2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport interior review highlights:
- The 2021 Lexus IS 350 brings updated interior styling and infotainment technology
- Its design limits rear space somewhat, but the 2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport has a comfortable, stylish, and well-built interior
- This sports sedan is still missing some tech features its rivals offer and is arguably priced a bit high, but has the build quality to match
The IS might be Lexus’s entry-level sports sedan, but it’s still a luxury car at heart. Thus, even the F Sport models walk a tightrope between performance and comfort, both inside and outside. And while sharp styling certainly draws the eye, there must be substance behind the flash. After driving the 2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport around Chicagoland, I can say there’s luxury in the cabin. But it might not be what and where buyers expect.
Lexus gives the 2021 IS 350 AWD F Sport a few interior tweaks and more than a few luxuries
When Lexus refreshed the IS for 2021, the 300 and 350 didn’t get new powertrains. However, in addition to the mild chassis and suspension tweaks, both got updated interiors.
Firstly, Lexus’s infotainment overhaul includes standard touchscreens. The 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport has an 8” touchscreen, but if you get the Navigation Package, the sedan receives a 10.3” touchscreen with voice commands. And you can bundle it with the 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, which my test car also had.
Secondly, while the 2021 IS still has a touchpad, it’s easier to use and takes up less space than the old mouse-esque controller. The touchpad also let Lexus redesign the center console, which now has two cupholders, MotorTrend says.
Even if you don’t get the bigger touchscreen, all 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sports come standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The F Sport model also has heated and ventilated front sports seats, a heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, sportier suspension, and an LFA-style TFT gauge cluster with a moving bezel. Finally, the 2021 IS lineup has more standard safety features courtesy of the Lexus Safety System+ 2.5, which also detects cyclists.
Besides the Mark Levinson audio system and bigger touchscreen with navigation, my 2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD test car had the F Sport Dynamic Handling Package. That swapped the standard black geometric interior trim for open-grain black ash-wood trim. The steering wheel got some ash-wood bits, too, while the drive-mode selector got some extra modes. And on the outside, the package added a carbon-fiber rear spoiler, BBS wheels, and adaptive shocks.
Something you won’t find in any 2021 Lexus IS 350 interior, though, is leather upholstery. The only hide is on the steering wheel. Instead, all models have Nuluxe synthetic leather. The F Sport models, though, are the only ones that can get the two-tone red-and-black color scheme.
Is the 2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport’s interior roomy?
The definition of luxury varies not just from person to person, but from country to country. Still, sufficient space is usually at or near the top of desired qualities.
However, when it comes to sporty luxury cars, style is also important. Hence why many premium automakers give their sports sedans sloping, coupe-like roofs. Also, if you make a sedan too big, well, it won’t be too sporty, now, will it? Again, tightrope. And how well the 2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport balances on that tightrope depends on what you prioritize.
Technically, the IS 350 can seat five passengers. But it’s really a four-seater car. I played Uber driver for some relatives and found that two adults could sit quite comfortably in the back. However, if they’re wearing winter coats, there’s no way anyone’s sitting between them. And the central hump makes it uncomfortable for even a small middle passenger to sit there for long anyway.
On the plus side, neither myself nor my passengers ever complained about the headroom. Also, the seats’ designs and relative heights enhanced the feeling of sportiness the Lexus IS 350’s interior provides. You feel like you’re cocooned in the car, rather than sitting atop it.
Admittedly, no one in my immediate family is over six feet tall. If you are, MT says rear headroom might be an issue. I’d also recommend tall drivers skip the optional moonroof because it eats up some headroom. But if you’re not ferrying rear passengers, the rear seats fold down to add even more space to the already cavernous trunk.
In short, the 2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport’s interior is on the sportier side of things, which makes it less roomy. If you do need more room, a BMW 3 Series or Genesis G70 might be a better fit.
The 2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport’s interior is sporty, comfy, and stylish
Some might wrinkle their noses at the thought of a leather-less luxury car. However, not only does leather require special care, but it’s also rather heavy. Plus, while the most luxurious Toyota product, the Century, offers leather, those in the know get wool. And Lexus put leather in the 2021 IS 350 F Sport interior precisely where wear resistance is paramount: the steering wheel.
All this is to say the 2021 IS 350 AWD F Sport doesn’t need leather to feel luxurious. It might be synthetic leather, but the Nuluxe-covered seats are plush, supportive, and very comfortable. It didn’t matter if I was sitting in traffic or slaloming down a road, the IS’ seats never caused me any pain or discomfort. And the front seats hug you well when you’re doing the latter, though not so much that you’re in pain.
Speaking of, the 2021 Lexus IS 350 interior features padded sections on the sides of the center console. No need to bruise your knees in the corners. The ride won’t beat you up, either. My test car had 19” wheels and sportier suspension, but even in Sport+ Mode, the IS was never uncomfortable, but rather taunt and compliant. And in Normal Mode, I almost pitied the potholes for thinking they could rattle me.
This isn’t the sharpest sports sedan out there, but it also doesn’t compromise on its luxury status. For example, its adaptive exhaust makes the V6 sound delightfully growly, but not overly loud. Like The Drive, I found the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport interior “remarkably quiet.” And not only is the steering wheel suitably sporty, but the open-pore ash makes using it a tactile delight. Watching the LFA-style bezel move back and forth is delightful, too, as is pressing the solid switchgear.
In addition, Lexus didn’t just put piano-black trim everywhere and call it a day. Instead, the IS has matte pieces in touch-heavy areas, so no fingerprint residue. And the 2021 model’s haptic temperature controls are bigger and thus easier to use, MT notes.
But it’s not without some faults
In standard form, the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport starts at $44,900 before destination and fees. My test car, though, stickered at just over $57,000 with all its options. That’s a significant jump that also reveals a few issues.
Material quality isn’t one of them per se. Yes, there are some hard-touch plastics, but they feel solid rather than cheap. They’re also in places you rarely if ever touch. As such, they’re more like vague whispers of the IS 350 F Sport’s less-expensive roots rather than glaring shouts.
What is glaring, though, is the lack of certain tech features. Because the center console still has the touchpad, there’s no room for, say, wireless charging. It might be optional on the G70, too, but said G70 also costs less. Furthermore, The Drive notes that some IS rivals offer wireless Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto. Neither is available in the Lexus.
However, are these flaws deal-breakers? Well, it depends.
Will you have to buy a 2022 Lexus IS to get a luxury cabin?
If you value space and tech, the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport might not be the luxury car for you. But from an interior design and quality standpoint, it’s one classy and comfy sports sedan.
And while the 2022 Lexus IS 350 shuffles some features around and adds some memory functions, its interior is identical, MT says. So, if you like or dislike what the 2021 car offers, the 2022 model is more of the same. And personally, this is a tightrope routine I enjoy watching.
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