Sporty And Suave: 2021 Lexus IS Strikes The Perfect Balance
PRN | 15 days ago
PLANO, Texas: Finding the perfect balance of sportiness and sophistication is no easy task, but the 2021 Lexus IS walks that fine line with an air of elegance and effortlessness.
Make no mistake Careful craftmanship and countless hours of testing have gone into making this the best IS to date. With a lineage that spans more than 20 years in the U.S., the IS has always remained true to its foundation as a front-engine rear-wheel-drive sports sedan. For 2021, the IS will expand upon the qualities that have built its loyal following while also ushering in the new Lexus Driving Signature.
For 2021, the IS will have a starting MSRP of $39,000. One of the biggest changes to the lineup is that F SPORT models will only be offered on 350. Subsequently, all 350s will only be offered in F SPORT grade. The starting price of the of 350 F SPORT is $42,900, offering customers a 311-horsepower F SPORT that is closer in line with the outgoing IS 300 F SPORT pricing. The new 2021 IS is expected to arrive in dealerships in October of this year.
The Lexus Driving Signature Lives at Shimoyama
From day one, the IS has left a lasting impression in the compact luxury sports sedan segment, where dynamic capability and driving performance are mandatory attributes. The 2021 IS looks to further cement the bond between driver and vehicle by providing an enhanced linear driving characteristic that provides clear and direct feedback to the driver. In order to achieve this objective, Lexus engineers needed the proper tool with which to hone the vehicle's skills.
Enter the Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama. More than merely a new test facility, this asphalt track signals a change in Lexus' product development course and speaks to the brand's commitment to its human-centered nature.
Since Lexus launched, the tactile feel, behavior, and execution for each model has been driven by the vision and efforts of the Chief Engineer. Moving forward, the efforts of the CE will be focused on elevating the vehicles to a new standard of performance and handling as developed by Lexus International President Koji Sato and Chief Branding Officer Akio Toyoda. The ultimate goal is to deliver a new generation of Lexus vehicles that is more balanced, refined in control, and confident than ever before. Linear steering, brake responses, and optimized handling with exceptional ride quality is the result of heightened focus on tuning of the chassis and its interactions with the control surfaces through diligent evaluation at a test facility unlike any other.
By establishing a uniform Lexus Driving Signature across the entire lineup, the hope is to continue propelling the brand's evolution and reinforce its identity in the luxury space. This cultural shift within Lexus product development builds on the learnings and improvements seen on the F brand cars, and the latest models of the flagship vehicles (LC, LS, LX) that involve an Always On philosophy for continual, running enhancement. Over the past 30 years, Lexus has been defined by the detail-oriented and thoughtful nature of its products. The latest IS represents the first step down a path that has evolved into a uniquely Lexus tarmac testbed that will affect the trajectory of every Lexus product that comes next.
What we had foremost in mind in developing the new IS was to make it a car that excelled in communicating with the driver regardless of the road conditions or driving situation, said Chief Engineer Naoki Kobayashi of Lexus International. We aimed to make the new IS a Lexus compact sports sedan that provides high-quality riding comfort while offering a high level of vehicle control.
Opened in 2019, the Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama in Japan's Aichi Prefecture is near Lexus's global headquarters. Its country road test course is inspired by Lexus's many years of experience driving on Germany's Nurburgring Nordschleife, famous throughout the world for its grueling driving conditions. Much like the IS itself, Nurburgring is near and dear to Akio Toyoda's heart since it played a key role in his quest to become a master driver. The 3.3-mile test course at Shimoyama is designed to take advantage of the local topography, and it features a nearly 250-foot change in elevation, a wide range of curves and corners, and multiple types of road surfaces. Developing the new IS in such a severe driving environment made it possible to infuse an ever-higher dimension of vehicle performance.
Maturation of Driving Performance
With a new tool at its disposal, Chief Engineer Kobayashi's team worked tirelessly to make the new IS the best to date. The Lexus philosophy of continuously improving meant no stone was left unturned. Countless test hours at the Shimoyama track and other test facilities were conducted on various road surfaces and conditions to identify ways to increase responsiveness and reduce unnecessary movement from unsprung mass. The relentless pursuit of perfection has always been a guiding philosophy for the brand, but also at stake is the mission to create a uniform Lexus Driving Signature, and that objective begins with the new IS.
One of the first things engineers targeted was enhancing body rigidity. 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.
For the first time, the new IS will be available with larger 19-inch wheels to improve cornering force and provide a greater contact patch with the road. Engineers revised the suspension layout and front pickup points to help accommodate the larger tire-and-wheel package. Overall two different 19-inch wheels are available on F SPORT models, including a unique BBS wheel specific to the F SPORTs equipped with the Dynamic Handling Package. Standard 18-inch wheels will replace the outgoing 17-inch wheels on all other models.
Taking a cue from the Lexus LFA supercar, engineers took rigidity enhancements one step further by employing lighter weight hub bolts to secure each wheel to the new IS. The use of hub bolts allows for improved fastening strength and therefore an increase to rigidity to further enhance braking and handling. What's more, the move to hub bolts sheds approximately 2 pounds of total unsprung weight. The new bolts also feature a black coating so as not to draw any attention away from the attractive new wheel designs.
Complementing the enhancements to overall rigidity, multiple refinements were made to the suspension setup. For starters, engineers targeted a reduction in unsprung weight. The new IS features coil springs that are 20 percent lighter than the outgoing model. New A-arms are employed as well that feature a forged aluminum material versus the outgoing steel composition, resulting in an 18 percent weight reduction. 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.
With unsprung weight reduced, engineers equipped the IS with new swing-valve shock absorbers equipped with ultralow-velocity valves in their pistons to manage oil flow in response to even minor road irregularities. Even when the stroke speed of the shock absorbers is low, the new velocity valves provide excellent responsiveness to apply appropriate damping force on different road surfaces. The result is consistently even ride quality. New bound stoppers are also employed to help manage the sprung weight more effectively for enhanced ride comfort.
Sporty And Suave: 2021 Lexus IS Strikes The Perfect Balance