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MSRP: $38,410 - 44,195

2019 Lexus IS Review

The 2019 Lexus IS stands out for its comfortable accommodations. However, this compact luxury car has some hiccups. Its lackluster infotainment system and few performance flaws are part of the reason this Lexus has trouble standing out in a very competitive class.

Pros & Cons

  • Elegant, comfortable interior
  • Smooth, relaxing ride
  • Sporty handling with F Sport package
  • Awkward infotainment system
  • Small trunk
  • Poor fuel economy

New for 2019

  • Handling enhancements for base model
  • Optional Lexus Enform Remote now integrates with Amazon Alexa

Is the Lexus IS a Good Car?

Yes, the Lexus IS is a good luxury small car. Its sophisticated cabin offers a comfortable experience for travelers. There are a number of powertrain setups, including a peppy base engine, two meatier V6 engines, and the choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. It also boasts a decent predicted reliability rating. However, there are some irritating flaws to this sedan that lower its overall appeal. The controls for the infotainment system are challenging to use, especially while you are driving. While the uplevel models of the IS are satisfyingly sporty, several class rivals are more thrilling.

Should I Buy the Lexus IS?

Shoppers who value refinement, ride comfort, and a high resale value will find a lot to like about the IS, and its above-average predicted reliability rating is reassuring. For driving enthusiasts, the IS 350 F Sport is worth a test drive. Unfortunately, Lexus' infotainment technology is a bit frustrating and outdated. If you find this system to be a sticking point, take a look at an Audi A4. Additionally, two lesser known competitors – the Kia Stinger and Alfa Romeo Giulia – offer exhilarating performance that will appeal to sports sedan shoppers.

Compare the IS, A4, and Stinger »

Should I Buy a New or Used Lexus IS?

There are few differences between a new Lexus IS and recent used editions. If the 2019's handling enhancements and optional Amazon Alexa capability aren't must-haves, you should consider saving money by purchasing a used IS instead. Fact is, you’ll still get a solid vehicle.

The current Lexus IS generation debuted for 2014. Lexus has made a handful of changes since, including updating the base engine for 2016. Models from 2017 and later come with more safety features – like the Lexus Safety System+ suite of driver assistance features – than older models.

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2017 IS and 2018 IS reviews to help make your decision. Also check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used cars.

Compare the 2017, 2018, and 2019 IS »

We Did the Research for You: 32 Reviews Analyzed

Our Lexus IS review includes far more than just one person's opinion. We collected professional evaluations from more than 32 sources and combined them with concrete data like fuel economy estimates, safety scores, and performance specs to help you make an informed buying decision.

This 2019 Lexus IS review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which runs from 2014 to 2019.

Why You Can Trust Us

The Best Cars team – a division of U.S. News & World Report – has been reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007. With more than 75 years of combined automotive experience, our editors, writers, and analysts rank a wide variety of new and used cars and issue three annual awards: Best Cars for the Money, Best Cars for Families, and Best Vehicle Brands. To keep our recommendations unbiased, we decline expensive gifts from carmakers, and a third party handles our advertising.

How Much Does the Lexus IS Cost?

At around $38,000, the IS’ starting price is higher than average for the luxury small car class. However, at about $45,000, the range-topping IS 350 F Sport is significantly less expensive than some rivals' chart-topping contenders.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Lexus dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Lexus deals page.

Lexus IS Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Lexus IS or Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

Both the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Lexus IS exude elegance, but the C-Class has a few advantages over the IS. The Mercedes-Benz has more room in both its back seat and trunk, and it’s available with premium materials that you can’t get in the IS, like real wood and leather. Unlike the IS, the C-Class is available with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class also has several iterations to choose from, including a brisk base model, a plug-in hybrid, and two high-performance AMG editions. There are also three body types, so you can select from sedan, coupe, and convertible models.

Which Is Better: Lexus IS or BMW 3 Series?

When it comes to performance, the BMW 3 Series bests the Lexus IS. The BMW is nimble and fun to drive, and it offers a robust selection of engines. Fuel economy is also notably better in the 3 Series, particularly with the optional turbodiesel engine. When you combine these performance advantages with the BMW's standard leather upholstery and extra rear-seat legroom, the 3 Series emerges as the clear winner.

Compare the IS, C-Class, and 3 Series »

IS Interior

How Many People Does the IS Seat?

Most people find the five-seat IS to be a comfortable sedan. The front seats are exceptionally spacious. The rear seats don’t have as much legroom as some rivals offer, but they’re still roomy enough for adults. Synthetic leather is the only seat upholstery offered, though heated and ventilated front seats are available.

IS and Car Seats

Installing a child safety seat into this small sedan is a relatively simple task. The two sets of lower anchors are easy to reach, and the three tether anchors are easy to find.

IS Interior Quality

The IS’ cabin has high-quality materials and elegant styling, whether you go with the piano black or gray aluminum-like trimmings. Wherever your hands naturally rest, they’ll find soft-touch surfaces. Lexus' NuLuxe synthetic leather is the only upholstery available in the Lexus IS. In comparison, rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class offer upgrades such as genuine leather seats and inlays made of real wood.

IS Cargo Space

The IS has one of the smallest trunks in our luxury small car ranking, at 10.8 cubic feet. The 60/40 split rear seat can fold down, but because the seats don't lay completely flat, the space it creates has limited usefulness.

IS Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The infotainment system in the IS disappoints critics. Complaints center around the standard rotary knob and the optional Remote Touch mouse-like controller, which are neither intuitive nor easy to use. They also require extra attention from the driver to make adjustments. Standard features include a 7-inch display, two USB ports, and Scout GPS Link. A navigation system with a 10.3-inch display is available.

Read more about interior »

IS Performance

IS Engine: Four Powertrain Options

Drivers searching for a comfortable cruiser will enjoy the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that comes with the rear-wheel-drive IS 300. With this engine, the IS is smooth and moderately quick. Adding all-wheel drive to this model swaps the four-cylinder out for a 3.5-liter V6 and bumps the IS 300's horsepower rating from 241 to 260. A 311-horsepower version of this V6 comes in the IS 350. An eight-speed automatic transmission comes standard with both IS models, and a six-speed automatic comes in the all-wheel-drive editions. Professional reviewers are split on which combination is the best, so we recommend trying out more than one if you are in search of dynamic performance. 

IS Gas Mileage: Expensive to Fuel

With front-wheel drive, the IS 300 gets 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. These fuel economy ratings are among the worst in the class. This Lexus also requires premium gasoline, further increasing your fuel costs.

IS Ride and Handling: Refined and Responsive

The IS 300 has a suspension system that keeps the ride comfortable without producing an unsettling floaty effect. The IS 350 F Sport is equipped with a more robust engine and adaptive suspension system. This model handles more like a proper rear-wheel-drive sports sedan. It's precise and agile, and though the suspension has a firmer tuning, the ride is still reasonably smooth. All-wheel drive is available with every edition. 

Read more about performance »

IS Reliability

Is the Lexus IS Reliable?

The 2019 Lexus IS has an above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Lexus IS Warranty

Lexus covers the IS with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

IS Safety

IS Crash Test Results

The 2019 IS has an overall safety rating of five out of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received five stars in the side crash and rollover categories, as well as four stars in the frontal crash assessment. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2019 IS the highest score of Good in five crash tests. The car earned a rating of Superior for its front crash prevention features and a score of Acceptable for how well the headlights illuminate the road ahead. 

IS Safety Features

In addition to a rearview camera, Lexus includes its Safety System+ on all IS models. This safety suite includes lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, and high-speed adaptive cruise control. All models come with a pre-collision system, which includes forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking.

Blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and parking sensors are available.

Read more about safety »

Which Lexus IS Model Is Right for Me?

Lexus differentiates IS models primarily by their drivetrain, and comfort amenities are mostly the same across the lineup. Under the hood of the rear-wheel-drive IS 300 is a turbocharged 241-horsepower engine. If equipped with all-wheel drive, the IS 300 comes with a 260-horspower V6 engine. At the top is the IS 350 and its 311-horspower V6. This setup is available with either RWD or AWD.  

The base four-cylinder is an energetic engine, but skip the IS 300 AWD in favor of the IS 350 if you want more power. You can also combine the F Sport package with any engine. This adds several performance-oriented components, such as 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, and a limited-slip rear differential (on rear-wheel-drive models only). Additional enhancements include heated and ventilated front sport seats, a perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, and sportier exterior styling elements. Lexus also offers a number of other upgrades, such as heated and ventilated front seats, a navigation system with a 10.3-inch display, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system.

Lexus IS 300

Standard features of the IS 300 include a moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, and Lexus' NuLuxe synthetic leather upholstery. Highlights of the base infotainment system include a 7-inch display, two USB ports, HD Radio, satellite radio, and Scout GPS Link.

Prices start at $38,310 for the IS 300. All-wheel drive adds $2,450 to the price tag, and that comes with heated front seats and a more powerful engine. The IS 300 F Sport’s MSRP is $41,505 with rear-wheel drive, or $43,555 with all-wheel drive.

Lexus IS 350

The IS 350 can be outfitted with rear-wheel drive ($41,930) or all-wheel drive ($44,095). Both versions are powered by the same V6 engine. The F Sport package costs $3,195 for the IS 350 RWD, and $4,530 for the IS 350 AWD.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Lexus dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Lexus deals page.

See 2019 Lexus IS specs and trims »

The Final Call

Highlights of the Lexus IS include a smooth ride, comfortable seats, refined cabin, and an above-average predicted reliability rating. These attributes make the base model compelling for shoppers in search of a classy sedan. Driving enthusiasts will want to explore the more dynamic F Sport models. However, the IS struggles to stand out in the luxury small car segment. Select rivals surpass the IS by offering infotainment technology that is easier to use, powertrains with more polish, or both.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • The Lexus IS is getting old. The Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and newcomer Genesis G70 offer a fresher experience -- even the current BMW 3 Series, which is actually a year older than the IS, feels newer inside, with more up-to-date tech. The Lexus brand as a whole is a powerhouse in the luxury car space, yet the IS posts lower sales numbers than all of its German competitors. But that's not to say it isn't competitive -- maybe just overlooked. If you're looking for an alternative to those other compact luxury sedans, there are ways in which the Lexus IS is still pretty appealing." -- CNET
  • "In the competitive compact-luxury-car market, any vehicle that doesn't do better than 'good enough' simply can't compete. Thankfully, this isn't an issue for the 2018 Lexus IS, a small sports sedan good enough to take on the likes of the Cadillac ATS, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. The IS is backed by Lexus' indisputable reputation for quality, reliability and high resale, not to mention a long list of luxury and safety features buyers have come to expect. We won't deny the IS' gaping-grille design is more than polarizing, but that's a personal opinion not shared by everyone. However, when it comes to performance, capability and sheer driving enjoyment, there is no arguing the 2018 Lexus IS has come into its own." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)
  • "The 2018 Lexus IS has a lot going for it. This premium compact sedan starts out with attributes we can all appreciate every day of the week, such as comfortable, quiet cabins and confidence-inspiring driving manners. These features also come in a body that can be just the right size. Big enough for people and things, yet compact enough to make life simple in places like parking garages and tight city streets." -- Autotrader (2018)
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