First Drive

First Drive Review: Refreshed 2021 Lexus IS delivers desirable performance, looks sleek

Lexus has given its IS 350 new fascia and performance chops for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

The Lexus IS models of the last few years have lacked a certain something. They were perfectly drivable, good looking, and reasonably comfortable. Those are great points if you're talking about the Toyota Corolla.

But for Lexus, the push to design a better performing IS came from the top down. And that push has made the IS better. It's not a perfect car, but the drive dynamics are a surefooted step in the right direction.

As tested, the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport sported a bright, glossy red Infrared paint job and 19-inch staggered width BBS wheels. Its unique front and rear bumper, grille surround, rear lip spoiler, and rocker molding help set it apart from the two other IS grades making it appear fiercer to oncoming traffic than it truly is. The overall look is sleek and stylish without being too much like, or too far from, what you'll find on other Lexus cars.

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Infrared The tester car came with F Sport design details including these dark wheels.Photo courtesy of Lexus

Its 311-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine sits under the hood. The power plant achieves 280 pound-feet of torque, which helps it get off the line in a jiffy, though the IS 350 F Sport is clearly worlds away from, in terms of performance chops, the BMW M3.

Still, it sticks to the road with ease, with the biggest enhancements to its improved drive dynamics best shown on rural winding roads where it's easy to creep up over the speed limit and pavement is generally smooth. Steering the IS is easy as well with the car delivering the type of connected drive generally associated with Lexus performance-focused products.

The car's eight-speed automatic transmission delivers smooth shifts and putting the car into the Sport+ drive mode that comes only with the IS 350 F Sport model provides the advertised high-revving shift effect that makes low-end torque a priority.

With all that good in place, it's hard to not now be annoyed with the fact that the interior of the IS has not changed much over the last four years. Sure, the plastic surfaces have received an upgrade and the screen is higher quality, but the overall styling remains unchanged and causing the front passenger and driver areas to not be as spacious as what you'll find in the IS's competitors.

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Infrared The interior of the IS is relatively unchanged.Photo courtesy of Lexus

Lexus hasn't totally abandoned its touch pad for the infotainment system, but the finger space has gotten better, slowing but surely. Granted, it's still and not ideal setup, but it's less of a hassle and is no longer a reason to completely shy away from a Lexus.

The back seats of the IS are not as cramped as some of the offerings in its competition (looking at you Alfa Romeo Giulia), but one never forgets that it's a compact car. As far as front seats go, it's hard to find a more comfortable sport-style seat. This one doesn't squeeze you in place like the ones the German cars install, and for daily driver duties, it makes the sporty IS 350 F Sport more palatable.

The IS has seen its list of standard and available safety and driver assist features extended for the new model year. In addition to its forward collision mitigation system and rear cross-traffic alert, the car has lane tracing and centering technology, all-speed adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and road sign assist. These technologies put the car's safety system on par with what is offered by its competition.

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Infrared IS 350 F Sport models get a Sport+ drive mode that is chosen using the dial shown here.Photo courtesy of Lexus

However, Lexus most has its work cut out for it. As Americans increasingly turn away from sedans, the Acura TLX's redo has given buyers a reason to cross-shop it with the IS, and they're not too dissimilar flavors. Add in the BMW, Audi, and Mercedes models, and the landscape makes it harder for the IS to break through.

But, with this freshened design, comfortable seats, traditionally good reliability record, and an engaging drive, the $40,000+ IS makes its case for buyer dollars, and it's a strong argument.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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The F-Type P450 cars replace the P300 and P380 as part of the Jaguar lineup.

Photo courtesy of Jaguar

Two new versions of the Jaguar F-Type are on the horizon. New versions of the model have been created to further the car's luxury proposition and both are powered by a roaring V8 engine. The new P450 variants replace the P300 and P380 models currently in the lineup. Jaguar is keeping the F-Type R around.

2022 Jaguar F-Type P450

The 2022 Jaguar F-Type P450 will be available as a coupe or convertible in P450 RWD or P450 R-DYNAMIC AWD grades. All varieties come with a 444-horsepower supercharged V8 under the hood that achieves 428 pound-feet of torque. An electronic active differential is standard. In all configurations, the car gets from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and has a top speed of 177 mph.

2022 Jaguar F-Type P450 The car has received minor exterior updates from the 2021 model.Photo courtesy of Jaguar

In a nod to its suburban buyers, the F-Type has a Quiet Star mode that allows a more subtle roar out the back side of the car upon startup. Drivers who don't care about keeping quiet can switch the car in to Dynamic mode and let the rumble out.

Each F-Type P450 rides on 20-inch wheels, has larger brakes than traditional F-Type models, and has the switchable exhaust. Double J-Blade daytime running lights feature up front while new slender rear lights allow the body of the car to speak for itself.

Buyers who get the F-Type P450 R-Dynamic AWD get bespoke badging; a gloss black front splitter, side sills, valance, and venturi; auto-dimming, power- folding, heated door mirrors with memory; and 20-inch Style 6003, split-spoke, gloss Dark Grey with Contrast Diamond Turned Finish Wheels.

2022 Jaguar F-Type P450 The interior sports a refined appearance.Photo courtesy of Jaguar

Monogram stitch patterns on the car's seats and interior accents in Windsor Leather and satin-finish Noble Chrome enhance the interior. Additionally, there are "Jaguar Est.1935" markings on the center console finisher, glovebox release button surround, and seatbelt guides. Six-way electric power seats are standard on F-Type P450 RWD, while F-Type P450 R-Dynamic AWD adds 12-way electric memory front seats, electrically adjustable steering column with memory, Delta Aluminum Center Console, and R-Dynamic branded metal treadplates as standard equipment.

A 12.3-inch driver information display is standard.

F-Type P450 is available in 11 standard exterior colors, and can be ordered in over a dozen custom SVO paint finishes. It starts at $69,900 for the P450 RWD Coupe and $79,900 for the R450 R-Dynamic AWD Coupe.

2022 Jaguar F-Type R

The F-Type R is the pinnacle of the Jaguar lineup with torque on-demand all-wheel drive, Jaguar Intelligent Driveline Dynamics control technology, a double wishbone front and rear suspension, and electric power-assisted steering.

It can get from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 186 mph thanks to its 575-horsepower supercharged V8 engine. All-wheel drive is standard.

This model starts at $103,200.

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