Part of engineering a product is connecting it to the end user, for Toyota and Lexus, this means connecting the driver to the car. A 3.3 mile test course located in Shimoyama, Japan is part of Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama where vehicles have been thoroughly tuned since 2019, with various turns, curves, and a 250 foot elevation change; this is surely the way to engineer more exciting cars. And Toyota with Lexus is serious about injecting a sport spirit across their lineups, President Akio Toyoda being a motorsports enthusiast has led the charge to bring more excitement, more control, and better feeling behind the wheel, and the new Lexus IS is poised to do that with it's own Lexus Driving Signature.
In its fourth generation the Lexus IS is heading toward being a true sports sedan in every sense, the first generation was the great handling Altezza amplified by a 3 liter straight six engine for the U.S. market, the second generation introduced the legendary Lexus IS-F with it's rocking V8, and the third generation integrated throughout the lineup F-Sport dynamics. Now for the 2021 model year, the Lexus IS is being engineered from the ground up to increase body rigidity, reduce harshness, and really put an emphasis on both F and Sport, a car that brings back the feeling of the road while also being comfortable and user friendly.
Body rigidity was the first enhancement made to the new IS, engineers reinforced the radiator support, increased the number of front side member welds, and optimized reinforcements from the C-pillar to the roof. These changes to body rigidity not only make the car more responsive and handle better, it also creates a quieter cabin and a more comfortable ride. When addressing the ride for both comfort and performance, Lexus did away with the standard 17 inch wheel and has now made 18 inch wheels standard, but even better are the two 19 inch wheel options for F-Sport models. A new set of 19 inch BBS wheels come with the Dynamic Handling Package on the IS F-Sport which gives more contact patch to increase performance along with a revised suspension layout and front pickup points that accommodates larger wheels across the model range. Attaching the wheels to the new IS is now done by lighter weight hub bolts that not only make for a 2lb unsprung weight savings, but also provide a stronger attachment point at each corner.
The suspension has been refined in comparison with previous models, engineers targeted the weight of suspension components and have reduced them with coil springs that are 20 percent lighter, forged aluminum A-arms that are 18 percent lighter, and a stabilizer bar that uses new materials to optimize thickness and diameter to help reduce weight by another 17 percent. Comfort and performance is further evolved in the suspension with new swing-valve shock absorbers equipped with ultralow-velocity valves in their pistons that help adjust quickly when crossing even minor road irregularities while adding grip through turns.
The F-Sport lineup is being reborn on the IS lineup, now only available on the 311 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 model, it is set apart visually from the rest of the lineup with a sportier front bumper with functional aero, rear bumper, grille surround, rear lip spoiler, rocker moldings, and more. As previously stated, 19 inch wheels are standard on the F-Sport model, they are equipped with exclusive center caps and wider rear tires (265/35R19) to match the aggressiveness of the cool air intake under the hood, sound generator, F-Sport exhaust, and diffuser. All of these functional and visual upgrades are cued by various F-Sport badges featured on the sides and rear of the Lexus IS.
Inside of the F-Sport's cockpit are a slew of upgrades not available on other models like stainless steel scuff plates, a leather wrapped heated steering wheel, leather wrapped shifter, F-Sport instrument cluster, and unique pedals for the accelerator, brake and footrest. Other features include door accents highlighted by black geometric film window switch surrounds and Active Sound Control that enhances the roar of the V6 under the hood while negating hard road noise.The star of the show however are the F-Sport front seats which come with a heated and ventilated option, two way powered lumbar adjustment, four way adjustable headrests, and a beautiful Circuit Red option that drapes the interior with a deep red shade of leather throughout.
While the F-Sport's interior upgrades were featured, lets not forget the standard model and all of its great features and options. NuLuxe trimmed seating is available with a 10-way power driver seat and an 8-way front passenger seat standard along with dual-zone automatic climate control system with touch sensitive controls, an available power moonroof, and Smart Access with push button start. Decorative ornamentation is finished in either Black Metallic paint, Black Geometric Film, or Ash on F-Sport models equipped with DHP. Piano Black accents are featured throughout the cabin as well as an array of luxurious interior colors like Black, Glazed Caramel and Rioja Red, while F-Sport interior color options include Black, Circuit Red, and two-tone White/Black. Further interior standard features are a driver oriented 8 inch touchscreen display equipped with Apple Carplay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa integration. . The Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System package upgrades the the touch screen to 10.3 inches while also featuring navigation, 17 speakers with 1,800 watts (up from the standard 15 speaker system with 835 watts), EQ tuning, tweeter/midrange Unity speakers in the rear, Quantum Logic Surround for playing compressed audio files, and a 7.1 surround listening experience.
For enthusiasts the Dynamic Handling Package (DHP) is where all of the goodies are found that elevate the drive on the new Lexus IS. Engineers have worked in Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) that optimizes dampening force and increases cornering ability along with the Torsen Limited Slip Differential (LSD) on rear drive F-Sport models. The driving dynamics can also be turned up with an available Sport S+ mode that changes engine and transmission tune mapping to increase performance along with tightening up the Electric Power Steering responsiveness. Along with Sport S+, a Custom mode is available that offers tunability for the powertrain (Normal/Eco/Power), chassis(Normal/Sport), and air conditioning(Normal/Eco). Along with the handling upgrades DHP equipped Lexus IS F-Sports feature a carbon fiber rear lip spoiler and side mirror caps, center console knee-pad, and a Lexus Card Key.
All of the enhancements made are not just for F-Sport level IS models, the whole lineup benefits from all new styling that is eye catching along with being lower and wider in stance. Muscular fenders provide ample room for 19 inch wheels with wider tires that lend to the low form of the IS which tells you it is a performance vehicle. The new Lexus IS is sculpted throughout with lines in the sides and shoulder that create aggressive sharp edges, the new front Lexus spindle grill adds presence on the road, as do the new headlights that integrate a sharp L at the top for that signature Lexus look. The triple LED optioned headlights feature a line that carries all the way to the rear of the car that ties in it's ferocious nature throughout the rest of the vehicle. With sharp edges, muscular shoulders, and bulging fenders it's easy to tell the IS means business while out back a beautifully designed L-shaped blade style light bar wraps around and brings it all together. Five new colors are available to adorn the new IS, Iridium, Cloudburst Gray, Matador Red Mica, Infrared (F-Sport only), and Grecian Water .The existing palette includes Ultra White, Eminent White Pearl, Atomic Silver, Caviar and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 (F-Sport only).
Now let's not forget about the drivetrain options available across the new IS lineup with both rear and all wheel drive options available as are 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder models to suit your needs. First the 2.0 liter IS300 features a turbocharged and intercooled 4 cylinder that makes 241 horsepower and 258 lb ft of torque that is equipped with VVTi-W or Variable Valve Timing intelligent- Wide that can switch between Otto and Atkinson cycles for maximum efficiency. An 8-speed Sport Direct Shift (SPDS) automatic transmission is standard along with an adaptive transmission control called G-Force Artificial Intelligence (G-AI) that selects the appropriate gear under load to deliver linear response. For cold weather climates where snow and less than optimal weather exists, the IS300 AWD is available with a 260hp and 236 lb ft of torque 3.5 liter V6. A six speed automatic transmission powers all four wheels at a 30/70 split during normal driving conditions while being capable of splitting to 50/50 when needed. Those looking for the most power from their IS need to look no further than the 311 hp and 280 lb ft of torque from the IS350's 3.5 liter V6. Available with an 8 speed automatic for the RWD model and a six speed for the AWD model, performance is comparable and fast with 0-60 times at 5.6 and 5.7 respectively.
Going fast is fun, but safety should always be first and that's why Lexus has included the standard Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 with the Pre-Collision System (PCS), which include Frontal Collision Warning (FCW), Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection, Emergency Steering Assist (ESA) and Bicyclist Detection. Upgraded millimeter wave radar elements and a single lens camera help keep both those inside the new Lexus IS safe as well as pedestrians and cyclists on the road. All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) can be employed at speeds of 30 mph or more which allows safe distance driving of speeds all the way down to 0 mph which then can resume from a stop for the ultimate cruise control system. DRCC has also introduced a new feature that allows the overtaking of slower vehicles by simply using the turn signal stalk when following a vehicle going slower than your set speed. Lane Departure Alert (LDA) is also part of the many safety features available and in conjunction with DRCC uses Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) which can help nudge a driver back into a lane or vibrate with a chime to perhaps awaken a sleepy driver, this along with enhanced lane recognition performance allows the system to better identify the roads being driven on to safely guide the occupants. Other LSS+ 2.5 features include Intelligent High Beams that adjust when oncoming traffic is detected, RSA or Road Sign Assist that detects road signs and speed limits to adjust the speed when using DRCC or display a sign on the multi-information display, and of course Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alerts are included to make for safe lane changing and to help when backing up into both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Now that you're enticed to explore the possibility of owning a new Lexus IS later this year, you can try it out virtually with the new Lexus AR Play App. Using augmented reality technology, users can download the app and take a 360 degree look both inside and out of the Lexus IS as well as drive it as a remote control car in a real world background. With all the details at our fingertips, the available options, and an awesome app full of innovate features, it's time to build our own IS until the real deal hits showroom floors.
(Photos Courtesy of Lexus)