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Car review: 2021 Lexus IS350 AWD F-Sport

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By Larry Lark, contributor

When it comes to manufacturing compact luxury sports sedans, the folks at Lexus know what they’re doing.

With more than 20 years under its belt, the 2021 Lexus IS350 AWD with F-Sport is the latest manifestation of “extraordinary driving performance.” Truly a global vehicle, it will be available for sale in approximately 40 countries around the world, including the US, Japan, and other countries in Asia.

There may be no greater fan of IS than Toyota President Akio Toyoda. “The IS really taught me what performance driving was, and it was the moment when my love affair with Lexus began,” Toyoda praised.

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. That starts with its 3.5-liter V6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and full-time, all-wheel drive.

The combination delivers 311 horsepower, with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for faux manual shifting. There is also a drive mode select option that allows the IS350 to perform efficiently in ECO, normal, sport, and snow.

IS350 seats four adults without a squeeze. And the engine delivers 26 miles per gallon fuel economy in a combination if city and highway driving.

One of the first things engineers targeted was enhancing body rigidity. 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.

Fast, fun, and ferocious. Lexus puts the “F” in F-Sport.

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. A cool air intake with sound generator, F-Sport, exhaust and diffuser and unique badges adorn the sides and rear of the vehicle.

Overall, the new IS evokes lower, wider proportions. It is slightly wider, with muscular fenders that extend to enhance and accommodate the larger wheels and tires. The wide and low form nods to the inherently high level of driving performance the IS possesses, but the sleek lines are also complemented with overtly aggressive sharpness carved into the side and shoulder character lines.

The end results of Lexus engineers’ tinkering is a car that slices and dices curves and corners. Driver and car perform as one, with aggressive seat side bolsters locking driving and front passenger in place.

F-Sport trim also added matte black BBS wheels, adaptive variable suspension, and a carbon fiber rear spoiler ($3,800). Other options included triple beam LED headlamps ($1,250), navigation system, Mark Levinson audio package and a power tilt and slide moonroof ($3,850).

The surround sound audio system is out of this world, delivering 1,800 crystal clear watts through 17 speakers throughout the cabin.

The new and improved Lexus Safety System 2.5+ includes pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane tracing assist, lane departure alert with steering assist, intelligent high beams headlamps and road sign assist.

Base Price: $45,925

Price As Driven: $56,960

Destination charge is included in base price. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. List price may vary at local dealerships.

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