Luxury for the value-conscious buyer. The current-generation Lexus IS has been around since 2013. And though it's had a refresh and a few powertrain updates since, you can still see its age peeking through the facelift.

That said, the 2021 Lexus IS still presents excellent value with its lower pricing, superior agility, and new infotainment interface. These attributes are enough to make it a worthy consideration in the compact luxury sedan segment.

Precision handling, recycled powertrains. The IS delivers strong handling on curvy back roads thanks to its firm suspension and predictable rear-wheel-drive configuration. It even retains its predictability with the all-wheel-drive option thanks to a rear torque bias.

Buyers can improve upon the IS' corner-carving ways with the optional Dynamic Handling Package. This adds adaptive dampers and 19-inch forged-alloy BBS wheels for $4,200.

Under its hood, the IS isn't aging well, as it includes the same powertrain options it's had for years. The base IS 300 comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that delivers 241 horsepower and a 6.9-second 0-60 mph time. This is a 14 hp short of the base BMW 3-Series and a whopping 1.3 seconds slower to 60 mph. Compared to the base Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the IS has the same hp shortcoming, which makes it 1.2 seconds slower to 60 mph.

Though the IS 350's 3.5-liter V6 delivers 311 hp, a satisfying noise, and great control, it also lags compared to its German rivals. The IS 350 hits 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, which is 1.2 seconds slower than the BMW M340i and 1.1 seconds slower than the Mercedes AMG C 43.

There's a caveat to this performance deficiency, as the IS 350 starts from $43,925 including destination. The 340i runs $55,695, and the AMG C 43 costs $57,550. So, while you may give up straight-line speed, you save over $10,000 with the iS.

Dated inside, but at least there's a touchscreen. After years of complaining, Lexus has finally given in to the masses by moving the IS' infotainment display 5.5 inches closer to the driver and making it a touchscreen. This standard 8-inch touchscreen eliminates the need for the clunky joystick interface that's infuriated drivers for ages, which has been replaced with an incrementally better touchpad system.

The IS also now comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satisfying yet another customer gripe. Optionally, buyers can swap the 8-inch screen for a 10.3-incher.

This update finally brings the IS' infotainment system in line with the competition, though its menus and interface still need work. Maybe another eight years of complaining, and we'll get that updated too?

Outside of these much-needed tech updates, the IS' interior remains very dated due to its bloated instrument panel, button-heavy center stack, and overall uninspiring design. Buyers seeking a more modern and whimsical cabin should look to the 3-Series or C-Class.

Safe to ride in, but not overly comfortable. The IS hasn't been through IIHS testing, but the structurally identical 2020 model has, and it received "Good" ratings in all crash tests. It also received a "Superior" rating for its automatic emergency braking, which is standard on the IS. The only sore spot was the "Acceptable" headlight rating.

While it's safe, the IS isn't incredibly comfortable with just 32.2 inches of rear legroom. This is 3 inches tighter than the 3-Series and C-Class, and 3.5 inches less than the Audi A4.

Final thoughts. With a starting price that's about $2,000 lower than German luxury cars, the 2021 Lexus IS is a solid option for buyers who want a legit luxury badge on a budget. Plus, with its full allotment of modern tech, it leaves buyers desiring little compared to a BMW or Mercedes.

The IS does, however, show its age in its design and straight-line speed. If these are a big concern to you, it may be best to skip the Lexus and head straight to an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes dealer. You may also want to lean toward German models if you plan to haul anyone over 10 years old in the rear seats.

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