The Lexus IS has morphed from one sedan into a family of luxury/performance cars. The sedan comes with two available V-6 engines plus a V-8 for the ultra-high-performance IS F. Both of the six-cylinder models, the IS250 and the IS350, are available with all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive can’t be paired with the six-speed manual transmission, but we suspect that few people choose the stick shift anyway, which is available only with the smaller six. A manual transmission might be more popular in the IS F, if it were offered. The IS F was the first Lexus with a true sporting bent; it competes with the BMW M3 and the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, even if it’s not quite as competent. Still, its 416-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 will fling this sedan to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles. The IS F is dressed in an extroverted body kit and is upgraded with Brembo brakes and a stiff suspension. For those who want some of that sporty gear but don’t want to shell out $62,175 for the IS F, the F Sport package has front and rear spoilers and a darker grille, seats with additional side bolsters, plus other special trim. Mechanical F Sport upgrades (brakes, suspension, wheels, exhaust) are available as dealer accessories. In addition to the sedans, there is an IS convertible, which features a retractable hardtop. It’s available with the same powertrain choices as the sedan’s, but there’s no F version.
Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim levels: IS250, IS250 AWD, IS350, IS350 AWD, IS250 C, IS350 C, IS F
Body styles: Sedan, convertible, 4- or 5-passenger
Engines: 2.5L V-6, 204 hp, 185 lb-ft
3.5L V-6, 306 hp, 277 lb-ft
5.0L V-8, 416 hp, 371 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6- or 8-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 87.9-88.3 cu ft
Cargo space: (sedan) 13.0 cu ft; (convertible, top
up/down) 10.8/2.4 cu ft
This is a quiet year for IS sedans and convertibles. The biggest news has to do with the IS F, which gets new dampers, redesigned nineteen-inch wheels, and a new red leather interior that replaces the previous orange and black color scheme.
Front, knee, side, and side curtain air bags; ABS; and stability and traction control are standard. Pre-collision warning is included with the optional active cruise control; Lexus’s Safety Connect telematics system includes collision response; a one-year subscription is included.
All: 18-21 mpg city/26-30 mpg highway
- IS F is plenty quick
- All-wheel drive available
- Typical Lexus refinement
- Rear seat is tight
- Retracted top eats up all the convertible’s trunk space
Compact sport sedans and convertibles that are more refined than sporty.
- Audi A4/S4/A5
- BMW 3-series
- Infiniti G
- Mercedes-Benz C-class