Lexus might consider the 2021 IS a full redesign, but we think it's more of a freshening as the mild update doesn't bring substantial improvements to this luxury sports sedan. Overall it's a decent car, but it's no match for the top contenders in the category, such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, in terms of the driving experience, interior room, or fuel economy.
Rear-wheel-drive versions come with a 241-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and the all-wheel-drive models have a polished but thirsty V6 producing 260 hp. There is also a F Sport with a 311-hp V6. We purchased the AWD version for our test program because driving all four wheels is the trend and customer preference in this class. While on paper the IS300's non-turbo V6 and six-speed automatic transmission might seem “old school,” it actually feels really refreshing to drive a car that possesses such a linear, meaty power delivery along with a smooth, cultivated engine note. And by the numbers the IS300 is plenty quick, dashing from 0 to 60 mph in just over 6 seconds, one of the quickest in its class. The downside is unimpressive fuel economy of 22 mpg overall in our testing. That's between 5-7 mpg less than the A4 and 3 Series, and about the same as Lexus's own RX350 SUV.
Handling is fairly nimble during ordinary driving but not all that sporty.