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Did Lexus make its IS sports sedan more or less attractive for 2021?

Lexus opened a Pandora’s box of controversy when it introduced its now-ubiquitous spindle grille in the early part of the prior decade. While the brand’s signature front face may always remain a little bit polarizing, Lexus has given many of its new vehicles a generally cohesive look. The ES and RX have more streamlined, less chaotic designs compared to the aging IS. Now that Lexus has revised its small sedan, does it follow in the footsteps of its more refined siblings, or is it repeating the same pattern? Let’s take a look at the new design of the 2021 Lexus IS.

The headlight design was a point of contention on the current IS, which features daytime running lights (DRLs) placed awkwardly below the main headlight housing. The split-light design, combined with the controversial grille and bold creases near the corner vents, gives the 2020 model’s face a rather cluttered look. Fortunately, the 2021 Lexus IS falls in line with the brand’s other new vehicles when it comes to its more streamlined front light design. The DRLs are now incorporated into the main headlights, which take on a narrow, wedge shape. The corner vents also feature a cleaner look.

When it comes to the grille, though, little changes. F Sport models, such as the one shown here, get a cool three-dimensional grille pattern. Also, take note that the hood cut line no longer blends into the top of the grille. All these small details add up to a very different looking face. Overall, the front end looks less round and more chiseled than before.

You won’t notice a big size difference between the new and old IS, and that’s because there isn’t one. The new model is about an inch longer and wider than its predecessor, and negligibly taller. The wheelbase remains the same. That said, you will see some revisions to the sedan’s side profile, including new character lines. Like before, there is a line rising to the hips, but it is more prominent now.

We’re particularly pleased with the model’s rear-end design. The extended, lowered rear deck is a better look for the IS. An elegant new lighting element connects the taillights together. Unlike today’s IS, which features square tailpipes, the new model is pictured with circular ones. F Sport variants sport a unique rear bumper, and—when equipped with the Dynamic Handling package—a carbon-fiber spoiler.

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The current car’s interior is the biggest giveaway of its age. Unfortunately, Lexus missed the opportunity to make big changes to the IS’s innards this time around. Vestiges from the past remain, including the analog clock, inefficient center stack layout, and . . . wait for it . . . a CD player.

Lexus made a few big improvements, though. Finally, the infotainment system includes a touchscreen. Lexus upgraded the standard screen from a 7.0-inch to an 8.0-inch unit, and it’s mounted nearly three inches closer to the driver. A fancy 10.3-inch screen is available on models equipped with in-dash navigation. The drive mode rotary knob moves to the right of the gear shift lever, rather than behind it, too. Lexus also ditched the heinous mouse-like infotainment scroller for a new touchpad. Personally, we’ll probably just stick to the touchscreen. Lexus is also offering delicious new Circuit Red leather seats on F Sport models with the Dynamic Handling package.

So, is the 2021 Lexus IS refreshing or revolting? We think it errs closer to the former.

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