Lexus teases 2021 IS ahead of next week’s debut

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Japanese sport sedan fanatics, rejoice. Lexus plans to unveil the 2021 IS compact luxury sedan next week, on Tuesday, June 9. The teaser image, released in conjunction with the announcement, is our first official peek at what’s in store for Lexus’ smallest sedan offering.

The current generation IS debuted in 2013 and got a facelift in 2016. We don’t expect the 2021 model to be an all-new car—think of it as a second facelift. Sadly, the business case for revamping small, sporty luxury sedans from the ground up is getting less and less feasible. This isn’t the hottest segment in the market right now, and Lexus sold just under 15,000 IS models in all of 2019—a mere two-thirds of the IS family’s 2018 figure. This downward trend, not to mention the pandemic-hampered economic climate, meant that an all-new IS simply wasn’t in the cards.

Studying the teaser image, we can see that the new IS will get a uni-bar taillight similar to the one found in the UX compact crossover. If you squint, you can see what looks like a few small vanes of a rear “diffuser.” Elsewhere, the wide hips found on the current car appear to making a return appearance on the 2021 model.

Aside from the teaser image and the date of the unveiling, Lexus provided no other information on what’s coming. However, expect a mild power bump for both the 2.0-liter turbo-four and the 3.5-liter V-6. In the rear-wheel-drive IS300, the current four-pot is good for 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The 3.5-liter V-6 produces 260 hp and 236 lb-ft in the IS300’s all-wheel-drive variant. Step up to the IS350, and you’ll get a V-6 good for 311 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, regardless of rear-wheel- or all-wheel-drive spec.

Perhaps we’ll eventually see the twin-turbo V-6 from the LS flagship sedan stuffed into the IS; but we’re more likely to get a hybridized drivetrain of some sort first. If we’re dreaming—and who doesn’t?—we’d love to see the wailing V-8 from the sultry LC500 in a top-of-the-model-range IS-F. Though we haven’t wrung it out on track yet, Acura certainly seems poised to throw down the performance gauntlet with the recently-announced TLX Type S. Here’s to a rekindled battle of Japanese sports sedans.

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