MSRP
$38,560
U.S. News Best Price Program

2019 Lexus IS Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.3

The 2019 Lexus IS emphasizes comfort over sportiness and delivers an exceptionally smooth ride. That said, a properly equipped model is enjoyably responsive and nimble, and it can hold its own against many rival sports sedans. Because the IS uses premium gas and has a low fuel economy rating, its fuel costs are high for the class.

  • "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. Push the IS up an onramp faster than you normally would and you'll discover a car that rejoices in the challenge, revealing itself a true sports sedan ready to play with the best BMW, Audi and Cadillac cars." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)
  • "This IS is not as quick as the class equivalents, but the turbo four-cylinder makes good power and sounds more refined than BMW's 2.0-liter engine. The 0-60 mph sprint is achieved in 6.8 seconds." -- Edmunds (2018)

Acceleration and Power

Lexus offers three engines for the IS. An eight-speed automatic transmission comes with rear-wheel-drive models, and a six-speed automatic comes standard when the sedan has optional all-wheel drive. The base IS 300 RWD is peppy and smooth. Drivers with a heavy foot will appreciate the more powerful IS 350, though professional reviewers are mixed on the responsiveness of its transmission. With all setups, fuel economy is below average for the class.    

The standard powertrain in the IS 300 is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 241 horsepower. It returns 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. All other IS editions are V6-powered. A 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 comes with the IS 300 AWD, and all versions of the IS 350 employ a 311-horsepower 3.5-lilter V6. Fuel economy for the V6 engine ranges from 19-20 mpg in the city and 26-28 mpg on the highway.

  • "On paper, you'd be led to believe that the IS 350 is a quick car, with its 5.6-second 0-60 time. Its 3.5-liter V6 engine is good for 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, which is enough power for respectable initial acceleration, but for midrange punch, this V6 is sluggish and dull. The eight-speed automatic transmission is to blame here. On the highway, when you put your foot down, the Lexus doesn't find the gear that'll put you in the heart of the power band. This transmission rarely gets downshifts right. If anything, the transmission is programmed with an efficiency bent, but the IS isn't that efficient." -- CNET
  • The turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine in the IS 300 is smooth enough to sit behind a Lexus grille, yet also brings a fair amount of punch. A dated transmission, heavy all-wheel drive system and only 260 hp don't help the IS 300 AWD's case. The IS 350 has more vigor and, in rear-drive form, the better transmission." -- Autotrader (2018)
  • 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 (2018)

Handling and Braking

The IS sedan is smooth and comfortable above all else. Adding the optional F Sport package transforms this car into a sports sedan. Rear-wheel drive comes standard, and you can adjust some of the car's tuning through the three drive modes: Normal, Comfort, and Sport. On every model, Lexus offers all-wheel drive and the F Sport package, which includes larger wheels and an adaptive sport-tuned suspension system. Rear-wheel-drive models with the F Sport package also get a limited-slip rear differential.

  • "Even without the zippier F Sport package that I'll get into later, the standard IS 350 is sporty enough. It may have been around longer than its stablemates, but the IS' chassis still feels segment-competitive. Instead of sending shockwaves through the car's skeleton, an errant pothole can hit the car's competent suspension and travel no farther than that. As a result, the occasional bump in the road does little to distract my enjoyment behind the wheel. My delight is elevated by the IS' steering, which offers great heft to its action and adequate levels of communication about what's happening at road level. That culminates in a car that makes me want to drive it with gusto, even during mundane A-to-B trips. That's how a sport sedan should make you feel." -- CNET
  • "Ride quality earns the IS another gold star. It's refined and relaxed, yet also precise. The suspension of the F Sport package is naturally firmer, although the adaptive dampers in the rear-drive IS 350 F Sport model mean the best of both worlds." -- Autotrader (2018)
  • "The IS delivers 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 tuning. Very good." -- Edmunds (2018)
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2019 Lexus IS

MSRP: $38,560 - $44,345

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