The Lexus IS is an entry-level luxury sedan that rivals similar German-made entry-level luxury sedans. The 2018 Lexus IS is equipped with standard equipment that enables it to perfectly fit in the segment. Like all models in this segment, the IS has a safe exterior design. Buyers needing to step out of the crowd can give their models a more aggressive look by opting for the F Sport package. Like the 2018 Lexus RC, the biggest change is the new trim naming strategy that has seen the IS 200t trim replaced by IS 300 RWD trim.
2018 Lexus IS Exterior and Interior
Like all Lexus models, the front fascia wears the signature spindle grille. The exterior is well crafted without the need to go wild like on the RC coupe. The front fascia features angular lines that stretch on the flanks all the way to the rear. LED lights are standard for all models. Base models use 17-inch wheels but the IS 350 features 18-inches.
The cabin looks premium; it features a tiered dash, wide center console as well as an analog clock. The seating space is sufficient but not generous as the console restricts knee room on AWD models. Standards seats are comfortable even for long distances but F Sport seats are tighter and not as comfortable. The rear seats offer even tighter knee room and shoulder room and although the rear seats are supposed to accommodate three passengers, even two big adults will find the space pretty tight. The cargo space at 13.8 cubic feet is average compared to other models in the segment.
The cockpit layout is nice with all controls mounted within reach of the driver. Although the model has a touch-sensitive and mouse-like controller for the climate control and infotainment systems, Lexus still offers knobs and buttons for other functions such as a tuning and volume knob for the sound system.
All models come standard with AM/FM/CD player that integrates USB and Bluetooth connectivity, keyless ignition, a moonroof, synthetic leather upholstery, and a 7.0-inch infotainment display. Premium package adds ventilation and heating on the front seats while the Luxury package adds blind-spot monitors and a power-adjustable steering column. Buyers can also opt for a navigation system, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, a 10.3-inch display, leather upholstery, a genuine wood trim, parking sensors as well as a heated steering wheel.
Safety matters are well covered; to start with, the sedan for the first time features a rearview camera as a standard feature. There are also several driver assist technologies including adaptive cruise control, active lane control, forward collision warning integrated with automatic emergency braking but blind spot monitoring is optional.
Each trim can be fitted with the F Sport package that adds stylish gauges, power front seats, a silver interior finish and new bumpers (front and rear) on the IS 300. The package adds adaptive dampers on the IS 350. Buyers can also customize their cars further at an extra cost.
Still, Lexus has does not offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in 2018 IS sedan.
Engine and performance
As said earlier, like with the RC, Lexus has changed the trim naming strategy of the IS; what used to be the 200t trim is now IS 300 RWD. It is still powered by a turbocharged 2.0 L, 4-cylinder engine that delivers 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to an 8-speed smooth-shifting automatic gearbox with paddle shifters. Stepping to the IS 300 AWD, you will get a 3.5 L, V-6 that is detuned to deliver 260 hp; the engine uses a 6-speed automatic gearbox.
The range-topping IS 350 uses a more powerful iteration of the V-6 that produces 311 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque like on the RC. The engine can be had in either RWD or AWD. AWD is paired with a 6-speed automatic gearbox while RWD models use an 8-speed automatic transmission system.
2018 EPA ratings for the IS are yet to be released but considering the engine has not gone through any major changes, the outgoing model’s figures will remain. The RWD 300 (known as 200t at the time) returned 22 mpg, 32 mpg and 26 mpg in city, highway and combined drives respectively. The AWD IS 300 and AWD IS 350 have similar EPA rating; they both return 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 21 mpg on combined drives. RWD IS 350 is more economical with a rating of 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 22 mpg on combined drives.
The IS 350 can hit 0-60 mph in less than 6 seconds, adding the optional F Sport package makes the handling of the model even better.
The 2018 Lexus IS features built-in modes that include the Eco, Comfort, Sport as well as Sport+ but the Sport+ is available with the F Sport package.
The F Sport package adds a sharper throttle as well as a transmission mode (Sport+), a limited-slip differential, aluminum pedals, adjustable suspension and staggered summer tires.
Price and release date
The base IS 300 RWD has a starting price of $39,205 inclusive of $995 destination fees representing a $385 price hike compared to the previous 200t. The IS 300 AWD and IS 350 prices have increased by $460. The models are priced at $41,655 and $42,825 respectively inclusive of the $995 destination fees. The models are already available in Toyota and Lexus dealerships. The 2018 Lexus IS was introduced at the Beijing Motor show earlier in the year.
Among others, the Lexus IS competes with the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Cadillac ATS.