Current Model
The all-new Lexus IS was treated to an evolutionary redesign that adds visual flair and interior updates, but otherwise doesn't stray from the established formula. The new car is again offered in rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations, with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and two V6 engines.
The handling dynamics are said to be improved through reduced suspension weight, 19-inch wheels (up from 18 inches), and stiffer body. The interior features the traditional upscale amenities, with the latest Lexus infotainment system and an available high-powered audio system. There is a complete roster of advanced safety and driver assistance features that come standard, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and daytime bicycle detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist.
Road Test
Predicted Reliability
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2020
In our tests, the IS came up short as a sports sedan. Handling is secure but not engaging enough to run with the best in the class.
Ride comfort is neither tied-down nor plush. Even the punchy IS 350 is underwhelming to drive. A 260-hp V6 powers the all-wheel-drive IS 300, which gives it more zip, but its fuel economy of 20 mpg overall is uncompetitive in the class. Plus, the interior is extremely cramped, and getting in and out is an ungraceful chore. The interior is well-finished, but there is room for improvement, especially the tight driver's cockpit. All-wheel-drive versions have a pronounced hump by the driver's right leg. The mouselike infotainment controller is distracting to use. Two adults will fit in the snug rear seat, but there isn't much headroom or legroom to spare. A 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder is available, but only in rear-wheel drive.
Road Test
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2014-2019
2014 Redesign Year
While this is arguably the most handsome version of the Lexus IS to date, it isn't very sporty, fun to drive, or luxurious. Handling is nothing special.
Body roll is fairly well contained, but the car isn't particularly agile. The steering is appropriately weighted, but feels vague and doesn't telegraph much feedback. Worse, it still has a tight interior and mediocre fuel economy. F Sport models do have some sporty touches, but still fall short of the driving engagement of better compact sedans. If you're intent upon buying one, get the optional backup camera and blind-spot warning system, which were available individually or as part of option packages. Other driver assistance features include rear cross-traffic alert, active cruise control and lane departure warning. Sold from 2014-15, the IS 250 used a 204-hp, 2.5-liter six-cylinder with a six-speed automatic. (Most rivals used seven- or eight-speed automatics.) Although this rather small V6 was very smooth, it was low on power, with 0-60 mph times lagging behind competitors by one to two seconds. Fuel economy was also gluttonous, achieving just 21 mpg. That's what you can expect from a good modern SUV; a compact luxury sedan typically returns 4-5 mpg more. 2016 brought a revamped range of engines including a new base turbocharged four-cylinder (dubbed IS 200t) and a lower-powered 3.5-liter V6 with all-wheel drive (dubbed IS 300.) All 2017 models get Lexus Safety System+ as standard equipment, which includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are optional. Other changes for 2017 include updated exterior styling, new cup holder design, and revised steering-wheel buttons.
$40,275 - $40,900
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$35,350 - $35,950
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$25,650 - $31,075
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$22,150 - $26,900
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$21,500 - $27,975
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$18,800 - $34,850
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2006-2013
2006 Redesign Year
The IS was redesigned in 2006. It also got two different V6 engines and available all-wheel drive.
Plush and quiet, this version sacrifices some of the sportiness of the previous iteration of the car. Acceleration is quick, fuel economy is commendable and handling is secure, but the steering is short on feedback and the ride quality is stiff. While the front cabin grew a bit, the rear remained very cramped. On the safety front, a pre-collision system, available with the optional Dynamic Radar Cruise control, activates the seat belt pretensioners and brake assist systems in advance of a crash. A high-performance V8 model was introduced for 2008. A hardtop convertible was offered as well.
$14,950 - $30,125
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$12,625 - $26,925
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$11,050 - $24,250
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$9,900 - $22,075
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$9,075 - $20,650
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$8,250 - $19,200
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$7,725 - $7,925
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$7,150 - $7,325
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2001-2005
2001 Redesign Year
The rear-wheel-drive IS300 arrived for 2001 to compete with cars like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Power comes from a silky-smooth 215-hp inline six-cylinder mated to a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission.
The ride is quite stiff and a bit jittery, and lacks the compliance found in the German models. Handling is very capable but falls a bit short of the 3 Series benchmark. The IS300's interior is quite snug, and its stark ambience is not to everyone's taste. Tire noise is noticeable but not unbearable. The rear seat is tight for two adults, and trunk space is meager. A hatchback came in 2002. Overall, it's a very good package. Ergonomics are correct, with all controls within easy reach. Luxury features include automatic climate control and plush interior furnishings but with a sporting edge. As expected for the class, rear seat legroom is tight, though the front seats are ideal for a sport sedan. However, with a taut suspension tuned more for handling performance than comfort, the ride lacks suppleness.
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