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March 14, 2021

Review: 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport

This here is the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport, my new favorite sports sedan. At P 3.808 million, it’s more expensive than most, if not all of the local German offerings—the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but none can hold a candle to it. At the heart of all this is what the brand calls the “Lexus Driving Signature.” It’s supposed to deliver a more linear, more engaging drive in every aspect. It sure sounds like market nonsense at first, but at the end of the day, it does just that: deliver a better sports sedan.

Despite all my excitement surrounding this model, let’s get one thing clear: this isn’t a clean sheet design. Rather, it’s a substantial mid-cycle refresh of the third-generation Lexus IS which came out in 2014. However, engineers have made countless of tweaks all in the name of putting driving fun front and center, and it shows.

A few kilometers are enough to put a smile on my face. The steering is calibrated and well-balanced, while the body reacts in a smooth, fluid way. Once you start racking up the mileage, you then find that the performance is accessible. When compared to other sporty cars with similar horsepower outputs—the Kia Stinger GT, Civic Type R, and Subaru WRX STI to name three—the Lexus IS never gets boring, but most importantly, it never gets tiring. If I wanted something to brighten my daily office commute, as much as the occasional times I drive out of town, this is the car to get.

Speaking of out-of-town drives, on the highway, the Lexus IS impresses even more. Turn in isn’t as quick or immediate as a BMW 3 Series, but it doesn’t feel as fidgety. The chassis produces weighty, predictable handling that promotes stability and accessibility. Yet, despite its newfound athleticism, it’s easily one of the most serene cars you can drive. It skips over bumps with a well-sprung lightness. It’s simply amazing in its ability to filter unwanted intrusions better entering the cabin. And this is with the adaptive dampers set to the stiffest “Sport” setting.

Bolted to that chassis is a 315 horsepower, 380 Nm of torque 3.5-liter V6. In a segment filled with overstressed four bangers, this free-breathing engine is a joy. Power deliver is smooth and linear with a nice, sonorous note to accompany it. There’s a discreet dial near the driver’s left knee marked ASC or Active Sound Control. Theoretically, it’s meant to amplify the engine note and pump it into the cabin (it can even be turned off). In reality though, the difference is minor except when the engine is at full song.

Naturally, carrying a big displacement engine upfront does have one side effect: fuel economy. During a mixed city/highway drive, it manages a commendable 8.69 km/L. But that figure dips down to around 5.2 km/L when stuck in stop-and-go traffic; it might be a problem with its smallish 66-liter tank. Still, I’d trade more visits to the gas station for the fun I’d have with this powertrain.

The 2021 Lexus IS’s bones and guts are carried over, but it does get a substantial re-design of its sheet metal. The overall effect maybe more evolutionary than revolutionary—a cleanup of its character lines, an enlargement of the spindle grille, and the brand’s new trademark, an LED strip that runs the entire length of the rear—but it’s better than anything else its rivals have come up with. It’s just plain awesome, especially in this F Sport guise.

The decision to carryover the platform has a more profound effect inside. With similar hardpoints to the previous Lexus IS, the cabin feels tight, especially at the back. However, for those seated at the front, the thrones there are the best in the business. They cosset you whether you’re stuck on EDSA, and keep you in place when attacking mountain roads.

The interior execution is standard Lexus, except for the black-and-red color scheme which is quite daring considering the conservative nature of the luxury segment. All the cabin materials look and feel great, and though it may feel convoluted at first with all those buttons dotting the center console, it’s quite easy to master.

Sadly, there are a couple of misses in here such as the lack of storage (it does have a shallow, but wide center armrest bin) and the use of touch-sensitive sliders for the climate control. The Lexus IS’s biggest crime against ergonomics though has to be the infotainment system. The menus aren’t just disorganized (it took me a full five minutes to figure out where to find the speaker setting), but navigating it requires fiddling with a trackpad. I hate it on a laptop, and I certainly abhor it here. In the end, I sacrificed my OC-ness, and just used the touchscreen. Thankfully, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard so many drivers can sidestep this abomination altogether. That is, except when you hit reverse. When that happens, the 10.3-inch high-res display shows a fish-eyed, blurry, low-res backup camera. It’s like watching a VCD on a Blu-Ray player. This is totally unacceptable.

New for 2021 is Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 or LSS+2. It adds active safety features such as adaptive radar cruise control, lane tracing assist, and automatic high beam on top of the usual set of active and passive safety features. Thankfully, there’s no need to try any of this collision avoidance tech during my time with the Lexus IS, but it’s worth saying that the lane centering assist, and lane keep assist could be better tuned. In particular, I’m not a fan of the lane keep assist’s less-than-intuitive steering wheel vibrate (it feels like it’s notifying you of a text message than anything else).

After all’s said and done, there’s a lot to love the Lexus IS 350 F Sport. Despite engineers having to work with an old foundation, Lexus has come up with a truly engaging sports sedan with a stellar ride. The execution isn’t perfect, but despite its flaws, the precision-oriented tuning shines here. On top of that, it looks great and the interior is comfy. Admittedly, I was skeptic on how Toyota, of all brands could come up with such a fun and engaging car. However, with the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport, you could see what they could do with all that R&D.

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport

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Ownership 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport
Year Introduced 2021
Vehicle Classification Luxury Sedan
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 4-door sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 3.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders V6
BHP @ rpm 315 @ 6,600
Nm @ rpm 380 @ 4,800-4,900
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission 8 AT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 8.69 km/L @ 30 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,710
Width (mm) 1,840
Height (mm) 1,435
Wheelbase (mm) 2,800
Curb Weight (kg) 1,700
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone, Adaptive
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link, Adaptive 
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Vented Disc
Parking Brake Electric, w/ Auto Hold
Tires Bridgestone Potenza S001L
235/40 R 19 Y (f),
265/35 R 19 Y (r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 10
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Pre-Collision System
Lane Tracing Assist
Lane Departure Alert
Hill Start Assist
Tire Pressure Monitoring
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Auto High Beam
Fog Lamps Headlamp Integrated (Front), Rear (LED)
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic, Electric
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way w/ Memory, Ventilated
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 8-way, Ventilated
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
Sunroof Yes
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto, Dual Zone, w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 10
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Too expensive... as for the base variant, still apprehensive about the replacement cost of the hybrid battery. They better bring in the IS200t. Its the most mainstream variant to sell.

    1. Mahihirapan sila na dalhin ang IS200t dito........because JPEPA only gives tax incentives to Japan-made cars with:
      1) 3000cc engine displacement or higher
      2) Hybrid or alternate propulsion powertrain

      If they brought the IS200t here, it won't create enough price gap kasi it won't receive tax incentives dito sa Pinas.

    2. Lexus is really pushing the hybrid game and JPEPA, so IS200t (or IS300) may not happen. Maybe offer a lower spec V6 IS350 similar to the last generation version. I think the IS is really special since its still the only luxury compact sedan on offer with a N/A V6 in 2021, given the competition mostly have 4 cyl turbos.

    3. AGREE!!!!!!!! Sobrang mahal nito... tapos hindi naman pala totoong all new model... alang hiya naman Toyota/Lexus. Kaya niyo naman mag presyo ng mas mura dati eh!

  2. Was surprised with the price jump on the IS350F Sport. Both IS300 and IS350 had a price bump of around Php600k. Why the sudden increase?

    1. Aside from the powertrain and F Sport body kit, the IS 350 F Sport gets the following:

      - Adaptive dampers
      - Mixed size front/rear tires
      - Moon roof
      - Unique gauges
      - Bigger infotainment screen

    2. Thanks Uly! If you had Php3.2M to buy a car, which car would you go for?

    3. So if we remove JPEPA, how much would it cost?

  3. Quick question, May I ask why Audi and etc pricelists are removed? Thanks CGPh!

    1. We removed all brands that refuse to give SRPs (or price then upon application).


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