Mediocrity is not acceptable in luxury vehicles
Roseville, Calif.- When it comes to luxury vehicles, the bar resides in a high place. Mediocrity is not acceptable.
And that might be a suitable synopsis of the 2021 Lexus IS 350. Judged by the lofty expectations luxury vehicles are judged by, the IS 350 has a difficult time matching the competition.
A luxury midsize sedan that still has areas for improvement, the IS 350 gets overshadowed by some stiff competition like the BMW 3-series, Mercedes-Benz C-class, Cadillac CT4-V, Genesis G70, and the Audi A4.
That it’s an underachiever amidst some major competition is reflected in sales. The figures have dipped significantly the past two years. A year ago, IS 350 sales sunk to 13,600, the third fewest sold in its eight-year history.
Sensing a need for improvement, Lexus did a modest reset for 2021. The latest version of the IS 350 comes with restyled grille, headlight and taillights. There was also some tinkering with the technology, with Lexus providing an alternative to the much-maligned touchpad.
From a visual standpoint, the IS 350 has a low, athletic stance and plenty of road appeal, providing an elegant and sporty appearance. The sedan clearly favors looks and comfort over athletic performance.
Performance is one of the primary criticisms against the IS 350. Regardless of the driving situation, it simply lacks the acceleration of many rivals. The lone available engine is a rear-wheel drive 3.5-liter, V6 that generates 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. It travels 0-60 mph in a modest 6.2 seconds.
Although the performance is underwhelming, the IS 350 rates much higher when it comes to handling. It’s enjoyable to drive and features agile characteristics that show up on challenging roads. It also delivers a quiet, smooth ride that can absorb the bumps on uneven surfaces.
The driving gets even a little better in the F Sport version of the IS. Driven here for a week, the F Sport proved a nimble sport sedan that provides some modicum of excitement on the open road.
AT A GLANCE – 2021 LEXUS IS 350
- Performance: 3.5-liter, V6, 311 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 20-28 mpg
- Price estimate: $43,1000 to $45,100
- Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain: 6 years/70,000 miles; roadside assistance 4 years/unlimited; corrosion 6 years/unlimited
Although the irritating touchpad remains, it can be avoided by using the 8-inch touchscreen that can control navigation, audio or the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Even though the roofline is a bit low and might bother taller drivers and passengers, the seating is comfortable overall and very suitable for longer road trips. The back seats aren’t as spacious as the front in terms of legroom, but they are still sufficient for most adults.
Cargo area is on the small side at 10.8 cubic feet, another area that stacks up poorly against its competitors. The backseat folds down, but the seats don’t fold flat to the floor like most sedans.
Performance is still lacking and so are some other areas that failed to be addressed in the latest revamping of the 2021 Lexus IS 350.