Bye-Bye Beige: The 2021 Lexus IS 350 F SPORT
Updated: Apr 1, 2022
A decade ago, the knock on Toyota and Lexus was that they were "beige". Essentially colorless, passionless vehicles. Both divisions seem to have taken that to heart with increasingly aggressive designs and color palettes.
With the GS sedan put out to pasture after the 2020 model year, the hierarchy of Lexus sedans comes into clearer focus---the big LS, the once entry-level but now midsize ES, and the small IS. In this case, the IS 350 F SPORT.
The IS gets a heavy refresh for 2021 with very tight, aggressive lines that make the car look positively menacing in Ultrasonic Blue Mica with black 19-inch wheels.
The fundamentals, though, haven't changed. Under the hood is Lexus' venerable 3.5-liter V6, rated at 311 horsepower, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with selectable drive modes and paddle shifters. Zero to 60 happens in a brisk 5.7 seconds and the EPA fuel economy estimate is 20 miles per gallon city, 28 highway.
The base price of the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F SPORT is $42,900. The window sticker is at the end of the review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are the Lexus Safety System + 2.5 suite, a multimedia system with an eight-inch touchscreen, and a ten-speaker premium sound system, power driver and passenger F SPORT seats and special F SPORT suspension tuning.
There were $11,435 worth of extra-cost options on our 2021 Lexus IS 350 F SPORT. Intuitive parking assist with auto braking, rear pedestrian detection and a panoramic view monitor was $1,400. The F SPORT Dynamic Handling Package (see windows sticker below for details) was $4,200. Triple beam LED headlamps were $1,200. An upgraded nav/audio system (a Mark Levinson model with a 10.3-inch touchscreen, 17 speakers and 1,800 watts) was $2,750. The Ultrasonic Blue Mica paint added $595, the power tilt-and-slide moonroof another $1,100 and door edge guards were $140.
With $1,025 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price came to $55,360.
That bottom line is a bit of a shocker, in that it's $3,565 more than the ES 350 F SPORT I reviewed in February. The ES' base price is actually $3,000 higher. And the ES is a bigger car with essentially the same engine (though carrying nine fewer horsepower). However, buying cars by the pound (or foot) is a bad idea. As much as I liked the ES, the IS feels and drives more like the performance machine in the family.