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MSRP: $38,560 - 44,345

2019 Lexus IS Review

The 2019 Lexus IS ranks in the middle of the competitive luxury small car class. The IS has a quality interior, refined handling, and a great safety score. A frustrating infotainment system is the sedan’s main demerit.

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 fine luxury small car. The IS sedan has a sumptuous cabin with comfortable seats. It’s enjoyable to drive, thanks to its agile handling and refined engine options. The IS also rates well for safety, and it comes standard with a lot of active safety features, like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. That being said, the IS gets unremarkable fuel economy, and its infotainment system can be a challenge to use.

Should I Buy the Lexus IS?

The 2019 IS sedan is certainly worth a look, but there are better options in this class, including the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. Both have better fuel economy than the IS, and their infotainment systems are easier to use. If sporty performance is what you’re looking for, consider the Kia Stinger as well.

Compare the IS, A4, and 3 Series »

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: 40 Reviews Analyzed

Our Lexus IS review includes far more than just one person's opinion. We collected professional evaluations from more than 40 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?

The 2019 Lexus IS has a starting price of $38,560. That’s slightly above average for the luxury small car class, but the IS sedan is among the least-expensive Lexus models. The Lexus ES sedan and Lexus RC coupe start at $39,750 and $41,145, respectively. The upmarket Lexus GS sedan has a base price of $46,860.

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?

The Lexus IS has five seats. 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

For installing child safety seats in the second row, the IS has two complete sets of LATCH connectors. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave this setup the top rating of Good for ease of use.

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

Lexus offers the IS sedan in four configurations. The base model IS 300 has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 241 horsepower and rear-wheel drive. The IS feels quite peppy with this engine, both around town and at highway speeds. IS 300 models with all-wheel drive have a rather unenthusiastic 260-horsepower V6.

A punchier 311-horsepower version of this V6 comes in the IS 350, both in rear- and all-wheel-drive variants. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with rear-wheel-drive IS 350s; the all-wheel drive models receive a six-speed automatic.

Professional reviewers are split on which combination is the best, though most agree that the V6-powered IS 300 AWD is worth skipping. We recommend trying out more than one configuration if you are in search of dynamic performance.

IS Gas Mileage: Expensive to Fuel

The base 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 Lexus IS has a well-tuned suspension that delivers a comfortable ride without feeling disconnected from the road. F Sport models are equipped with a more advanced adaptive suspension. These models perform more like sport sedans. They feel precise and agile, and though the suspension is stiffer, the ride is still reasonably smooth. 

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 Lexus IS has an overall safety rating of five out of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The IS received five stars in the side crash and rollover tests, as well as four stars in the frontal crash test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the IS the top score of Good in all five crash tests conducted, as well as a Superior rating for the effectiveness of its standard front crash prevention system. The IS received the second-highest rating of Acceptable for how well its 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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2019 Lexus IS

MSRP: $38,560 - $44,345

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