The 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport is the tight little Lexus sedan. It might not have the cache of the 3-Series BMW, but when you consider what you get for the money, the Lexus should get a look, especially if you’re looking to own and not lease. The proven reliability of the brand, coupled with a Toyota V-6 engine, typically leads to vehicles that can go for over 300,000 miles.
IS It Quick?
The IS 350 F Sport may not have the blazing performance of a BMW M3, but it does not disappoint. For those who need to have their face blistered, Lexus will be offering a 5.0-liter V-8 in the 2022 IS 500, with a badass soundtrack to match. For those who want to hear a naturally aspirated V-8 sing, it may be worth the wait.
But the IS 350 is still pretty rockin’, with the F Sport’s tuned V-6 coming in at 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. The rear-wheel drive model uses the same eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission found in the IS 300 RWD, while the AWD version sends power through a six-speed automatic. 0-60 times come in at around 5.5 seconds.
Sharp Corner Carver
The engineers at Lexus worked tirelessly to create a rigid body and chassis with a minimal amount of flex. According to Lexus engineers, this included reinforcing the radiator side supports, increasing the number of front side member weld points and optimizing reinforcement structures from the C-pillars to the sides of the roof.
The increased rigidity not only helps reduce unwanted noise and vibration, but it also helps improve riding comfort and driving performance with enhanced response to steering input. Engineers tuned the F Sport at racing venues, including the Nürburgring in Germany and the home track of Toyota’s Shimoyama testing facility.
Chief Engineer Naoki Kobayashi of Lexus says, “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. We aimed to make the new IS a Lexus compact sports sedan that provides high-quality riding comfort while offering a high level of vehicle control. Linear steering, brake responses and optimized handling with exceptional ride quality are the result of heightened focus on tuning of the chassis and its interactions with the control surfaces through diligent evaluation at a test facility unlike any other.”
That hard work paid off, as it’s among the best-handling Lexus vehicles I can remember.
Looks Good Inside and Out
You know that the F Sport is special when you come up from the rear and notice the beautifully woven carbon fiber spoiler. Getting in, stainless-steel scuff plates adorn the door sills. Your eyes will immediately be drawn to the stylish F Sport front seat surfaces, especially when dressed in the new Circuit Red. The front seats also offer standard heated and ventilated functions. A heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, perforated leather-wrapped shifter and F Sport combination instrument cluster, along with special accelerator and brake pedals, set off the F Sport from the regular IS.
In addition, the F Sport’s Dynamic Handling Package includes Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS). For 2021, engineers have optimized the damping force of the AVS system to help this little Lexus keep its composure in the twisties. In addition, the DHP also includes lighter 19-inch forged-alloy BBS wheels finished in matte black. Not only do they look impressive, the 19-inch BBS wheel is approximately 4 pounds lighter than the standard 19-inch F Sport wheel. It sure beats laying out typically over $1K per for a cool-looking aftermarket wheel — even more when you consider tires.
Touchscreen – Yay!
One common complaint about other Lexus models is that the company forces you to use the Lexus Touch multimedia touchpad. This IS features both the touchpad and touchscreen, so you get to choose what’s easiest for you.
The new 10.3-inch touchscreen, which is 5.9 inches closer than the previous multimedia screen, is available on vehicles equipped with navigation.
The new multimedia system features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration. If you’re someone who runs their life with the help of Alexa, the ability to have it in the car is great. You can ask Alexa to add an item to your shopping list when pen and paper aren’t handy. If you own an older car, Amazon Alexa can also be added in the aftermarket by your local specialty mobile enhancement retailer.
Mark Levinson is Wonderful for OEM
The Mark Levinson sound system is a worthwhile upgrade from the factory. It flexes 17 speakers and a new amplifier offering an impressive 1,800 watts. The new Mark Levinson system aimed to reduce interference, improve output (aided by the addition of two speakers) and improve overall sound quality with new EQ tuning. Rear surround speakers have been changed to tweeter/mid-range combination coaxials. The audio amplifier has enhanced Quantum Logic Surround for playback of compressed sound sources and to provide a 7.1 surround sound listening experience. The system images and stages beautifully, and I could only detect the slightest amount of harshness at high listening levels.
Safety is There, Too
The Lexus Safety System + gives the driver all the electronic protections available. The adaptive cruise control can now behave more like a human driver. If you engage the turn signal to overtake a slower car, it prepares itself by picking up speed to make a smooth transition to the open lane.
The Lexus IS 350 F Sport can be had at a starting price of $42,900 and creeps up to $54,000 with every bell and whistle ticked off. If you’re looking for a sports sedan you want to keep for the long haul, it may be the perfect ticket.