because all cars these days have to be fitted with these features.

The Lexus Safety System+ comes with some safety features that should make driving a lot easier. This includes emergency steering assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function, pre-collision warning system, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning.

Lexus has not stated when the car will launch and specifications mentioned here may vary with the models that will be coming to South Africa. Prices will be announced on launch if possible.

Source: Lexus IS Press Information