The Lexus IS is a sporty compact luxury model sold in sedan and convertible body styles. Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. The IS, along with the ES and the CT 200h, represent a trio of entry-level models for the Lexus brand.
2014 to Present: Lexus IS
The Lexus IS was introduced for the 2001 model year as a sedan only. A wagon model followed in 2002, but was discontinued after 2005. A hardtop convertible was introduced in 2009. The third-generation Lexus IS made its debut in 2014 although the IS C convertible has only undergone light refreshes since.
Upon its debut, the third-generation Lexus IS sedan was offered in IS 250 and 350 lines. The IS 250 is powered by a 2.5-liter V6 engine making 204 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. It comes paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and is EPA-rated at up to 21/30 mpg city/highway.
The IS 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine making 306-horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive models are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, while all-wheel drive models have a six-speed automatic. This model is EPA-rated at up to 19/28 mpg city/highway.
Starting in 2016, Lexus discontinued the IS 250 and added IS 200t and IS 300 models to the sedan line. The IS 200t is powered by a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine making 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This model comes paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and is EPA-rated at 22/33 mpg city/highway.
IS 300 models come with a six-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive, as well as a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 255 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The IS 300 gets an EPA-estimated 19/26 mpg city/highway.
All Lexus IS models, including the 250C and 350C offer F Sport packages, which bring in mostly aesthetic changes such as a more aggressive front end, trim embellishments, upgraded wheels and a sport-tuned suspension.
The exteriors of the IS sedans and convertibles are quite different from the front pillars to the rear of the vehicles. The sedans have an aggressive nose punctuated by the brand’s hourglass (spindle) grille, as well as wraparound headlamps with L-shaped LED daytime running lights. At the base of the grille are large pockets housing the fog lamps.
Along the sides, the sedan is marked by upper character lines and rocker panel sculpting. The beltline stays even before dramatically rising at the rear pillar to meet the sloping roofline. A notched rear deck is accented by dramatically styled wraparound combination lamps. Body sculpting, fog lamps and dual exhaust ports bring up the rear.
The IS C features the tamer face of the second-generation IS line. Its more subdued front fascia belies a model with a rising beltline. When the roof is up, this model passes for a luxury sport coupe. When the three-part roof slips into the trunk, a dramatic four-seat convertible emerges.
Inside, the Lexus IS sedan offers bucket seats up front and a 60-40 split-folding bench seat in the rear. With space for five, the back seat is tight for three and has limited legroom. Offering 90.2 cubic feet of passenger volume, the sedan is best utilized by four people. This model has a 13.2 cubic foot trunk.
All models come equipped with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, satellite radio, proximity key with push-button start and power-adjustable front seats. A navigation package brings in Lexus Enform telematics and a back-up camera. A premium package brings in heated and ventilated front seats. A luxury package adds blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column and wood trim.
Chief competitors for the Lexus IS sedan include the BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti Q50, Lincoln MKZ, Volvo S60, Acura TLX and the Audi A3 and A4. Near luxury models such as the Buick Regal might also be compared.
Earlier Lexus IS Models
The first-generation Lexus IS was introduced in 2001 and continued in production through 2005. That model was represented initially by a sedan then joined by a wagon the following year. The wagon had a four-year production run before it was discontinued.
The second-generation IS was produced from 2006 through 2013. From the onset it was offered as a sedan, with a hardtop convertible following for the 2009 model year.
The second-generation IS 250 is powered by a 2.5-liter V6 engine that is paired with a six-speed manual (rear-wheel drive only) or a six-speed automatic transmission. However, from 2010 on only the automatic transmission was offered. IS 350 models come with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.
A high-performance model, known as the Lexus IS F, was introduced in 2008 and stayed in production through 2014. This rear-wheel drive model is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 engine making 416 horsepower, which is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Lexus replaced the IC F with the RC F beginning in 2015.