The current-generation Lexus IS, while decent looking, always felt a little odd to us – remember those droopy tail lights? Although the compact sport sedan received a facelift in 2016, aesthetic changes were quite reserved to say the least. Now though, with the 2020 refresh, all of the weirdness on the Lexus IS have vanished, leaving us with a truly stunning sports sedan – I mean, just look at it!
Up front, the enlarged spindle grille now takes on a more angular and three-dimensional shape, flanked by more angular air inlets at the side. Gone are the split headlights with standalone daytime-running lights, replaced by slimmer headlights that looks like it has been carved right into the body work. Sharp.
Over at the rear, the 2020 Lexus IS features a new taillights assembly, with the familiar “L” motif running across the entire width of the rear end to join the two taillights together. In true Lexus’s attention-to-detail fashion, the seam between the rear bumper and the body panel still lines up perfectly with a kink on the taillights, without the whole droopiness of course.
In terms of dimensions, the 2020 Lexus IS has grown in almost every aspect other than the wheelbase, paired with more pronounced rear fenders to give it a more muscular, aggressive stance. As standard, the IS is fitted with 19-inch wheels, bolted onto the axes using hub bolts to improve handling and braking feedback due to increased fastening strength and reduced mass.
Under the sheet metal though, not much has really changed. The new IS still rides on the same platform as before, though Lexus says that the driving experience has been honed at Toyota’s own Nurburgring-esque test track at the new Toyota Technical Center in Shimoyama, Japan.
Updates done to the chassis include hardened bodyshell, reinforced radiator side supports, additional front-side-member weld points, and optimised reinforcement structures from the C-pillars to the sides of the roof.
Aside from improvements in driving performance such as steering response, Lexus also says that these changes has helped eliminated unwanted noise and vibrations, while improving ride comfort.
On the suspension set-up, the new IS utilises swing-valve shock absorbers with ultralow-velocity valves in their piston that Lexus says can respond to even the tiniest road irregularities, resulting in “excellent responsiveness on all varieties of road surfaces”, and a “ride quality that is consistently even”.
As a result, Lexus says that the new IS delivers a “linear operation that is faithful to driver’s intentions” in all driving situations. The brand now calls this the “Lexus Driving Signature”, and intends to apply it on all future Lexus models.
Under the hood, the rear-wheel drive IS300 retains the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, rated to produce 241 hp and 350 Nm of torque. As for the all-wheel drive IS300, the similarly named car utilises a very different 3.5-litre V6 that delivers 260 hp and 320 Nm of torque to drive all four wheels.
On the top-end of the model line-up is the IS350, powered by the same 3.5-litre V6 engine, uprated to produce 311 hp and 380 Nm of torque – unchanged from its predecessor.
The IS350 is available in both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations. The higher performance engine results in a naught-to-100-ish km/h (60mph) time of 5.6 seconds on the RWD variant, and 5.7 seconds on the AWD. All rear-wheel drive variants get an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while all-wheel drive models are paired to a six-speed auto ‘box.
A hybrid variant is also available in certain markets. Lexus did not reveal much info on the powertrain, though it’s safe to assume it’ll still be using the same Lexus Hybrid Drive unit from before – a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol pushing out 178 hp and 221 Nm, paired to an electric motor generating 105kW (140 hp) and 300 Nm of torque.
Also (pretty much) unchanged is the cabin, which on first glance looks like it was lifted directly from the predecessor. Aside from the new circular-shaped air vents, the Lexus IS gets a new 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display, featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The infotainment system is paired to the marque’s touchpad control system on the centre console.
The 2020 Lexus IS refresh does get a pretty significant boost on the safety front, though. Now equipped on the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class rival is the Lexus Safety System+ (LSS+) 2.5, which uses a single camera and millimetre-wave radar to enhance the Pre-Collision System, consisting of Frontal Collision Warning , Automatic Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Detection and Bicyclist Detection, Emergency Steering Assist, and Low Speed Acceleration Control.
The LSS+ 2.5 system on the new IS also features an enhanced Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beam, Road Sign Assist, and Driver Emergency Stop Assist.
The range-topper IS350 can also be specified with the F Sport package, which nets you variant-specific front and rear bumpers, “F mesh” pattern on the spindle grille, rear bootlid spoiler, rocker panels, and rear diffuser. The sportier variant also gets a set of staggered 19-inch F Sport wheels, along with an additional cool air intake at the front lower grille, and F Sport exhausts.
On top of that, F Sport models can also be brought one level higher with the Dynamic Handling Package (DHP), including adaptive variable suspension, Torsen limited-slip differential, and an additional Sport S+ drive mode with everything turned up to 11. The DHP-equipped F Sport variants also get 19-inch forged alloy BBS wheels finished in matte black, weighing approximately 2kg lighter each compared to the regular F Sport units.