2021 Lexus IS shows its rear end, gets a new unveiling date

Ronan Glon

Lexus was set to introduce the next-generation IS on June 9, but it postponed the event to respect "the recent global situation," meaning worldwide protests in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody. Now Lexus has rescheduled the unveiling, and given us our first look at its next entry-level sedan.

The model's global debut is scheduled for at 7 p.m. Eastern time June 15, which is 4 p.m. for West Coasters. The unveiling will take place online, and the company will stream it live on its various social media channels.

Lexus published a five-second preview video to give us a fleeting look at the 2021 IS. Although the front end remains hidden, the preview reveals that thick chrome trim surrounds the side windows, and that the elongated rear lights are connected by a thin light bar. It's a styling cue that should emphasize the compact sedan's width.

We know the next-generation IS will carry on with rear-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive will again be offered at an extra cost, and the video confirms the IS 350 nameplate will return. It's too early to tell what it will denote, however. Earlier, unverified rumors suggest the model will gain a 3.0-liter straight-six engine sourced from BMW and shared with the Z4 and the Toyota Supra, among other models. Other reports affirm the range will consist of a turbocharged four-cylinder, a naturally-aspirated V6, and, at the top of the range, a new-for-2021 5.0-liter V8.

Lexus has offered a V8-powered IS before; it introduced the terrific IS F at the 2007 edition of the Detroit Auto Show and kept it in production until 2014. The V8-powered model allegedly due out in the coming months won't pick up where the IS F left off, however. It will be named IS 500, so it won't be a full-fledged F-tuned model.

500 corresponds to 5.0 liters of displacement, and the current, 350-badged IS is powered by a 3.5-liter V6. While this naming system seemingly discredits rumors of a BMW-built 3.0-liter six, keep in mind Lexus emblems aren't always pegged to an engine's displacement. The entry-level 2020 IS 300 is equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

Will Lexus stick to tradition, or will it invite BMW to a game of musical emblems? We'll know when the veil comes off the next IS in a few short days. It's expected to arrive in American showrooms before the end of 2020 priced in the same ballpark as its predecessor, which starts at $38,560. When it lands, it will compete against the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It will also lock horns with Acura's gorgeously redesigned TLX.

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