The 2021 Lexus IS300 Luxury is your entry ticket into the IS300 range. A luxury, mid-sized sedan, the current model is an in-depth refresh of a nameplate that's been around for quite some time, and let's be honest, it was due for a revamp.
We're testing this Lexus to determine if this substantial "reimagining", as Lexus likes to call it, can hold its own in a segment booming with German spearheads. With this refresh, Lexus brought a tougher and more striking-looking offering. The IS300 has undergone various styling tweaks and boasts new technology. What's more, Lexus has made advancements to its handling and dynamics, while also strengthening the chassis.
Worth a mention is the Lexus IS300 is now 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 remains unchanged at 2800mm.
The 2021 Lexus IS300 Luxury starts from $61,500 plus on-road costs. Ours on test was finished in the Sonic Iridium metallic paint that adds $1500 for a total on-test cost of $63,000. The next step up is the IS300 F Sport that will cost you $70,000 before on-roads. You also have the option of a hybrid powertrain from $64,500 before on-roads in the IS300h, or you might prefer a more powerful 3.5-litre V6 enginein the IS350.
The IS300 Luxury is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is now Euro 6 emissions compliant. It includes a retuned eight-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels.
When compared to something like its established German rivals in the Mercedes Benz C-Class and the BMW 3 Series, there's no doubting the Lexus's price tag is more appealing. Entry into a Mercedes-Benz C200 starts from $66,900, while the BMW 320i comes in at $70,990, both before on-road costs.
Neither can match the power and torque of the Lexus, however, and for that you'd have to step up to the more expensive C300 ($75,300) or 330i ($77,900).
|2021 Lexus IS300 Luxury|
|Engine||2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Power and torque||180kW at 5800rpm, 350Nm at 1650–4000rpm|
|Fuel consumption, claimed||8.2L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.7L/100km|
Hitting the road, the Lexus has plenty in its bag of tricks. It's a little heavy weighing in at 1660kg, and the steering can feel weighty at first, but it's quite a pleasant drive overall. Riding low, you'd expect to feel every bump and crack, but thanks to Lexus's soft suspension it's able to soak up inconsistencies with ease. Outward visibility is good, with decent-sized mirrors and a mostly unobstructed rear windscreen allowing a clear view all round.
There's just enough power pumping out of that 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with outputs of 180kW at 5800rpm and 350Nm of torque at 1650–4000rpm.
Get it up to higher speeds and that's where it's most compliant – at the top of its rev range. At lower speeds, at times, the IS300 Luxury can get a little muddled, particularly in Normal mode. What's more, there were instances where it'd be laggy off the line, but also as if it were finding its feet while I was putting mine to the floor.
In Sport, things kicked into motion a lot sooner and I found it holding gears with more compliance. While it gets up to speed, and it's quick, sometimes I had to plant my foot to the ground to find that power.
Having said that, when hitting the correct gear it's torquey and the engine note sounds angry enough without being too aggressive. There's a bit of disruption that peeps in from those smaller 18-inch Dunlops, but nothing that's going to hinder the drive. (The grade up in the F Sport scores 19-inch wheels).
Hats off to the Japanese for a brilliant effort with the ride and handling. It has decent turning ability thanks to the wider front and rear tracks. The turn-in is sharp and accurate, and the car goes exactly where you point it. It's stable and refined, and the ride feels settled, especially when you're cruising on a highway. It glides, and while it encounters some hesitation at times, it has enough of a sporty feel for those who want a bit of extra oomph out of a sedan, but don't want to get crackle-and-pop happy.
While it didn't feel overbearing behind the wheel, I did get a little flustered getting it in and out of carparks – that's when its chunkiness came into play. The reversing camera was fortuitously a great set of eyes, though. So I hate to say it, but in those situations, I did find myself relying on it.
Fuel use was fairly spot on with Lexus claiming 8.2L/100km and we returned a reading of 8.7L/100km.
Highlights in the IS300 Luxury include LED headlights, a hefty safety package (find the full details here), sat-nav, and a much-improved entertainment system.
Unlike its Euro rivals, Lexus keeps options to a minimum with two available options. The first, dubbed Enhancement Pack 1, adds a sunroof for $2000. The more comprehensive Enhancement Pack 2 brings a sunroof plus 19-inch alloy wheels, upgraded LED headlights, leather-accented seat trim (in place of faux leather), ventilated front seats, driver memory settings, 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio, and a power sunshade for the rear windscreen.
The cabin is a nice place to spend time in. It looks and feels plush yet sporty, and it's free of those unsightly hard plastics. In fact, the majority of the interior is full of well-presented soft materials, and as soon as you step inside you're greeted with incredible craftsmanship.
The seats up front are comfortable, power-adjustable and heated. There's not a whole lot of storage in the middle compartment, but there are reasonably sized door bins, two decent-sized cupholders up front, and two USB ports. As there was no wireless charger or extra storage spots, I found myself second-guessing where to pop my phone, so it often opted for a cupholder or in the small door holder.
The considerable change from the previous model is the 10.3-inch colour touchscreen, which now receives Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It performs well. It's responsive, bright, intuitive, and while it's the same display size as before, Lexus has moved it closer to the driving position by 15cm. This was mainly so that consumers didn't have to rely on the haptic touchpad.
For those of you who haven't seen this before, it's similar to the BMW iDrive controller, in that it acts as an alternative to the touchscreen. Located in the centre console area, it's right at your fingertips, and while it is a function that I enjoyed using, we've noticed that it's not favoured by all.
In the back, my passengers didn't complain as it was a comfy ride; however, you may be pushing your luck with three adults in the rear as toe and headroom, in particular, are compromised. It is kid-friendly, though, with two ISOFIX points, three top tethers and directional air vents. The back row misses out on bottle holders in the doors, but you do score a flip-down armrest in the middle that contains cupholders.
|ANCAP safety rating||Five stars (tested 2016)|
The boot is class-competitive offering 480L of cargo space (C-Class 435L, BMW also 480L). It felt considerable in size and had more than enough space for my luggage on a weekend away. You don't get a full-size spare in this grade – it comes equipped with a space-saver/temporary-use spare.
This car gets a big tick for its safety – it has plenty and it all comes standard. This includes 10 airbags (more than you'll see from many other manufacturers), blind-spot monitor, reversing camera with rear guide assist (or a 360-degree camera with Enhancement Pack 2), front and rear park sensors, and rear cross-traffic alert with braking.
Plus, there's Lexus Safety System+ that includes a pre-collision safety system with pedestrian (day and night) and cyclist (day) detection, emergency steering assist, lane-trace assist, road sign assist, all-speed active cruise control, automatic high beam, Lexus connected service, SOS emergency call, automatic collision notification, and stolen vehicle tracking.
The IS300 Luxury is covered by Lexus’s four-year/100,000km warranty, and it asks for services every 12 months/15,000km. Those services are capped at $495 a pop for the first three visits. The Lexus IS range has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, although it was assessed under older 2016 criteria, you'll be pleased to know that how safe is your car rates it a 10/10.
The Lexus underwent a much-needed facelift that a majority, including myself, would say was well overdue. While Lexus has placed this in its fourth-generation pile, I can't say I agree that this is technically a whole new car. A facelift, yes.
With the formula of Japanese build quality and brilliant styling, I will applaud Lexus on this edgier and more wholesome version. The sportier DNA of this lower and wider version presents great value in a hot segment. This car offers great spirit, a competitive price tag, and if you're after a sedan with opulence and character, then don't overlook this one in its class.