The Lexus is a good car that’s trying to stand out in a segment of great cars. What do you need to know before you buy a Lexus IS? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything right here in our Buyer’s Guide.
First things first: The Lexus IS looks wild. The grille, the lights, and the swooping rocker panel are all a bit much... yet it’s still oddly satisfying to look at. And that’s a good thing, because the previous Lexus IS was a total snooze-fest.
But don’t think Lexus just revised the styling and left the old car untouched. Sure, it carries the same V6 as the last generation IS, but the new Lexus is good. Like, really good. Patrick George describes just how “really good” it is in his review:
The 2014 IS was vastly more competent on the track, as well as on the lovely North Carolina backroads nearby. The car’s great balance of performance, comfort, luxury and tech toys make it one hell of a contender in this segment.
Lexus is punching above their weight and it’s a good thing for its customers.
The third generation XE30 Lexus IS debuted at the North American International Auto Show in January 2013. The first models on sale were the IS 250 and IS 350, which hit dealerships in July of 2013 as 2014 model year vehicles. The IS convertible and IS F remained on the old platform until they both retired from the lineup by 2016.
The new generation IS brought much bolder styling than the last generation, with that hour glass-shaped grille, boomerang turn signals, and flowing tail lights. In addition to the wild new styling, the 2014 IS brought more interior room, an updated suspension setup, electric power steering and many new safety gizmos.
Engine options for the new generation IS were carryover: the 204 horsepower 2.5-liter IV and 3.5-liter V6 from the last gen continue on in the XE30 platform. Transmissions are largely the same, though the 8-speed auto previously reserved for the IS F get thrown into two-wheel drive IS350s.
The second model year, 2015, brought a few modest changes like LED fog lights and a few new features for the infotainment system. For the 2016 model, Lexus replaces the IS 250 and its 2.5-liter V6 with a new IS 200 base model. The new IS gets a 2.0-liter turbo four that cranks out 241 ponies to the old IS 250’s 204 horsepower. Also new for ‘16 is an IS 300 all-wheel drive model, which slots just below the IS 350 and makes a modest 255 ponies via a detuned version of the the IS 350’s 306 horsepower 3.5-liter V6.
The Lexus IS comes in three main trims: IS 200t, IS 300 and IS 350. The Is 200t gets only rear-wheel drive and comes with a 2.0-liter turbo four and an 8-speed transmission. The IS 300 comes only in all-wheel drive form and gets a 3.5-liter V6 and a six-speed automatic gearbox. Opt for the IS 350, and you can have either four or two-wheel drive to go along with the 3.5-liter. The four-wheel drive variant comes only with a six-speed auto, while the rear-wheel drive gets two more gears. All models can be outfitted with Lexus’s F-Sport Package, which adds a sport-tuned suspension, revised interior and exterior styling and sport bucket seats.
If it were us, we’d grab an IS 350 with the F Sport Package. Patrick George tells us exactly why in his review:
What you need to do, if you care about performance at all, is get the 350. It may be a carryover engine, and it may lack the turbos of some rivals, but it’s a blast to use. Lexus says it will do zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, but it feels quicker than that, and it feels underrated at 306 horsepower — more like 330 or so, according to the butt dyno. Burying the accelerator pedal gives you a nice, satisfying blast of acceleration that will put you at extralegal speeds in no time.
The problem here is that the best IS — the 350 with F Sport — is also the most expensive...But the IS 350 F Sport still undercuts the similar BMW 335i M Sport by thousands of dollars, and it has the reliability and customer service Lexus is famous for. That value is hard to argue with.
Sure, it doesn’t have a big honkin’ 5.0-liter power V8 like the old Lexus IS-F, but the IS 350 is plenty powerful, and with the sport seats, adaptive damping and variable gear-ratio steering found in the F-Sport model, you’ll end up with $45,715 sports sedan that gives you a lot for your money.
Important Facts At A Glance:
MSRP: $37,325 - $46,100 Top Speed: 143 MPH [IS 200t]
Acceleration: ~5.6s to 60 [IS 350]
MPG: 22 city/ 32 hwy / 36 combined [IS 200t]
Engines: 2.0L turbo, 3.5L V6
Max Horsepower/Torque: 306 hp/277 lb-ft [IS 350]
Curb Weight: 3,583-3,737 pounds IIHS Rating: Not Fully Tested
Transmissions: 8-speed automatic, 6-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front engine, RWD/AWD
Photo credit: Lexus