As great a car as it is to drive, the Lexus IS has always been playing catch up with the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class in the compact premium saloon segment. With the 2021 IS, Lexus hopes to change all that. Although the Japanese carmaker had created quite a hype about this new model, it looks more like a sharp facelift than a complete redesign. That’s not a bad thing though, as the previous IS was already a good looking car.

The new IS gets a revised version of the brand’s signature spindle grille, flanked by larger headlights than before with integrated LED daytime running lights. The lower intakes and vents on either side are also larger. On the IS F Sport variant, the grille and vents get blacked-out elements and a distinctive mesh pattern.

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The profile is more chiseled with a crisp, sharp shoulder line that extends over the rear wheel wells. While 19-inch wheels are an option for the first time, 18-inch rims continue to be standard on all trims.

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Out back, the new IS gets an LED taillight bar that runs the width of the car, adding to the overall muscular, hunkered down stance of the car, which is longer, wider and lower than before.

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Disappointingly though, Lexus has decided to carry over powertrains unchanged. The base IS 300 with rear-wheel drive retains the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, the all-wheel-drive IS 300 keeps the 3.5-litre V6 and the top-spec IS 350 is powered by a 3.5-litre V6, all with the same horsepower and torque figures as before. While RWD versions of the IS get an eight-speed automatic, the AWD versions get a six-speed automatic.

The chassis has been reworked with the new coil springs being 20 per cent lighter than those found in the previous version, the new A-arms being 18 per cent lighter, and the stabiliser bar lighter by 17 per cent.

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Changes to the cabin are minimal in terms of design, but the new IS does add some updated tech. An 8.0-inch touchscreen comes standard while a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen is available as an option. The screen has been pushed a bit closer to the driver, so it should be easier to use the touchscreen controls.

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Tech features such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility come standard. It also gets a standard suite of active safety equipment including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and bicyclist detection and a pre-collision warning system. The new Lexus IS is expected to be available in our region by end of the year.