The disappearance of the Lexus CT 200h hatchback after the 2017 model year left the IS range to serve entry-level clients of Toyota?s upscale brand. While we miss the CT for its fun looks and thrifty hybrid performance, we think Lexus shoppers are in good hands with the IS, which carries on as a nicely done sport sedan.
There are no changes to the IS for 2019, so it is once again available as the IS 300 with either rear- or all-wheel drive, or the AWD-only IS 350.
Somewhat confusingly, the IS 300 is offered with two substantially different drivetrains. The IS 300 RWD uses a 2.0L, turbocharged four-cylinder making 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, which feeds an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Meanwhile, the IS 300 AWD gets a 3.5L V6 good for 260 hp and 236 lb-ft, which goes into a six-speed auto before heading to all four wheels.
The IS 350 AWD takes the same V6 but cranks its output up to 311 hp and 277 lb-ft, and also uses the six-speed automatic.
Lexus?s decision to use a six-speed in the more potent IS models is a curious decision given most of this car?s competitors, which come from the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Acura and Volvo, to name just a few, come with at least eight ratios in their automatics.
If you refuse to play the numbers game, know that the IS 350 is a very quick car regardless. The V6 is strong and smooth, and even if the car misses the road feel benchmark set by older generations of the BMW 3 Series, the IS is a satisfying car to drive quickly no matter which engine you put under its hood.
IS 300 models start out with a 10-speaker sound system with 7.0-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate controls, passive keyless entry and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Four-cylinder cars can be optioned with an F Sport package with blind spot monitoring, ventilated front seats, sunroof, auto-dimming side mirrors, 18-inch wheels and a variety of F Sport trim items.
The IS 300 AWD offers a wider range of extras in Premium and Luxury packages and F Sport 1 and 2 bundles. Premium trim is similar to the four-cylinder?s F Sport group minus the F Sport items, while Luxury trim builds on that with navigation, a 10.3-inch infotainment display, front and rear parking sensors and adaptive headlights.
F Sport Series 1 is the same as it is in the RWD model, while F Sport Series 2 brings the same amenities as the Luxury group.
IS 350 AWD cars come with the IS 300 AWD Luxury features, plus an adaptive variable suspension, F Sport aero package and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson stereo. Options include the F Sport Series 2 package, and a Series 3 group with a 15-speaker stereo, power rear-window sunshade and triple LED headlights.
Lexus?s fuel consumption estimates for the IS are 11.0/7.6 L/100 km (city/highway) for the IS 300 RWD while the IS 300 AWD and IS 350 AWD are both rated at 12.3/9.1.
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