2021 Lexus IS300, Lexus IS350, Lexus IS300h... There's a lot in the new IS we've seen before, but its new looks are accompanied by a host of engineering upgrades.
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The covers have come off a refreshed 2021 Lexus IS sedan this morning, making official the images that leaked online this week.

Debuting a sharper and more resolved take on the 'L-Finesse' styling themes of its predecessor, the new IS sedan looks set to bring a tougher and more imposing image on the road.

Its styling tweaks have also made the Lexus IS longer and wider, growing 30mm in both directions to a new 4710mm in length and 1840mm in width. Height grows 5mm to 1435mm, and the wheelbase is unchanged at 2800mm.

The new – or rather heavily restyled – Lexus IS arrives with a number of carryover technologies, from its platform to the powertrains that drive it and much of the cabin its buyers will sit in, but Lexus has gone to lengths to describe an extensive engineering overhaul.

For the new model year, the IS benefits from a more rigid design, delivered through reinforced radiator side supports, a greater number of front-side-member weld points and optimised structures between the rear-quarter pillars and sides of the roof – "among other areas".

Lexus says these tweaks, in addition to improving ride comfort and making the steering more responsive (including greater smoothness on returning to centre), have also reduced noise and vibration.

The 2021 Lexus IS also gets new swing-valve shock absorbers, with ultra-low-velocity valves.

"Even when the stroke speed of the shock absorbers is low, appropriate damping force will be exerted to provide excellent responsiveness on all surfaces and result in ride quality that is consistently even," the company claims.

The new IS benefited from rigorous testing and development at the Toyota group's new technical centre in Shimoyama, Japan, made famous by its inclusion of a Nurburgring-inspired track.

Despite riding on a reworked version of its existing architecture, the new Lexus IS gains a wider track, growing by 50mm at the rear and 45mm at the front end.

New 19-inch BBS wheels are available, benefiting from the use of hub bolts for increased fastening strength and reduced weight. Each wheel is understood to be nearly 2kg lighter than the standard 19-inch wheel option.

The range of powertrain options in the new IS mirrors that of the outgoing range, with IS300, IS300h and IS350 models. The rumoured and hoped-for IS500 has so far not surfaced, and Lexus has not commented on its existence.

The existing engines appear largely unchanged in outputs and efficiency, although the 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine in the IS300 gains enhanced adaptive control for the eight-speed automatic transmission with which it's paired.

With this improvement, Lexus promises a more intelligent gear selection for greater comfort and increased response.

Similar intentions have been applied to the IS300h hybrid, with Lexus claiming improved throttle response for more immediate acceleration from the paired 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor.

No changes have been announced for the 3.5-litre non-turbo petrol V6-powered IS350.

Inside, the new IS gets a subtly tweaked dash design with new circular outboard vents, but is otherwise a mostly carry-over design.

The 10.3-inch main screen gets a more forward-mounted position in the dash, along with a touch display – a feature that should satisfy buyers dissatisfied with the polarising trackpad control system (which still lives in the centre console).

Interior changes are rounded out by new trim styles in the door panels, and new accents – including, for the first time, an open-pore black ash wood option.

The Lexus Safety System+ suite has been upgraded with new functions, including enhanced Lane Trace Assist (improved lane recognition), Driver Emergency Stop Assist (can stop the car if the driver does not respond to warnings), Emergency Steering Assist, Pre-Collision Safety System (now with intersection detection) and Low Speed Acceleration Control.

When will the 2021 Lexus IS go on sale in Australia?

The new 2021 Lexus IS is scheduled to reach Australia in late 2020, with exact timing and details to be revealed closer to launch.

The IS was Lexus's top-selling passenger car (which excludes SUVs) in 2019, although that topped out at 818 sales.

By comparison, Lexus sold 3471 NX SUVs in 2019, while rival brands Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz sold 1284 A4s, 3079 3 Series' and 5055 C-Classes respectively. (It should be noted all three of those rivals offer a wagon variant, though these traditionally are only a small portion of sales.)

For now, the IS remains the brand's best-selling nameplate in Australia, with a cumulative 46,187 sales since its arrival in 1999 up to May 2020. Over one million examples have been sold globally.

NOTE: Click on any of the images here to see more in the gallery.


Below: the current IS