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2020 Lexus IS Review

The 2020 Lexus IS ranks in the bottom half of the luxury small car class. The IS has premium cabin materials, a refined ride, and an excellent predicted reliability rating, but its small trunk, awkward infotainment system controls, and poor fuel economy estimates hold it back.

Pros & Cons

  • Outstanding predicted reliability rating
  • Luxurious, comfortable cabin
  • Refined ride
  • Small trunk
  • Complicated infotainment controls
  • Outdated cabin styling
  • Poor fuel economy for the class

Rankings & Research

The 2020 Lexus IS's #12 ranking is based on its score within the Luxury Small Cars category. Currently the Lexus IS has a score of 7.5 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 43 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.5

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.4
Performance: 7.0
Interior: 5.6
Safety: 9.6
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

 Is the Lexus IS a Good Car?

The 2020 Lexus IS is a solid luxury small car. It features an outstanding predicted reliability rating and a comfortable, high-quality cabin. However, it’s behind the times in terms of available features, and base models offer uninspiring handling and modest engine power.

Should I Buy the Lexus IS?

Shoppers who want a reliable sedan with a comfortable ride and an elegant interior should consider the IS. However, most rivals offer better fuel economy and larger trunks than the IS, as well as more intuitive infotainment systems with features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Many competitors also have base models with stronger engines and nimbler handling and higher trims that are even more athletic. Both the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series get better gas mileage than the IS, and their infotainment systems are more user-friendly.

Compare the IS, A4, and 3 Series »

Should I Buy a New or Used Lexus IS?

The 2020 Lexus IS is a part of a generation that debuted for the 2014 model year. There have been a handful of changes over the years, including increases in horsepower for the base engines in the 2016 and 2017 models. Also for 2017, several advanced safety features became standard. For 2018, the IS 200t became the IS 300, the V6 engines received 5 more horsepower, and a rearview camera became standard.

For 2019, Lexus improved the IS’ handling and made Amazon Alexa available. There are no major updates for 2020, so most shoppers are likely better off purchasing an older model, which could cost significantly less than a new Lexus.

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2017 IS, 2018 IS, and 2019 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 vehicles.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 IS »

We Did the Research for You: 36 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 36 Lexus IS reviews, in addition to concrete data points like predicted reliability ratings, fuel economy estimates, and safety rating to help you make a smart car-buying decision.

This 2020 IS review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which launched for 2014.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our staff has decades of experience in the auto industry. Though we’re passionate about cars, we’re even more committed to providing helpful consumer advice. To maintain objectivity, we don’t accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies.

How Much Does the Lexus IS Cost?

The 2020 Lexus IS 300 has a starting price of $38,560, which is slightly above average for a luxury small car. You can get the all-wheel-drive model for $41,010. The top-of-the-line IS 350 F Sport with rear-wheel drive starts at $45,375, while the all-wheel-drive model has a starting price of $46,710.

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?

The IS has an impressive interior, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class’ cabin. The Mercedes features real wood and genuine leather upholstery, neither of which are offered in the Lexus. The Benz also has more space in both its back seat and trunk. Unlike the IS, the C-Class is available with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. The Mercedes also offers three high-performance AMG editions and three body types (sedan, coupe, and convertible). If you want additional cargo and passenger space, the option of more intuitive tech, and extra performance features, the Mercedes offers all that, and it only costs a few thousand dollars more than the Lexus.

Which Is Better: Lexus IS or BMW 3 Series?

When it comes to performance, the BMW 3 Series is one of the best options in the luxury small car class. It offers agile handling and a comfortable ride, making it a blast to drive. This BMW gets better gas mileage than the Lexus, especially models with the available turbocharged engine. The 3 Series also comes standard with genuine leather upholstery, and it has more rear-seat legroom and a larger trunk than the IS. That said, both sedans have complicated cabin technology.

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

IS Interior

How Many People Does the IS Seat?

The Lexus IS has five seats, and all of them are comfortable. Opinions vary on the sedan’s roominess. Some reviewers think both rows offer good head- and legroom, but others say back-seat passsengers will end up rubbing elbows. Heated and ventilated front seats are available.

IS and Child Car Seats

The Lexus IS comes with two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats, as well as an upper tether for the rear middle seat. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the anchors are easy to find and can’t be confused with other hardware.

IS Interior Quality

The cabin looks and feels upscale thanks to its high-end materials and excellent build quality. That said, some critics say the design is outdated compared to competitors like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Kia Stinger. In fact, genuine leather upholstery is not available in the IS, though it’s standard in some rivals.

IS Cargo Space

The IS’ 10.8-cubic-foot trunk is one of the smallest in the luxury small car class. Additionally, the 60/40-split-folding rear seats don't lay completely flat, so loading larger items can be a challenge.

IS Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard features in the IS include a 7-inch screen and two USB ports. Options include a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound stereo, and a navigation system with a 10.3-inch display.

The infotainment system comes with a standard rotary knob or an available Remote Touch controller (in models with navigation) that functions like a computer mouse. Both can be distracting for drivers to operate, forcing them to divert attention from the road to navigate on-screen menus. Additionally, the IS isn't available with smartphone integration features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are offered in most rivals.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

IS Performance

IS Engine: 3 Tiers of Power

The base rear-wheel-drive Lexus IS 300 has a 241-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers swift, satisfying acceleration in the city and on the highway. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard in rear-wheel-drive models, while all-wheel-drive models feature a six-speed automatic.

IS 300 models with all-wheel drive come with a V6 engine. The V6 produces 19 more horsepower than the base engine, but its power is disappointing. IS 350 models come with a peppier 311-horsepower version of the same engine.

IS Gas Mileage: Premium Fuel, Poor Mileage

The base IS 300 returns an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, which are among the worst ratings in the luxury small car segment. Also, the IS requires premium fuel, increasing its cost of ownership.

IS Ride and Handling: F Sport for Fun

The base Lexus IS is tuned for comfort and offers a composed, smooth ride. F Sport models have better ride engagement because of an adaptive suspension that fine-tunes its steering and improves cornering.

Read more about performance »

IS Reliability

Is the Lexus IS Reliable?

The 2020 Lexus IS has an excellent predicted reliability rating of 4.5 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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2020 IS an overall safety rating of five out of five stars. It earned five stars in the rollover and side crash evaluations and four stars in the frontal crash test.

At the time of writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2020 Lexus IS.

IS Safety Features

All models come with a rearview camera and Lexus’ Safety System+. This suite includes lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high-beam headlights, and high-speed adaptive cruise control. Also standard is a pre-collision system, which includes forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking.

Optional safety features include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and parking sensors.

Read more about safety »

IS Dimensions and Weight

The IS is 15.4 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,583 to 3,737 pounds.

Where Is the 2020 Lexus IS Built?

Lexus builds the 2020 IS in Japan.

Which Lexus IS Model Is Right for Me?

The 2020 Lexus IS is available in two trims: IS 300 and IS 350. These models share most of the same standard amenities. The biggest difference between them is their drivetrains.

The base IS 300 comes with a 241-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. IS 300 models with all-wheel drive feature a 260-horsepower V6, while the IS 350 boasts a 311-horsepower version of the same engine. All models are available with either rear- or all-wheel drive. Rear-wheel-drive models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, while all-wheel-drive variants have a six-speed automatic.

The IS 300 moves fairly quickly, but many shoppers will prefer the IS 350’s V6 engine because it packs more power. To spruce up the IS’ somewhat dull driving dynamics, you can add the F Sport package to any model. It includes a sport-tuned suspension and a limited-slip rear differential. F Sport models also come with upgrades like 18-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front sport seats, a perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, and unique exterior design elements.

Individual options include a navigation system with a 10.3-inch display and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system.

Lexus IS 300

The Lexus IS 300 has a starting MSRP of $38,560. It comes standard with a 7-inch screen, two USB ports, HD Radio, satellite radio, a moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, and Lexus' NuLuxe synthetic leather upholstery.

For $2,450, you can add all-wheel drive, heated front seats, and the 260-horsepower V6 engine that’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The IS 300 F Sport with rear-wheel drive is $41,755, and it’s $43,805 with all-wheel drive.

Lexus IS 350

The IS 350 starts at $42,180 and can be equipped with all-wheel drive for an additional $2,165. The F Sport package costs $3,195 for the rear-wheel-drive IS 350, and it’s $2,365 for models with all-wheel drive.

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 2020 Lexus IS specs and trims »

The Final Call

Comfort comes first in the 2020 Lexus IS. Its interior offers premium materials and cushioned seats, making for a cozy ride, even on longer trips. However, both of the available infotainment controllers are difficult to use, the interior design is outdated, and some popular tech features are unavailable.

The IS has a comfortable and composed ride, but if you want engaging handling and more-muscular engines, you’re better off considering another vehicle in the luxury small car class. Most competitors also have better fuel economy and larger trunks than the IS.

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

  • Lexus makes an admirable case for a value-based luxury sport sedan with its entry-level IS 300, offering adventurous styling at a better starting price than German rivals. It even has an injection of driving personality. Unfortunately a clumsy infotainment controller and too-tight ergonomics hold it back. Times have changed since this IS generation debuted for 2013 and the car feels stuck in time." -- Edmunds
  • "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." -- CNET
  • The Lexus IS relies on stylized visuals and sporty pretenses to stand apart from its entry-luxury counterparts. While the Lexus sedan doesn’t totally live up to all the promises that its bold sheetmetal makes, its nicely tuned ride and handling characteristics prove enjoyable. The IS interior design is as unmistakable as the exterior, with a driver-focused arrangement and admirable materials. However, the infotainment system has annoying controls and the back seat isn’t huge. Still, a suite of standard driver assists and a rewarding F Sport performance version make the 2020 IS an interesting alternative to more popular classmates.” -- Car and Driver 
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