We’ve got a list of expectations for Lexus’ next-generation IS sport sedan—and some things we figure it won’t have.
Later today, Lexus will be showing off the redesigned 2021 IS. The IS has long been the entry point for the brand’s sedan lineup, offering a more distinctly sporty package than the larger (but similarly priced) ES. Competition has been fierce in the luxury segment however, and the IS is in need of a freshening to take the fight to the Germans. Not only does it have to compete with the 3 Series and the A4 however; there’s also the renewed challenge from the upcoming 2021 Acura TLX.
In anticipation of the new model, the AutoGuide team has sat down and come up with a list of the features we expect to arrive on the new fourth-generation model. We’ve also got a list of things we don’t expect to see today—but hey, feel free to surprise us, Lexus! Read on for our 2021 IS predictions.
What we expect: more LC design influence
The current Lexus LC isn’t just the best-looking Lexus right now. It’s one of the best-looking cars in production, period. We expect the new IS to borrow design cues from the flagship two-door model. Expect thinner, more dynamic headlights and a tidier nose. The current IS nose is a mish-mash of conflicting angles and forms; a cleaner look will go a long way to reasserting itself amongst the competition.
What we don’t expect: multiple body styles
In the compact luxury segment, the Japanese brands tend to stick to just sedans. The Acura TLX and Infiniti Q50 are both four-door, three-box designs only, and we expect the IS to follow suit. That’s not to say Lexus doesn’t have form: the first-gen IS had the Sportcross wagon, and the second included a folding hard-top coupe. Given the IS’ relative bit player status versus the Germans though, we don’t expect Lexus to offer multiple shapes.
What we expect: modernized tech
If there’s one area the IS feels most dated, it’s inside. The current car’s infotainment isn’t just slightly behind the competition, it isn’t even on the same track. An awkward joystick is the only way to interact with the screen, and there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Expect a fully modern setup similar to the refreshed 2020 Lexus RX, complete with touch capability and both smartphone tethering options. A suite of driver assists will likely be standard too.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Lexus RX Review
What we don’t expect: a whole new platform
This is, admittedly, the biggest question mark. There are rumors that Toyota will partner with Mazda to borrow the latter’s new large sedan platform, which accommodates both rear-wheel drive and longitudinally-mounted engines. There’s also the rear-drive permutation of the versatile TNGA platform, which underpins the Japanese-market Crown model. Nonetheless, we believe Lexus will continue to use the current car’s platform. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, enabling the team to funnel money into more pressing areas.
What we expect: hybrid power
Parent company Toyota is bullish on offering more hybrids across its lineup by 2025. Just this year alone, it’s debuted an all-hybrid Sienna minivan and Venza crossover. We expect the trend to continue with the IS, likely using a version of the powertrain found in the ES 300h.
What we don’t expect: a V8 F model (at least at first)
While it’d surely be a laugh to drive, we’re not counting on a full-blown IS F this generation. The original, with its roaring V8 and stacked tailpipes, was a beast of a car in the last decade. Since then, Lexus has spun off the RC as a dedicated coupe separate from the IS, and it’s the one with the V8 now. Considering its niche status, we don’t expect a four-door to go along with it, sadly.
What we expect: the naturally-aspirated V6 returns
As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Toyota/Lexus 3.5-liter V6 is powerful and reliable, so we don’t see it disappearing from under the hood. Lexus already teased a 350 badge on the back of the 2021 IS, so unless it’s abandoned the established badging convention, or developed a whole new engine, expect a variation of the current 350’s engine here.
What we don’t expect: manual transmissions
This is the one we’re most sure of. Lexus hasn’t had a manual transmission even available since the second-generation IS wrapped up production. We don’t foresee it changing course. Head on over to Toyota if you want to row your own gears.
SEE ALSO: 2020 BMW 330i xDrive Review
What we expect: AWD remains
What was once a rarity in the class is now pretty much expected. All-wheel drive features on every car in this class now, not just the Audi offerings. In fact, most of the competition only offers AWD for the higher-performance models in their lineups. Only Infiniti offers a rear-drive version of the top-shelf Q50. So expect the IS to continue offering AWD, on every trim.
What we don’t expect: a big jump in price
We end on a positive note: we’re not expecting sticker shock with the 2021 IS. The entry-level 2.0-liter turbo engine should continue with the new generation—mirroring every other car in the class—and the price should remain under $40,000 to start. Fully loaded in IS 350 F Sport AWD trim, we expect the 2021 model to land between the current car’s $47,735 (including destination) and $50,000.