The Lexus IS will always have a special place in the hearts of gearheads. The name was introduced more than 20 years ago when it was also called the Toyota Altezza, and its clear taillights sparked a JDM design trend during that era. The second-generation IS gave us the IS F, a sublime sports sedan with a Yamaha-tuned 5.0-liter V8.
The current IS is no slouch. Introduced to the Philippine market in 2013 with a track-day event, it made sports car owners look twice thanks to its NA 3.5-liter V6 making 306hp. But while the third-generation IS has aged well, seven years is a long time.
Well the long wait for change ends today as Lexus Philippines introduces the massively refreshed 2021 Lexus IS sedan. There are still two variants in the lineup—the IS F Sport that retains the lovely 3.5-liter V6, and a new hybrid variant, the IS 300h.
And what a facelift. The new face sports a massive new grille with a stance that’s 30mm wider than the outgoing fascia. The rear profile has taillights that taper to a slim line in the center. Both the IS F Sport and 300h get 19-inch alloys; the former gets a dark premium metallic design while the latter gets a shiny silver metallic finish.
The cabin, already a one of the IS’s best traits, has been improved with a larger infotainment display. Thankfully Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now come standard, while a 10-speaker surround sound system makes sure your favorite driving music is recreated faithfully. The perforated stitching is still as exciting as when we first laid eyes on it. The IS has always had a cozy driver-centered cabin, and we hope this never changes.
Apart from the radical exterior changes, the other big improvement in the IS is the safety features. The 2021 IS models get radar-guided adaptive cruise control, lane tracing assist, and automatic high beams. In theory this is already basic autonomous driving. Put one hand on the steering wheel, don’t step on the gas and brake pedals, and if you’re on a road with clear lane markers the IS will drive for you. This is the magic of Toyota/Lexus safety tech. The IS hood will even pop up to protect pedestrians if such an accident took place.
The SRP does rise a bit to P3,808,000 for the IS F Sport, while the new hybrid IS 300h variant goes for P3,328,000. But a price increase is par for the course when this much new tech is added.
The new IS was supposedly honed at Toyota’s personal Nurburgring-inspired race track, the Shimoyama Tecnical Center Test Track. We’re excited to try it out and see what improvements have been made.