2021 Lexus IS Interior Review: Better, but Not the Best01/08/2021
A few months back we had the chance to check out the 2021 Lexus IS, and a couple of my colleagues welcomed the exterior updates. Although the refresh falls way short of a major overhaul, the 2021 IS received enough updates to keep it fresh in a competitive segment. Inside, however, the Lexus stayed mostly the same as before, so much so that my colleagues—one of whom leased a pre-refresh version of the IS—had trouble noticing the differences between the updated model and her car.
The few changes in the cabin of the IS include redesigned side air vents and a new infotainment screen that’s much easier to use than before. The center console received a minor redesign and now incorporates a new touchpad for the infotainment screen instead of the old (awful) mouselike selector. But besides that, the interior of the 2021 IS was left untouched.
Finally, a Screen that Works
The 2020 Lexus IS wasn’t particularly impressive inside. The infotainment system was a pain to operate while driving and compared to its competitors, there wasn’t anything inside the cabin that would catch your attention. So when we tested the 2021 model, we were happy to see that the updates enhanced the user experience. Still, the changes didn’t go as far as we hoped they would.
Without a doubt, the update we enjoyed the most was the arrival of a new 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. In the previous Lexus IS, the driver or passenger could only operate the screen via a mouselike controller located next to the shifter. On top of being difficult to use, it was also dangerous, as it required the driver to constantly shift their attention to the screen. All of that has changed with the new touchscreen, which can be used at all times (even when the vehicle is moving) and offers a much friendlier experience. It also incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Good but Not Sufficient
The center console received a minor redesign, moving things around a bit to give occupants a tad more space. The touchpad and drive mode selector swapped places, which gave the two cupholders space to move up for easier access by both driver and passenger. Although that’s a good move, it’s not enough. Compared to competitors’ interiors, the Lexus still falls short. The interior design, although renovated, doesn’t match the standards of today’s sports sedans. Whether you compare it against the Audi A4, Alfa Romeo Giulia, or BMW 3 Series, the IS comes in near the back of the pack.
The center stack, which houses the HVAC and radio controls, looks like it was designed a decade ago and joins a number of features in the IS that come across as old school in a modern sports sedan.
Interior Space Is Just OK
The Lexus IS doesn’t have a particularly spacious interior. For yours truly, at 6-foot-1, there was just enough legroom in the second row to sit comfortably, but my head touched the headliner. The second-row space felt better than in the new Acura TLX, but our previous long-term Volvo S60 is more spacious than the IS.
On a positive note, the second-row folds in a 60/40 configuration to accommodate larger cargo. The IS held my 8-foot-long surfboard with no issues.
So, Should I Buy a Lexus IS?
If you’re looking for a sports sedan and want to stay within the Lexus brand, you’ll be satisfied with the IS, but there are better options in the market. The IS has a lot of strong points, but the cabin is missing the X-factor that designers and engineers injected into the exterior design. We’re fans of the red leather, but we really wish Lexus had made more updates.
There’s no doubt the 2021 Lexus IS is better than the 2020 model, but it falls below the segment’s standard.
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