The 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport is the fastest sedan in America.
Not in terms of speed, but in how many days it takes a dealer to turn one out of the showroom.
It’s been near the top of the charts all year right up there with popular models like the Chevrolet Corvette and Kia Telluride and sells in about a quarter of the time it takes the average car to get into a buyer’s hands, even in this hot market where everything seems like its flying off the lot.
Sales are up over 150%, which is a little bit surprising, because the new IS lineup is mostly a refresh of a model that’s been on the market since 2014.
Its bodywork is more dramatic than before, with an oversized version of Lexus’ signature "spindle" grille and widebody styling, but things haven’t changed much inside and that’s not a bad thing.
The compact four-door is roomier than some midsize sedans, its front bucket seats are among the best you’ll find in any vehicle and the faux leather upholstery won’t have you missing the real thing.
The main update is a new infotainment system with a tablet-style touchscreen display that is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and is easier to use than the old mouse or the new touchpad interface on the center console.
The IS 350 F Sport starts at $44,025 and is a $3,900 upgrade of the IS 300 that swaps the latter’s 241 hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine for a 311 hp naturally aspirated V6. Rear wheel drive with an eight-speed automatic transmission is standard and all-wheel-drive with a six-speed costs an extra $2,000.
It also gets a set of high performance summer tires with 19-inch wheels and wider rubber in the rear, plus a more aggressive-looking aerodynamics package.
The suspension has been retuned to provide better handling, and a further F Sport Dynamic Handling Package adds adaptive shocks that provide better body control without ruining the ride quality, which is outstanding. The IS 350 F Sport soaks up rough roads like a sponge and can outshine some pure luxury models. The $4,200 option includes a limited slip rear differential, matte-black wheels, a carbon fiber spoiler and ash trim.
Even with all of the goodies, the IS 350 F Sport isn’t quite as quick as its sales, at least in a straight line. It needs 5.7 seconds to reach 60 mph and the V6 is missing the low-end punch of the turbocharged six-cylinders it competes with from the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. It is smooth and sounds great spinning up to its redline, however, which it warns you is approaching by turning the tachometer yellow.
That’s not to say it’s slow. It’s really just right for enjoying a public road without getting into trouble, and the handling is spot-on. For those in need of more power, an IS 500 is on the way this fall with a raucous 472 hp V8.
The IS 350 F Sport can also be packed with the latest driver technology, including a 360-degree parking camera that’s helpful with not crushing the grille into curbs and a lane tracing system that works with the adaptive cruise control to center the vehicle between the lines. You need to keep your hands on the wheel for it to stay active, but it’s one of the more robust versions of this type of technology and a boon on long highway drives.
Which you may have to take if you want to find a dealer who has one of these in stock.
2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport
Base price: $44,025
As tested: $55,050
Type: 5-passenger, 4-door rear-wheel-drive sedan
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Power: 311 hp, 280 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
MPG: 20 city/28 hwy