Lexus kicked off its high-performance F brand over a decade ago, with a V8-powered sedan called the IS F. This model bowed out after the 2014 model year and was followed by the two-door RC F coupe and larger GS F sedan. Lexus hasn't offered a V8-powered IS since. Until now, that is. The 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance arrives sporting a familiar engine, but an all-new message: Whereas the old IS F was directly targeted at the BMW M3 and Mercedes C63, this IS 500 is pitted against mid-level performance sedans like the Acura TLX Type S, Audi S4, BMW M340i, and Mercedes-AMG C43. Lexus says the new F Sport Performance sub-brand will slot above the standard F Sport models, but below the more hardcore F vehicles coming in the future.
Lexus recently refreshed the third-generation IS with updated styling and new cabin technology, but it is still one of the more dated options in the segment. The Lexus IS 500 F Sport enters the segment with the only naturally aspirated V8: a 5.0-liter unit producing 472 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque. Though the performance may not match some of its turbocharged six-cylinder rivals, the appeal of a howling V8 might win over old-school shoppers. Lexus is targeting a niche market with the IS 500 F Sport, perfectly aimed at brand loyalists and enthusiasts.
The IS 500 F Sport Performance is all-new, and the pinnacle of the current IS range - for now. While it's not as hardcore as the previous-generation IS-F (a criminally underrated car), it does come with a sublime 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 producing 472 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque.
This is the first model in the new Lexus F Sport Performance line, which will inevitably lead to an entire lineup of go-faster products carrying the same nomenclature. We doubt the 5.0-liter V8 will be around for that, which means the IS 500 F Sport might be a swansong model. It is available in three trims: Base, Premium, and Launch Edition.
See trim levels and configurations:
This four-door sport sedan oozes muscle, and it's quite a different beast from the standard IS. The hood, for example, has been raised by almost two inches, and it has aggressive power bulges to accommodate the larger engine. The front bumper and fenders also had to be lengthened for the same reason. At the rear, Lexus included the most noticeable homage to the now-defunct hardcore F models - the stacked quad exhaust tips. A revised lower rear diffuser and dark chrome window trim set the IS F Sport apart, and a rear lip spoiler ties it all together.
The new IS 500 F Sport gets 19-inch model-specific alloy wheels, which are lighter than the standard IS wheel by up to two pounds per wheel. This is even lighter on Launch Edition models that boast 19-inch seven-spoke forged BBS matte black alloy wheels, which are lighter by up to four pounds each. Only 500 serialized Launch Edition models will be produced, exclusive to the US market, and available only in one exterior hue, Incognito - a new addition to the Lexus range.
The Lexus IS 500 sedan has an overall length of 187.3 inches, riding on a 110.2-inch wheelbase. It's 72.4 inches wide with the mirrors folded in and stands 56.5 inches tall. With its elongated body, it stretches nearly two inches longer than the standard IS. Before the IS 500 rolled along, the heaviest IS was the 350 F Sport AWD at 3,880 lbs. Even with that big 5.0-liter lump under the hood, the IS 500 weighs 3,891 lbs, which is just 143 lbs more than the 350 F Sport RWD.
You can choose from eight colors when configuring your IS 500, including Ultra White, Caviar, Iridium, Infrared, Atomic Silver, Grecian Water, Cloudburst Gray, and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0. Certain premium colors have a $500 surcharge. Launch Editions come exclusively bedecked in Incognito dark gray. The Lexus looks spectacular in all these colors, especially in Infrared. We do wish there were more flamboyant colors available, considering the competition this car faces. Green seems to be a favorite at the moment, and we would have loved to see Japan's take on this color.
Pinpointing the IS 500's key rivals is important because this car is not positioned to take on full-fat performance sedans like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, BMW M3, or Mercedes-AMG C63. Instead, it mostly competes against turbocharged six-cylinder rivals including the Acura TLX Type S, Audi S4, BMW M340i, and Mercedes-AMG C43. These produce anywhere from 349-385 horsepower, so the IS 500's 472 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque figures seemingly outmatch the competition. However, the Lexus is one of the heavier vehicles in this category, and it lacks the available low-end torque of its turbocharged rivals. Lexus claims a 0-60 mph sprint time of 4.4 seconds. This time sees the RWD Lexus match the RWD Bimmer and the AWD Audi, and it's a tenth of a second quicker than the Merc. The AWD BMW M340i xDrive leads the way with a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds.
With the only V8 engine in its segment, Lexus has positioned the IS 500 F Sport as an emotional choice rather than one based solely on numbers. We doubt the IS 500 would be the quickest around the race track in its segment, but it easily produces the best exhaust note. Lexus adds an Active Sound Control knob that adjusts the digital sound emitted in the cabin. It seems unnecessary in a V8-powered car, but the cabin is so quiet, it helps deliver a fuller sound to the driver. The IS 500 is a glorious throwback to the pre-turbocharger era, delivering an old-school power curve that requires more involvement from the driver to achieve maximum performance. Power is sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The IS 500 uses the famous naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8 as found in the RC F and the LC. It's a peaky powertrain, delivering 472 hp at sky-high 7,100 rpm and 395 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm. In the real world, this means it takes some proper planning to tap into the V8's potential. Unlike a turbocharged engine, the V8 feels sleepy when you first hit the throttle, only erupting into a melodic roar at higher revs. Some delay is related to the lack of turbochargers, but the transmission tuning is also at fault.
All of the IS 500's power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission. This is the same transmission found in lesser models like the IS 350, and this quickly becomes apparent. In automatic mode, the transmission loves to seek high gears for maximum fuel economy, meaning it often takes several seconds to initiate downshifts. By the time the transmission gives you the correct gear, the gap may be gone or the light may go from yellow to red. Placing the car into Sport S+ mode can mitigate some of this effect, but we suggest using the paddle shifters to keep the engine in its sweet spot.
Our time spent in the IS 500 is a tale of two cars; the IS 500 as a daily driver, and the IS 500 as a back road attack machine. Let's begin with the former. We hopped behind the wheel thinking the rear-wheel-drive IS 500 F Sport would immediately impress with its V8 grunt and hardcore flavor, but this wasn't the case. Lexus designed this car as a daily driver first and foremost. If we didn't check the back for an 'IS 500' badge, we might have thought we were driving a lesser IS. There's a subtle burble from the V8, but other elements such as the suspension, steering, and transmission tuning feel broadly similar to the IS 350. If you're expecting an AMG-rivaling level of lunacy and stiffness from your Japanese sports sedan, this isn't your car. This may sound like a negative assessment, but the IS 500's lack of excitement during normal driving is actually an achievement.
The IS 500 is an astonishingly comfortable daily driver. Road noise is minimal, and despite the sporting pretensions, the suspension is sublime. We'd happily take the IS 500 road-tripping, and the abundance of comfort is applaudable. Unfortunately, the IS 500's lazy tuning (especially the transmission) becomes an issue when the mood to drive quickly strikes. Even in Sport S and Sport S+ modes, the transmission constantly seeks higher gears and short-shifts before hitting the redline, limiting access to peak power and dampening enjoyment. In short, the IS 500 feels downright slow in normal traffic.
We quickly became disillusioned by the IS 500's sporting credentials, until we played around with the manual mode. We typically leave most automatic transmissions to their own devices, but this car begs to be shifted manually. By taking control, we could fully experience the IS 500's potential. That 7,100 rpm redline was ours to hit on-demand, accompanied by the shriek of the glorious V8. By keeping the car way up in its rev range, the IS 500 transforms from a sleepy cruiser to an outright muscle sedan.
Like the old GS F, you can balance the rear end using the throttle, adding more revs to kick out the back end at will. When pressed hard, the soft suspension will limit your outright cornering speeds, but we appreciate how the car sets in and remains balanced through the bends. The steering is well-weighted and highly communicative, meaning you feel in control no matter the speed - BMW could learn a thing or two from how Lexus tuned its steering. When you take a test drive, we highly recommend putting the IS 500 into manual mode, or you may walk out of the dealership not understanding what this car is about. It's a comfortable prince during daily driving but when requested, it transforms into a howling beast. Just be aware, getting the IS 500 F Sport to fully wake up requires a bit of work.
The EPA doesn't have gas mileage figures for the RWD IS 500 F Sport Performance yet, but Lexus claims ratings of 16/24/19 mpg city/highway/combined. Considering the suspension setup, this particular 500 should be a fantastic long-distance cruiser, making the highway rating quite relevant. We only averaged 16.2 mpg during our two-day test drive, but in previous experiences with the Lexus V8, it's possible to hit nearly 30 mpg on the highway when hypermiling.
Fitted with a 17.4-gallon tank, the claimed mpg figures should result in an estimated range of 330 miles. This engine loves to be worked hard, however, so if you take it to 7,000 rpm in every gear, fuel economy will drop significantly.
This halo IS uses the same interior as lesser models, which is both good and bad. The IS is starting to show its age, but there are some nice touches. The updated touchscreen has been moved closer to the driver to improve ease of use. Lexus kept the annoying touchpad in place, but thankfully there's no need to use it. The center stack below the infotainment screen and beautiful analog clock are quite old-fashioned. It's a bit of a button fest combined with a few touch-capacitive zones, which Lexus will likely only rectify once the next-generation IS rolls in.
Model-specific touches include F Sport Performance badges on the steering wheel and door sill plates and F Sport bolstered sport seats. The pedals also get the F Sport treatment, and the push-button starter is upgraded to a lovely metal button. The LFA-inspired dials with the sliding bezel design are carried over from the standard model but feature a unique startup animation.
The Lexus IS is strictly a five-seat sedan, though occupants in the back (especially the middle seat) may be less comfortable than in some competitors. Lexus hasn't shared exact interior measurements for the IS 500 F Sport yet, but it shouldn't differ from the standard IS. This means the IS 500 should offer 44.8 inches of legroom up front, 32.2 inches in the rear, and 77 inches combined. This is generally close to competitors in terms of combined legroom, but the IS 500's rear seats offer around two inches less than most rivals in the compact sedan segment. Headroom is acceptable in the front, but tighter than average in the rear.
The overall interior atmosphere is still more luxurious than sporty, even with the F Sport body-hugging seats. Lexus's Nuluxe leatherette is standard, available in Black, Circuit Red, and White. Black Geometric trim is also available, giving the interior a racier feel. The Circuit Red trim is not available on the models painted Infrared or Grecian Water.
The Launch Edition gets unique Silver Ash wood trim, and exclusive Black and Gray Ultrasuede trim on the seats, door accents, and center console.
The Lexus IS doesn't have a huge trunk, measuring in at 10.8 cubic feet. You can increase the trunk by folding the rear seats down in a 60/40 split. BMW and Mercedes will offer you a bigger trunk, but 10.8 cubes are perfectly acceptable for a family of four.
Interior storage is adequate. The door pockets are on the small side, but there is ample storage space underneath the center armrest, and front passengers get dual cupholders. A lack of accessible space for a phone in the center console is a glaring design fault. Rear passengers get two pop-out cupholders in the fold-down center armrest.
The IS 500 F Sport Performance comes standard with full LED exterior lights, several F Sport exterior accents, an F Sport heated steering wheel, an LFA-inspired instrument cluster with a moving bezel, keyless entry with push-button start, heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats, and dual-zone climate control. Triple-beam LED headlamps are added from the mid-spec Premium model upwards.
Lexus includes its Safety System+ 2.5 as standard. This safety suite includes a pre-collision system, frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian and bicyclist detection, and emergency steering assist. As is expected, the IS 500 F Sport has a backup camera with dynamic gridlines and a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. All-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist are also standard. Our upgraded IS 500 F Sport tester included beautiful machined aluminum control knobs and the 360-degree camera system.
As the top model in the IS range, the new Lexus IS 500 F Sport comes with an eight-inch touchscreen on the base model, with a 10.3-inch high-resolution touchscreen as standard on upper trims. The touchscreen is a new addition for the IS, which previously relied solely on the highly-criticized Remote Touch interface. The laptop-style trackpad is still there, but there's less reason to use it now, especially with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa integration. Lexus hasn't perfectly optimized its interface for the new touchscreen, but it's a huge leap forward compared to the previous system. You can also connect your smartphone via USB or Bluetooth.
Our Premium grade tester came with navigation included and the 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium sound system with 1,800 watts, while a 10-speaker Pioneer system comes standard.
The IS 500 is brand new and it currently has no recalls against its name. It will likely stay that way, as the base car offers trouble-free motoring. There have been no recalls and no complaints lodged against the IS for the last two years. Another plus is that the engine is also a known entity, which is unlikely to give problems. It's worth noting that the 2021 Lexus IS range scored 82 out of a possible 100 points according to the J.D. Power review, placing it above all other luxury sedans including the Genesis G70, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The Lexus IS 500 F Sport is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty. As a bonus, Lexus also includes a one-year/10,000-mile scheduled maintenance plan.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has a model-specific safety review for the Lexus IS 500 F Sport, but there are ratings for the standard IS sedan. It scored the full five stars from the NHTSA overall. The IIHS gave the 2021 IS the coveted Top Safety Pick + award. We have no reason to believe the V8 lump in the front will negatively affect safety, which means the above ratings should carry over.
The IS ships standard with ten airbags, upgraded aluminum brake rotors, adaptive traction and stability control, and a backup camera with dynamic guidelines. All of the available driver assistance features are included as standard as well, and the list is relatively long: The pre-collision system includes frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian and bicyclist detection, emergency steering assist, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and lane departure alert with steering assist. Lane tracing assist, a blind-spot monitor, intelligent high beams, and road sign assist are all standard too, and from the Premium trim, an intelligent clearance sonar with perimeter view scan is standard.
When we drove the updated IS 350 F Sport earlier this year, we enjoyed the upgrades Lexus made to the exterior styling and interior technology, but wished the car received a buff in the engine bay. With the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance, we think Lexus has perfectly encapsulated what a performance sedan should be and silenced our complaints. Rather than focus on giving this car the best stats on a race track, Lexus remembered that most owners will take it back-and-forth from work more often than they will lap Laguna Seca. In this pursuit, the IS 500 puts an emphasis on comfort, culminating in a luxury sedan that we'd happily use to eat up highway miles.
If we were to offer some feedback, the drive modes do not effectively let the driver tap into the car's potential. Even in Sport S+, the IS 500's transmission felt too unresponsive to our inputs. Luckily, the manual mode gives drivers full license to peg that sky-high red-line, enjoying one the last naturally aspirated V8 exhaust notes available in this segment. If that's not worth the price, we don't know what is. The IS 500 won't win many head-to-head battles with the Audi S4, BMW M340i, or Mercedes C43 on paper, but its balance of price and performance combined with its old-school mentality makes it among the most appealing cars in this class. This may be the last compact luxury sports sedan packing a V8 engine, so we'd get one before it's gone.
Lexus is really going to upset the establishment with the IS 500 F Sport. You see, the base car retails for around the same money as a BMW M340i xDrive in the USA, but includes far more standard features. The 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance has a starting price of $56,500. Upgrade to the Premium grade and you have to fork over $61,000. The Launch Edition commands a hefty premium for 500-unit exclusivity and special content, retailing for $67,400. These prices exclude a delivery fee of $1,075.
There are three IS 500 F Sport Performance models available. You can get the IS 500 in Base or Premium grades, and if you jump quick enough, one of the 500 Launch Editions.
All models are equipped with the same 5.0L naturally-aspirated V8 engine mated to an 8-speed automatic. All 472 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque are sent exclusively to the rear wheels. This model gets adaptive damping, adaptive traction and stability control, Yamaha performance dampers at the rear, and a Torsen limited-slip differential to make the most of the additional horses.
All models come with LED exterior lights, a heated F Sport steering wheel, F Sport front seats that are heated, ventilated, and power-adjustable, dual-zone climate control, and an eight-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. Premium grades add an intelligent clearance sonar with perimeter view scan, a power rear sunshade, triple beam LED headlights, a 10.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, and the 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.
The Launch Edition will be limited to 500 models, each getting a unique plaque with the model number. This model is only available with an Incognito exterior color, black and gray Ultrasuede interior upholstery, Silver Ash wood trim, a "Launch Edition" startup animation in the instrument cluster, and 19-inch BBS seven-spoke matte black alloy wheels.
At the time of writing, available information suggested three available packages. Firstly, the Memory Package, which would add a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, exterior mirrors that tilt automatically in reverse, and a memory function for the driver's seat, exterior mirrors, and steering wheel. Then, the Navigation Package, which is standard on Premium models, consists of navigation, the larger 10.3-inch touchscreen, Lexus Enform Destination Assist, dynamic voice command, and Lexus Inform Dynamic Navigation. Lastly, there is the comprehensive Navigation/Mark Levinson Package, which adds the features of the Navigation package, plus a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system and machined aluminum control knobs. We'd assume you could also add the moonroof, premium audio setup, and some other luxuries as standalone options. Pricing for these packages was not yet available at the time of writing.
The IS 500 F Sport Performance does not seem like a value buy on paper. At $56,500, the IS 500 has the highest starting price in its segment (tied with the Mercedes-AMG C43). However, Lexus provides a lot of standard equipment that costs extra on the German rivals, and it's the only one to offer a V8, unlike the less expensive Acura TLX Type S. If you can live without the upgraded sound system, 360-degree camera with parking sensors, rear sunshade, and triple-beam headlamps, we suggest sticking with the base grade to save $4,500. The Launch Edition looks cool with its unique wheels and Incognito color, but its $67,400 price tag approaches M3 levels.
The new Lexus IS 500 F retails for more or less the same amount as the BMW M340i xDrive. The Bimmer's 3.0-liter turbocharged six produces 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The Lexus's naturally-aspirated V8 gives you 472 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque. The German car is still faster, however. That turbocharged motor is strong, enabling the M340i to get to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, which is still faster than the IS 500's mid-four-second sprint.
Do we care? Nope, not even one little bit. Sprint figures are meaningless and they don't tell the full story. While we respect the M340i, we can't imagine a world where we'd walk away from this 5.0-liter high-revving naturally-aspirated V8. Even if it did 0-60 mph in six seconds, we'd still have it over the German car. The IS 500 F Sport Performance is a bargain of note, and most likely the last of its kind. This glorious V8 engine will not last beyond this generation IS. If you want to own a seminal piece of automotive history, get one of these.
The top-spec IS 350 F Sport retails for roughly $43,000, representing a huge saving over the all-in Premium spec IS 500. Priced at $61,000, it's $18,000 more expensive. The standard IS offers you almost exactly what you get in the IS 500. It also errs on the side of comfort, and its 311 hp/280 lb-ft naturally-aspirated V6 makes it feel brisk, but not particularly fast.
If you simply require a moderately fast luxury sedan with sensational build quality, the V6-engined IS is a fine choice. But if you're here because you seek performance, the IS 350 is not the car for you. When talking about performance, you have to go for the IS 500. That thrilling 5.0-liter V8 is easily worth the $18,000 price increase. And the IS 500 will likely hold its value better, being one of the last big-engined, naturally-aspirated V8 performance sedans.
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