2021 Toyota Camry vs 2021 Lexus IS

2021 Toyota Camry
2021 Toyota Camry
$25,045MSRP
Overview
Overview
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2021 Lexus IS
2021 Lexus IS
$39,050MSRP
Overview
Overview
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2021 Toyota Camry
$25,045MSRP
Overview
Overview
OverviewShop Now
2021 Lexus IS
$39,050MSRP
Overview
Overview
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CarGurus highlights

Winning Vehicle Image

According to CarGurus experts, the overall rating for the 2021 Toyota Camry is 7.8 out of 10, while the 2021 Lexus IS scores 7.3 out of 10. Based on these ratings, we recommend the Toyota Camry. It offers a compelling combination of safety, performance, and practicality while also accommodating modern tech and a range of efficient powertrains. Meanwhile, the Lexus IS offers a luxurious and sporty experience with its premium materials and advanced features, but it may not match the Camry's overall value and practicality.

Overview

MSRP

$25,045

MSRP

$39,050

Average price

$23,727

Average price

$35,556

Listings

2493

Listings

407
Ratings & Reviews
User Reviews
User Reviews

Expert reviews

7.8 out of 10

Expert reviews

7.3 out of 10
Pros
  • Comfortable
  • Spacious
  • TRD trim adds extra performance and style
Cons
  • Outdated technology
  • Underwhelming base engine
Pros
  • Stylish design
  • Multiple powertrain options
  • Great handling
Cons
  • Underwhelming base engine
  • Irritating transmission
  • Outdated technology

2021 Toyota Camry Reviews Summary

The Toyota Camry has long been many new-car buyers’ default choice—but not because it’s interesting. Reliability and practicality have traditionally been the Camry’s strengths, not sportiness or style.

Toyota tried to change that for the 2018 model year, when the Camry was last redesigned. The current-generation Camry adopted more extroverted styling, and engineers tried to make the driving experience more exciting, too. While Toyota’s approach has changed, the Camry still competes against the same array of midsize sedans, including the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, and Volkswagen Passat.

Changes for the 2021 model year include subtle styling tweaks, new infotainment displays, an upgrade to the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+) package of driver aids, some changes to the dashboard trim, and the discontinuation of the Camry L trim level. That leaves the Camry LE as the new base trim level.

The Camry offers buyers more choices than many rivals, encompassing three powertrains (inline-four, V6, and hybrid), six trim levels (LE, XLE, SE, SE Nightshade Edition, XSE, and TRD), and the choice of front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). Our test car was an AWD SE Nightshade Edition, positioned close to the middle of the lineup.

2021 Lexus IS Reviews Summary

The Lexus IS enters its fourth generation of production, embodying lessons learned from the LC and RC. The 2021 IS targets enthusiast drivers and luxury buyers who might be thinking German first, and it seeks to recalibrate expectations of what a compact luxury sports sedan can be.
No video found
Popular Features & Specs

Engine

2.5L 203 hp I4

Engine

2.0L 241 hp I4

Drive Train

FWD

Drive Train

RWD

Seating Capacity

5

Seating Capacity

5

Horsepower

Horsepower

241 hp @ 5800 rpm

MPG City

28

MPG City

21

MPG Highway

39

MPG Highway

31
2021 Toyota Camry
2021 Toyota Camry
$25,045MSRP
Overview
Overview
OverviewShop Now
2021 Lexus IS
2021 Lexus IS
$39,050MSRP
Overview
Overview
OverviewShop Now
2021 Toyota Camry
$25,045MSRP
Overview
Overview
OverviewShop Now
2021 Lexus IS
$39,050MSRP
Overview
Overview
OverviewShop Now

CarGurus highlights

Winning Vehicle Image

According to CarGurus experts, the overall rating for the 2021 Toyota Camry is 7.8 out of 10, while the 2021 Lexus IS scores 7.3 out of 10. Based on these ratings, we recommend the Toyota Camry. It offers a compelling combination of safety, performance, and practicality while also accommodating modern tech and a range of efficient powertrains. Meanwhile, the Lexus IS offers a luxurious and sporty experience with its premium materials and advanced features, but it may not match the Camry's overall value and practicality.

Overview
MSRP
$25,045
$39,050
Average price
$23,727
$35,556
Listings
Ratings & Reviews
User reviews
4.5
4.5
Expert reviews

7.8 out of 10

Read full review

7.3 out of 10

Read full review
Pros & cons
Pros
  • Comfortable
  • Spacious
  • TRD trim adds extra performance and style
Cons
  • Outdated technology
  • Underwhelming base engine
Pros
  • Stylish design
  • Multiple powertrain options
  • Great handling
Cons
  • Underwhelming base engine
  • Irritating transmission
  • Outdated technology
Summary

The Toyota Camry has long been many new-car buyers’ default choice—but not because it’s interesting. Reliability and practicality have traditionally been the Camry’s strengths, not sportiness or style.

Toyota tried to change that for the 2018 model year, when the Camry was last redesigned. The current-generation Camry adopted more extroverted styling, and engineers tried to make the driving experience more exciting, too. While Toyota’s approach has changed, the Camry still competes against the same array of midsize sedans, including the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, and Volkswagen Passat.

Changes for the 2021 model year include subtle styling tweaks, new infotainment displays, an upgrade to the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+) package of driver aids, some changes to the dashboard trim, and the discontinuation of the Camry L trim level. That leaves the Camry LE as the new base trim level.

The Camry offers buyers more choices than many rivals, encompassing three powertrains (inline-four, V6, and hybrid), six trim levels (LE, XLE, SE, SE Nightshade Edition, XSE, and TRD), and the choice of front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). Our test car was an AWD SE Nightshade Edition, positioned close to the middle of the lineup.

The Lexus IS enters its fourth generation of production, embodying lessons learned from the LC and RC. The 2021 IS targets enthusiast drivers and luxury buyers who might be thinking German first, and it seeks to recalibrate expectations of what a compact luxury sports sedan can be.
Video
No video found
Popular Features & Specs
Engine
2.5L 203 hp I4
2.0L 241 hp I4
Drive Train
FWD
RWD
Seating Capacity
5
5
Horsepower
241 hp @ 5800 rpm
MPG City
28
21
MPG Highway
39
31
Look and feel
2021 Toyota Camry
6/10
2021 Lexus IS
8/10
The 2021 Toyota Camry worked hard to distance itself from previous Camry models, which often appeared generic and uninspiring. Designers aimed to make the Camry more exciting by adding numerous styling details. While some elements were effective, such as the flared wheel arches and thin headlights and taillights that visually widened the car, others added unnecessary clutter. The SE, XSE, and TRD trims, in particular, were crowded with fake vents. The LE and XLE models featured a different, albeit still massive, grille that presented a somewhat cleaner look. Toyota updated the front-fascia styling for most trim levels in 2021, but the variations were not overly dramatic. The TRD performance model featured unique elements like a larger rear spoiler, while the Nightshade Edition offered blacked-out trim and wheels based on the SE trim. Wheel options ranged from 17-inch alloys on the base LE to 18-inch and 19-inch wheels on higher trims. Inside, the Camry's chaotic styling continued with a dashboard that looked like it was cobbled together from different cars. Various trim elements, including contrast stitching, piano black plastic, and a plastic trim resembling carbon fiber, were thrown together without a clear design theme. The materials felt low-rent, which detracted from the overall experience. In contrast, the 2021 Lexus IS projected a different image. Its design conveyed athleticism and a sense of motion even when stationary. Lexus designers achieved a balance between a coupe-like roofline and a fastback aesthetic. The distinctive window base at the back of the passenger door visually shortened the greenhouse, adding to the compact and sporty look. The new spindle grille with diamond mesh and the narrow headlights gave the IS an assertive squint, while flawless paint, chrome, and panel gaps underscored its quality. Inside, the IS was tastefully simple, featuring a center stack that resembled a collection of components plugged into an attractive rack, reminiscent of a retro hi-fi system. The interior design echoed the bold and assertive choices seen on the exterior, with high-quality materials and a modern aesthetic. The vestigial analog clock, however, felt like an outdated luxury signifier, hinting that perhaps it was time for a design overhaul.
Performance
2021 Toyota Camry
9/10
2021 Lexus IS
7/10
The 2021 Toyota Camry offered a versatile range of powertrains. The base model was equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine—dubbed Dynamic Force—delivering above-average output for a naturally aspirated engine at 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque with FWD, slightly reduced with AWD. The XSE trim upped the ante with a dual-exhaust, boosting output to 206 hp with FWD. Additionally, there was a 3.5-liter V6 option providing 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid variant combined a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with electric assist for a total system output of 208 hp. Our test drive of the SE Nightshade Edition with the base four-cylinder and AWD revealed a surprisingly spirited driving experience. The Dynamic Force engine lived up to its name, offering a bubbly, eager-to-rev nature and a pleasant sound. The Camry's chassis struck a great balance between handling and ride quality, making it enjoyable to toss into corners without sacrificing comfort. Despite its less sporty intention, the SE model performed admirably, hinting at the excitement Toyota added to the lineup. The TRD model, introduced in 2020, paired the V6 with various chassis upgrades, including lowered suspension, stiffer coil springs, sway bars, TRD shocks, bigger brakes, and optional Bridgestone Potenza summer tires. The AWD system, derived from the RAV4, could send up to 50% of torque to the rear wheels and reverted to FWD when extra traction wasn't needed, without impacting passenger or cargo space. In the 2021 Lexus IS, the focus on performance was evident. The IS 300 with RWD came with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The AWD model housed a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 generating 260 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The IS 350 variants, both AWD and RWD, featured the same V6 but were tuned to deliver 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, with RWD models equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission and AWD models with a six-speed automatic. Our test drive of the RWD IS 350, balanced at a 54/46 front/rear weight distribution and weighing 3,748 pounds, confirmed its crisp, precise, and balanced driving dynamics. The double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension and electrically powered steering enhanced the driving experience. Acceleration figures for the IS ranged from 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds for the IS 300 RWD to 5.6 seconds for the IS 350 RWD, showcasing its sporty credentials. Fuel efficiency for the IS varied by model, with the IS 300 RWD achieving 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined, while the IS 300 AWD reached 19/26/22 mpg. The IS 350 RWD was rated at 20/28/23 mpg, and the IS 350 AWD came in at 19/26/22 mpg.
Form and function
2021 Toyota Camry
8/10
2021 Lexus IS
7/10
The 2021 Toyota Camry had a spacious interior, especially in the rear, thanks to generous headroom and legroom. However, this came at the expense of front headroom and legroom, which were below average. Despite this, the front seats provided ample adjustability for a comfortable seating position. Outward visibility was excellent, and the seats themselves were supportive. Cargo capacity in the Camry was about average for a midsize sedan, at 15.1 cubic feet. This was significantly less than the Honda Accord's 16.7 cubic feet, but still decent. In-cabin storage was limited, with small cupholders and door bottle holders, and items often got stuck in the door storage bins. Toyota incorporated analog controls for essential functions, enhancing usability without relying solely on the touchscreen. However, the center stack's design meant some controls were a long reach from the driver's seat. The 2021 Lexus IS prioritized a driver-centered experience with an easily adjustable driving position and comfortable, supportive seats. The F Sport trim's bolstered seat was standard in the IS 350 models and included heating and ventilation. The IS used NuLuxe fabric for upholstery, a synthetic material that mimicked leather’s look and feel without the cost and care leather demanded. Storage space in the Lexus IS was ample, with several compartments, including an open cubby at the center stack's base, twin cupholders, large door pockets, a decent glovebox, and a compartment beneath the armrest. The second row was comfortable for two passengers but tight for three, requiring legroom negotiation with front-seat occupants. Trunk space in the IS was adequate at 10.8 cubic feet, significantly less than the Camry's. The trunk was surprisingly deep, though, and the IS included a temporary spare beneath the trunk's load floor.
Technology
2021 Toyota Camry
7/10
2021 Lexus IS
7/10
The 2021 Toyota Camry came equipped with a standard 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Amazon Alexa integration, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Higher trims featured a 9-inch touchscreen, WiFi for five devices, navigation, and a nine-speaker JBL audio system. A 10-inch head-up display was available on the XSE and XLE trims. The standard USB media port, two USB charge ports, and a 12-volt outlet provided decent connectivity, although additional ports were not available on higher trims. Toyota's infotainment system was functional, with easy-to-navigate menus, but the graphics were plain and unimpressive. The 2021 Lexus IS finally incorporated a touchscreen infotainment system compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. While the touchpad remained, it was no longer the primary input method. Lexus' connected services were extensive, with various free trial periods to help owners decide on subscriptions. Lexus Enform Safety Connect included a three-year trial, Service Connect came with a ten-year complimentary subscription, and WiFi offered a 4GB/three-month trial. Lexus Enform Remote, free for three years, connected with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The subscription model had drawbacks, such as the Navigation Package starting at $1,670 with included features like Dynamic Navigation only free for the first three years. A notable tech option was the Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 1,800-watt premium audio system with Quantum Logic surround, starting at $1,080, which included a CD player and provided a superb listening experience.
Safety
2021 Toyota Camry
9/10
2021 Lexus IS
7/10
The 2021 Toyota Camry received top safety ratings, earning a "Top Safety Pick+" from the IIHS and a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA. The standard TSS 2.5+ safety package included adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, and traffic-sign recognition. Enhancements for 2021 included lane-change assistance and left-turn pedestrian detection. The new Rear Seat Reminder aimed to prevent children or pets from being left in the back seats. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert was available as a standalone option or standard on higher trims like the XLE and XSE. The 2021 Lexus IS had not been rated by the IIHS or NHTSA at the time of this comparison. However, the updated platform suggested it would perform well. The standard Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 included features like a pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicyclist detection, lane-departure warning, road-sign recognition, lane-tracing assist, adaptive cruise control, and intelligent high beams. Additional safety features included vehicle dynamic integrated management, tire pressure monitoring, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a backup camera, LED lights, and Lexus Enform Safety Connect with a three-year trial.
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By: CarGurus + AI

This car comparison has been created with using generative AI. It is based entirely on CarGurus expert review content, ratings and data, and leverages our extensive library of hands-on product tests to create thousands of unique comparisons to help shoppers choose the right car.