$29,450 - $35,069

2018 Lexus IS Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.3

The 2018 Lexus IS has solid overall performance, with two available engine choices that are both respectably powerful. However, fuel economy is worse than in many rivals. Handling is balanced and composed, though not overly athletic. Steering is direct and ride quality is comfortable. 

  • "Unlike Lexus sedans of the past, the 2018 Lexus IS demonstrates a rather playful suspension, direct and precise steering and a satisfying engine note every time the throttle is pressed to the floor. Even better, our feelings about the IS remain the same regardless whether equipped with the 4-cylinder turbo or potent V6." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • Is it a genuine sports car, with its 4 doors, paddle shifters and not-ferocious V-6, 306 horsepower engine? Not really. It's a dressed-for-dinner Lexus, with an exclamation point under the hood. You'll cruise to work and back, you'll taxi the kiddos where they need to go, you'll throw it around using the 'Sport' control on nice days, but you won't be besting any Boxsters or AMGs when the light turns green and that's all there is to it." -- Forbes (2016)
  • "On the road, it's not the sportiest car of its kind, but it strikes a nice balance between comfort and performance that should appeal to many shoppers." -- Edmunds (2016) 

Acceleration and Power

The IS 300 features a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 241 horsepower (260 horsepower in AWD models). This quick, responsive engine gives the IS ample power for driving around town or on the highway.

The IS 350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 311 horsepower. This engine delivers more overall power than the base engine, and it still provides good throttle response and eager acceleration. A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission comes standard with each engine, and a six-speed automatic is standard with AWD models.

With the base engine, the IS earns an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. Many other luxury small cars get better gas mileage.

  • "While the V6 has more power, the smaller turbocharged 4-cylinder feels plenty quick from behind the wheel, and gets notably better fuel economy as well. That's important, as all IS models require premium-grade fuel." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The highlight of the IS 200t is the new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which is better in every way than the small V6 it replaces." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • The eight-speed automatic transmission is quite well suited for the brand and the car, I'd say. It mostly stayed out of my way, while in D, shifting unobtrusively during normal driving. The paddle-shift option is great for the occasional flights of motive fancy, but it's not lightning-quick, nor super engaging." -- Autoblog (2016)

Handling and Braking

Rear-wheel drive comes standard in the IS, and all-wheel drive is available. The IS feels controlled and composed on winding roads, but it isn't the most agile car in the class. It also rides smoothly, even when the pavement gets rough. F Sport models have a firmer suspension that delivers better handling but a stiffer ride.

  • "Swap the onramp for a twisting mountain road, and you'll find the IS in its element, with plenty of horsepower readily on tap as you accelerate out of the curve. For those who really enjoy pushing their limits, the F Sport models bring bigger wheels and more aggressive shock and spring rates, but also a bit firmer ride." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Handling dynamics aren't this car's strongest suit, though you can still have fun whipping this luxury compact around a bend or two. … The IS delivers combines (sic) solid body control with smooth compliance at all the right times. Bumps and impacts are absorbed without issue, yet there's no hint of a marshmallowy ride or overly soft suspension tune. Ride comfort is very good." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "Handling is nippy with the F-Sport package, at least within the normal boundaries of public roads. The car stays neutral and flat under cornering loads, and the front end feels rather light and quick to turn in. Of course, take the same corners more aggressively, and you'll feel the car default to understeering, with power cut on exit until all four wheels are fully set and gripping. Don't expect to slide the IS around, in other words." -- Autoblog (2016)

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