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Defining Edge

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The 2021 Lexus IS features a roster of improvements designed to bolster both performance and appeal. PHOTO Toyota

The Latest Lexus sports sedan amplifies performance and luxury. 

On June 14, Lexus debuted its 2021 IS Sports Sedan and with COVID-19 still ongoing did so via a global video transmission on Facebook.

With an emphasis on driving fun and dynamic capability, the 2021 IS, which goes on sale late this fall, features updated styling, a longer wheelbase; larger and wheel-tire combinations, as well as a roster of technology features, designed to entice both luxury sedan shoppers and driving enthusiasts.

From its inception as a 2000 model in North America, the IS has aimed itself squarely at the premium sports sedan buyer and the 2021 model aims to take that a step further.

In fact, Toyota President Akio Toyoda says that the IS, “really taught me what performance driving was, and it was the moment when my love affair with Lexus began.”

As a result, the 2021 IS, represents one of the first models in the Lexus lineup to really benefit from R&D at the Toyota Technical Centre Shimoyama—located in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture near Lexus’ global headquarters.

Opened last year, the centre’s mission is to deliver superior performance and dynamics by putting vehicles through a rigorous development and testing procedure that includes extensive laps on a 5.3-km test course that was designed to create some of the most extreme driving conditions in the world.

Stiffer structure

For the IS, this meant focusing on key areas to further improve performance and agility. Increased structural stiffness has been achieved by reinforcing the radiator side supports, along with the C-pillar and roof sections, plus increasing the number of front side weld points.

Wheel and tire choices now comprise of standard 18-inch rims with larger 19-inch units available on F-Sport models (a unique BBS wheel is offered on the F-Sport 3 with the Dynamic Handling Package).

Other chassis/suspension improvements include lighter weight hub bolts (an idea borrowed from the LFA supercar), lighter suspension components (including coil springs and forged aluminum control arms), which, combined with a revised sway bar contributes to a 17-percent weight reduction.

A set of swing valve ultra-low velocity dampers are also designed to further enhance cornering and handling agility while maintaining a compliant ride.

The 2021 IS will be offered in rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive versions with a choice of 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder (standard in rear-wheel-drive IS 300s) and a 3.5 litre V6 (in the IS 300 AWD and IS 350 models).

Lexus says the four-cylinder delivers 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque across a very flat range from 1650 rpm all the way up to 4400 revs (thanks to intelligent variable valve timing), while the V6 delivers 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque.

Four-cylinder IS models are equipped with an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission, while V6 cars get a six-speed automatic. Lexus says that a V6 powered AWD 2021 IS can dash from 0-96 km/h (0-60 mph) in just 5.7 seconds.

New technology

In terms of equipment, the new IS features a roster of technology and safety features, though new for 2021 is Lexus AR Play—an augmented reality app that allows the user to explore almost every aspect of the vehicle via virtual exterior/interior views.

In the app, viewers can personalize their IS by selecting eight different color combinations as well as perform functions such as opening and closing the doors and trunk, as well as operate the “virtual” Lexus like a remote-controlled car.

The new Lexus Safety System + 2.5 features enhanced functions–all designed to further mitigate the risk of collisions, whether with other vehicles, objects, cyclists, or pedestrians. An enhanced Pre-Collision System (PCS), incorporates Frontal Collision Warning as well as a cyclist and pedestrian detection that is integrated with Automatic Emergency Braking.

The system incorporates an improved single-lens camera and millimeter-wave radar elements that increase its recognition ability and response range as well as improving its functionality in both daytime and low-light conditions. The PCS also incorporates improved oncoming vehicle recognition and can activate braking and steering functions to avoid potential collisions.

The 2021 IS also incorporates an all-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) feature that is activated at speeds above 50 km/h. It allows the car to maintain distance from other vehicles and offers a new feature designed to enable smooth, progressive and safe overtaking of slower-moving vehicles—once the turn signal lever is activated.

There’s also a Lane Departure Alert feature to alert the driver if the vehicle starts to leave a defined road lane without the turn signal being activated.

A Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) feature increases steering input and uses either an audible alert or steering vibration to alert the driver if the vehicle is straying from its intended path.

Lane recognition performance has also been enhanced with better recognition of both the road edge and line, which in conjunction with the car’s suspension and chassis improves is designed to deliver better latera G performance and stability under such situations.

Standard Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are also featured to aid driver safety while Intelligent High Beam headlights provide automatic dipping to oncoming traffic at night.

Enhanced comfort and style

Inside, occupants are treated to new NuLuxe upholstery treatment, with multi-adjustable front seats (10-way for the driver; 8-way for the front passenger), dual-zone climate control and a standard 8-inch touch screen with a new, 10.3-inch version available as an option when the navigation package is specified.

A premium (and enhanced) Mark Levinson sound system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility round out the infotainment features.

Other goodies include an optional power moonroof as well as specific trim accents on F-Sport models.

All this is wrapped up in a more chiseled, yet muscular exterior that makes the IS look lower and wider than before, which it actually is.

More pronounced fender lines give the car an accentuated “hunkered-down,” look while the bold, signature grille and full-width taillight treatment continue to create a visual statement amid the current sea of global generics.

Given that the IS represents the first of a new breed of models that embody the concept of Lexus Driving Signature (which aims to enhance connectivity between car and driver), there’s every indication that the brand is carving a distinctive niche in the luxury segment—one where the human aspect of vehicle enjoyment and ownership is a key priority.

What we had foremost in mind in developing the new IS was to make it a car that excelled in communicating with the driver regardless of the road conditions or driving situation.

— Naoki Kobayashi , Chief Engineer , Lexus International

“We aimed to make the new IS a Lexus luxury sports sedan that provides high-quality riding comfort while offering a high level of vehicle control, » added Kobayashi.

 

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