The updated Lexus IS has been unveiled and it will be available for sale in Mzansi in early 2021. First launched globally in 1999, the IS signalled the brand’s intention for the premium segment and was the most compact and sportiest model in the range for a long time. With this refresh, Lexus is aiming to prove that it still has “that thing”, and also help increase sales for the brand.

What mainly stands out is the large new Lexus spindle grille that flanked by new headlights and LED daytime running lights. Other redesigned pieces include the new 19-inch alloy wheels, doors, side skirts and rear LED lights. Those are now integrated into a new light bar that joins the two lights clusters. There is definitely more aggression in this car than ever before.

And while this is not an all-new model, Lexus says it may as well be, considering all the work that was gone into it. In fact what struck me the most was the fact it is now 3cm longer, 3cm wider and 5mm taller than its predecessor. Most facelifts don’t go this far. The wheelbase remains at 2.8 metres.

“What we had foremost in mind in developing the new IS,” says Lexus International Chief Engineer Naoki Kobayashi, “was to make it a car that excelled in communicating with the driver and, as a car with wide latitude for providing such feedback, would never fail in doing so, regardless of the road conditions or driving status. We retained the compact body and aimed to make the new IS a Lexus compact sports sedan that provides high-quality ride comfort while offering a high level of vehicle control.”

Lexus did not change the interior much, although many will agree that the new 20.32cm touch screen is most welcome. It is actually 7.6cm closer to the driver for easier access. Buyers are also able to specify a bigger 26.1cm infotainment screen that comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The bigger system comes with a Mark Levinson sound system with 17 speakers and 1800Watts of power.

Under the bonnet lies two options. We don’t know which will also be offered here in Mzansi. At base is the IS 300 with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that makes 180kW and 349Nm of torque. There’s also another IS 300 but with a 3.5-litre V6 and all-wheel-drive. It produces 194kW and 320Nm. Top of the range is the IS 350 with the same V6 engine that produces 231kW and 379Nm.

The IS boasts a long list of safety features, which include Emergency Steering Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beam, parking support brakes, and the Panoramic View Monitor.

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