Lexus this summer announced the 2021 Lexus IS would receive a significant refresh — including upgraded body rigidity — and be the inaugural model of the Lexus Driving Signature initiative.
The OEM wrote June 15 that it plans to deliver “a uniform Lexus Driving Signature across the entire lineup,” which could mean repairers will see some of the IS’ new technology and body changes on other models as well. Given the IS’ example, the OEM might not even wait for a new vehicle generation before infusing a model with the Lexus Driving Signature. This could keep body shops on their toes from model year to model year.
“One of the first things engineers targeted was enhancing body rigidity,” Lexus wrote of the 2021 IS. “This was done in key areas such as reinforcing the radiator side supports, increasing the number of front-side-member weld points, and optimizing reinforcement structures from the C-pillars to the sides of the roof. The increased rigidity not only helps reduce unwanted noise and vibration, but it also helps improve riding comfort and driving performance with enhanced response to steering input.”
Lexus also lightweighted the suspension, an action it said would complement the upgraded rigidity. The OEM replaced steel A-arms with forged aluminum ones, cutting weight by 18 percent.
“Engineers also opted for a new material for the suspension stabilizer bar to optimize the diameter and thickness to provide a 17 percent weight reduction,” Lexus wrote. (It didn’t specify the material.)
Other suspension changes include coil springs 20 percent lighter than the 2020 IS’ springs, new swing-valve shock absorbers, new bound stoppers and a new suspension layout and front pickup points.
Repairers will notice a change on the other side of the wheels as well. The 2021 IS uses “lighter weight hub bolts” compared to the 2020 IS wheel nuts, reducing unsprung weight by about 2 pounds.
“The use of hub bolts allows for improved fastening strength and therefore an increase to rigidity to further enhance braking and handling,” Lexus wrote. “… The new bolts also feature a black coating so as not to draw any attention away from the attractive new wheel designs.”
The headlights might weigh less as well; Lexus described “newly developed compact and lightweight lamp units.”
Lexus wrote that those lights are “matched by lowered side character lines that carry all the way through to the rear of trunk.” Later, it mentioned rear fender lines that “blend into the extended, lowered rear deck to create a low stance.”
The exterior carries other significant changes besides the lines.
“New rocker panels accent the side profile of the new IS with a design that kicks up in the rear, featuring a sharper overall contour that carries into the muscular shoulders over the rear wheel wells,” Lexus wrote. “Gently sloped rear-quarter pillars, which help form a firm cabin silhouette that wraps around from the sides, contrast with the rear fenders to further enhance the aggressive look.”
The rear of the vehicle includes a blade lightbar and a rear deck design “created with a stamping technology called press-in mold construction.”
Moving to the front of the IS, the new grille involves a “three-dimensional, polyhedral structure” with “mini spindles.”
“This intricate pattern required six different types of cutting tools in order to create the mold,” Lexus wrote.
Painters will see four new exterior colors: “Cloudburst Gray,” “Grecian Water,” “Iridium” and “Matador Red Mica.”
The 2021 F SPORT variant will give repairers even more external changes to keep straight.
“F SPORT features a host of visual and performance cues that immediately set it apart, including a unique front bumper with functional aerodynamic enhancements, rear bumper, grille surround, rear lip spoiler, rocker molding and more,” Lexus wrote. “Along with F SPORT 19-inch wheels, a unique center cap and larger rear tires for added performance (265/35R19), they are also equipped with a cool air intake with sound generator and an F SPORT exhaust and diffuser. In addition, unique F SPORT badges adorn the sides and rear of the vehicle as well.”
Lexus said the F SPORT IS’s grille displays a “mesh pattern” and “block forms based on a spindle motif.” The car also carries “a grille-bottom air intake that allows air to flow through to assist in cooling the brakes.”
If the driver buys the Dynamic Handling Package, the F SPORT receives a carbon-fiber spoiler and mirror caps and forged alloy wheels that weigh about 4 pounds less than the regular F SPORT wheels.
The F SPORT also offers a new “Infrared” color for 2021 to join the other F SPORT exclusive coating, “Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0.” Both colors cost the owner an extra $595.
The 2021 IS is expected to go on sale in the late fall. Lexus sold 14,920 last year.
Lexus, June 15, 2020
The 2021 Lexus IS is shown. (Provided by Lexus)
The rear of a regular 2021 Lexus IS is shown. (Provided by Lexus)
A 2021 Lexus IS F SPORT wheel is shown. (Provided by Lexus)
The rear of a 2021 Lexus IS F SPORT is shown. (Provided by Lexus)