IT’S one of the most famous nameplates in Lexus history. The IS has long been a favourite of those looking for an affordable way into the luxury car brand, and now a new version lands in 2021, loaded with technology. It has a fresh new look too.
It’s available in two variants, the ‘base’ model Luxury tested here, and the F Sport, which among other things, gets a more aggressive styling package, better suspension, extra driving modes and improved tuning.
There’s no denying that the IS 300 Luxury we’re testing here is a damn fine looking car. From its 18-inch alloy wheels to that spindle grille, it’s every bit a luxurious looking car. Bi-LED headlights with washers, and LED DRLs complete the front end.
The signature Lexus taillights are present too, with dual chrome exhausts and a rear diffuser. Inside, there’s plenty of goodness too, with a 10.3-inch infotainment system that is a touchscreen. Yes, you read that correctly, it is a touchscreen.
The traditional Lexus remote control pad and dial setup is still present, and it’s still fiddly, but now you can reach out and touch the screen. While you’re feeling that glass you can setup your Apple CarPlay and Android Auto too.
We’re being a bit cheeky here, but it’s great to see all this technology goodness in the Lexus IS 300 Luxury. It’s been a long time coming and it makes what was already a pretty good package, that much better. It’s got satellite navigation with live traffic too.
Other interior features include a 10-speaker Pioneer sound system, dual zone climate control air conditioning, smart and push button start, power heated front seats, the Lexus app suite, Bluetooth, and DAB+ digital radio. There’s a wireless phone charger as well.
The interior, if anything, feels a little dated. It’s beautiful, but dated, if that makes sense. That could be a design and colour scheme thing, that simply makes it feel oddly old, or it could be because it feels a little like the previous generation did.
The standard interior colour scheme is black and black metallic, however certain exterior colour options get additional choices, including dark rose and black metallic, and ochre and black metallic.
There’s a 480-litre boot that’s good for plenty of luggage, and maybe some golf clubs too. You will find that the IS 300 struggles for rear leg room though, it’s tight back there, especially if the front seat occupants are tall, or like their seating set back.
We almost squished our adult rear seat passenger, and not simply because it was this author’s wife. That’s a joke kids, don’t get excited. Suffice to say she wasn’t happy having the front seat up against her legs in a normal driving position.
The Lexus IS 300 is powered by a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine, delivering 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque. It has a claimed fuel economy of 8.2-litres/100km. In mixed driving, we managed to get down to 8.4, which is pretty much on the money.
It’s mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, with sequential and paddle shift operation. The combination works well together in Sport mode, but feels laggy and underpowered in both Eco and Normal mode.
That’s one of the things that really bothered us about this car. It’s incredibly beautiful to look at, it handles like a dream and has vastly improved technology and safety over previous iterations. It just lacks real oomph unless you’ve gone full Sport.
Which also means it lacks get up and go unless you’re pushing it hard. There’s a real disconnect from a driver’s perspective in the two ‘standard’ drive modes, and the car feels, dare we say it, a little lazy.
It’s one of the safest cars in the segment though, with 10 airbags, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic auto brake, a reversing camera with rear-guide assist, and front and rear parking sensors. It comes with the Lexus Safety System as well.
This adds pre-collision safety, including pedestrian and cyclist detection (the latter in the daytime only), emergency steering assist, lane trace assist, road sign assist, active cruise control, auto high beam, and lane departure warning with sway detection.
There’s also vehicle stability and traction control, hill-start assist, ABS, EBD with brake assist, SOS emergency call, automatic collision notification, and stolen vehicle tracking.
You can have your 2021 Lexus IS 300 Luxury in Sonic Quartz, Titanium, Sonic Chrome, Sonic Iridium (as tested), Graphite Black, Vermillion or Celestial Blue. It’s not a large colour range, but there’s pretty much something for most fans of understated luxury cars.
It’s eligible for the company’s Encore ownership program, which includes a service loan car, capped price servicing, invitations to exclusive events, roadside assistance, discounts on hotels and a fuel offer with Caltex. It comes with a 4-year 100,000km warranty.
In its standard, as tested form, you can have a 2021 Lexus IS 300 Luxury for $69,229 drive away, but two enhancement packs are available to add some much needed goodies. Enhancement Pack 1 adds a tilt and slide moonroof for about $2000.
We quite frankly wouldn’t bother with that option, unless you really want a sunroof. Enhancement Pack 2 on the other hand, now that’s a different story. It adds the same moonroof, 19-inch alloys, and a panoramic/360 degree view monitor.
But wait, there’s more. It also drops in a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, electric rear sunshade, better LED headlights, stainless steel scuff plates, Sumimoku ornamentation, ventilated front seats, a smart entry key card and more leather.
It does however add close to $6,000 to the standard vehicle drive away price. That said, we’d bite the bullet, and add the pack, if we were buying a new IS 300. It’s a bit of a no brainer to gain all the extra goodies. Either way, it’s a well priced luxury car.
Our test vehicle was provided by Lexus Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Lexus IS 300 Luxury, contact your local Lexus dealer.