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2018 Lexus IS

$38,210 - $43,995
Price Range (MSRP)
Lexus IS

2018 Lexus IS Review

by Gabe Beita Kiser

Within the Lexus lineup, the IS range of small luxury sedans can be considered entry-level family vehicles, available in two basic models: the IS 300 and IS 350, both of which are available as rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The RWD IS 300 is equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, paired to an eight-speed shiftable automatic transmission. On the AWD variant, the engine is upgraded to a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 260 hp and 236 lb-ft directed through a six-speed shiftable automatic gearbox. The IS 350 receives a dialed-up version of the 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 311 hp and 280 lb-ft and is mated to an eight-speed shiftable auto as either a rear-wheel drive or a six-speed shiftable auto when configured as an all-wheel drive. The IS range offers buyers a luxury sedan with excellent build quality and an exceptional comfort-focused ride, but with its V6 engine becoming outmoded and its anti-sport handling dynamics, rivals such as the Audi A4 and Acura TLX may prove more appealing to some buyers.

2018 Lexus IS Changes: What’s the difference vs 2017 IS?

For 2018, Lexus has renamed the IS 200t as the IS 300 RWD, and with the discontinuation of the CT 200h hatchback, the IS is now the entry-level model in the Lexus lineup. The well-respected V6 engine in the IS 300 has been tuned to deliver an additional five horsepower, and the IS 350 F Sport now comes standard with a limited-slip differential. Additionally, all IS models are now equipped with a mandated rearview backup camera.

Pros and Cons

  • Comfortable ride quality
  • Upscale interior
  • High quality build overall
  • Good safety ratings
  • Good range of standard safety and driver-assist features
  • Mediocre handling capabilities
  • Below-average fuel economy estimates
  • Optional Remote Touch infotainment system is not user-friendly

IS Exterior

The IS has been designed with a low-slung, aerodynamic exterior with assertive styling that encompasses an aggressive, yet elegant, stance. The RWD and AWD IS 300 are set on 17-inch aluminum wheels, while the IS 350 is given 18-inch aluminum wheels to set it apart. All models feature LED headlights, automatic high beam headlamps, a power moonroof, and heated exterior side mirrors. Equipping the IS with the F Sport package adds exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels with a dynamic split-spoke design, which is inherited from the LFA, as well as a revised front bumper with a full-mesh front grille and twin-projector LED headlights.

2018 Lexus IS Front View
2018 Lexus IS Rear View
2018 Lexus IS Front Angle View
See All 2018 Lexus IS Exterior Photos

Dimensions

All IS models share a full length of 184.3 inches, a total width of 71.3 inches and height of 56.3 inches; similarly, a wheelbase of 110.2 inches makes for a shorter sedan compared to main rivals, yet boasting a longer wheelbase (which no doubt contributes to the smooth ride quality). The RWD IS 300 equipped with the eight-speed auto transmission weighs in at 3,583 pounds, while the AWD with the six-speed auto transmission has a curb weight of 3,737 lbs. The weight range for the IS 350 models is similar, with the base model only a few pounds heavier than the IS 300, which is only marginally more than both the Audi A4 and Acura TLX at the entry point of the range. RWD variants have a running ground clearance of 5.3 inches, while the AWD variants ride at 5.1 inches off the ground.

Exterior Colors

The IS range has access to a palette of eight exterior color options at no additional charge, consisting of such creatively named choices as Eminent White Pearl, Nebula Gray Pearl, Silver Lining Metallic, Atomic Silver, Caviar, Obsidian, Nightfall Mica, and Redline. Two further options, namely Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 and Ultra White, become available with the F-Sport package, with Eminent White Pearl and Nightfall Mica color options falling away. The IS optioned with the F Sport package has its sporty appeal best displayed through the Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0, although the standard guise IS looks most elegant in Obsidian or Nightfall Mica.

  • Atomic Silver
  • Obsidian
  • Caviar
  • Nebula Gray Pearl
  • Silver Lining Metallic
  • Ultra White
  • Ultrasonic Blue Mica
  • Redline
  • Eminent White Pearl
  • Nightfall Mica

IS Performance

The 2018 Lexus IS isn't the most athletic or fuel-efficient vehicle in its class, but it still presents more than adequate 0-60 mph performance times. Equipped with the 2.0-liter inline-4 turbo engine and eight-speed auto gearbox, the RWD IS 300 climbs from 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds, while the AWD model with the 3.5-liter V6 engine manages to shave 0.8 seconds off that time. The RWD IS 350 is the best performing variant, hitting the 60 mph mark in 5.6 seconds, while the AWD version is a tad slower at 5.7 seconds. The 3.5-liter V6 engine in the IS 350 has been re-tuned to deliver 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque while the standard version in the AWD IS 300 produces 260 hp and 236 lb-ft.

In comparison, the Audi A4 is equipped with a more refined turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder base engine that kicks out 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission - the AWD variant of this A4 achieved a 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds, faster than any of the IS variants. The Acura TLX AWD A-Spec, equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, takes 5.8 seconds to get to 60 mph, which is still more impressive than the IS range.

2018 Lexus IS Front View Driving
2018 Lexus IS Engine
2018 Lexus IS Engine

Engine and Transmission

The entry-level RWD IS 300 is fitted with the least powerful engine in the range: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder powertrain that generates 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Though this engine provides plenty of power in most driving situations, the automatic transmission it is configured to proves to be somewhat average, with a tendency to feel listless and slow to respond to needed shifts.

For the IS 300 fitted with the more powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine, output figures of 260 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque are carried through a six-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. Power is more than ample from this variant, and acceleration from standstill is much more satisfying. Getting up to speed on the highway and attempting passing maneuvers is easy and while the six-speed automatic gearbox acts adequately in this pairing, the transmission feels a little mundane for a vehicle equipped with a punchy engine such as this.

With the IS 350, a dialed-up version of the 3.5-liter V6 engine is fitted to deliver 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission (or to all wheels via a six-speed auto). The IS 350 performs best in the rear-wheel-drive setup in terms of speed, as the eight-speed auto gearbox manages to keep up with the power delivery of the boosted V6 engine.

  • Engines
    2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 3.5-liter V6 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Automatic, 8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, RWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Ride comfort is prioritized with the Lexus IS range which was designed to deliver an easy and consistently smooth drive. Solid body control in most driving conditions can be attributed to overall excellent build quality and highly compatible mechanical setup. Road bumps and impacts are absorbed well by the base underpinnings, which - along with the long wheelbase of the IS - makes for an absorbent glide over larger road undulations. Both the 17-inch and 18-inch wheels provide uninspiring grip, however, and balance around turns and during braking are below average. Although day-to-day braking is smooth and consistent, the pedal feels stiff and the travel is shorter than usual for a Lexus. In terms of steering, the IS is ordinary and responsive, though road feel isn't adequately communicated. This, along with the subpar brakes, diminishes driver confidence and set the IS behind rivals in terms of handling dynamics and capabilities.

Featured with all variants of the IS is a Drive Mode Select dial which either optimizes the IS for performance-based driving or for better fuel efficiency. Sport Mode enhances the powertrain for faster and more dynamic throttle responses, while Eco Mode moderates the throttle, engine power output, and climate settings to use less gas. When in Normal Mode, the vehicle is supposed to function in an optimal balance of fuel efficiency and engine performance. With the F Sport package applied, the IS 300 receives a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brake pads, and an intake sound generator that amplifies engine noise during acceleration; the IS 350 also receives a limited-slip differential.

IS Gas Mileage

The most fuel efficient model in the range is the RWD IS 300 with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. EPA estimates of 22/32/26 mpg in city/highway/combined driving cycles are achieved for the base model, which is comparably poorer than both the entry-level Audi A4 and Acura TLX . The AWD IS 300 and IS 350 feature the more powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine, which earns them both gas mileage rates of 19/26/22 mpg. The RWD IS 350 with the same engine does a little better at 20/28/23 mpg. Premium unleaded gas is recommended for use in the IS 300 derivatives, but is required for all IS 350 models. With a gas tank capacity of 17.4 gallons in all models, rear-wheel drive variants have a range of between 452.4 and 400.2 miles for the IS 300 and IS 350 respectively, while the all-wheel-drive models can reach 382.8 miles before needing to refuel.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    17.4 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 22/32 mpg
* 2018 Lexus IS 300 F Sport RWD

IS Interior

Interior build and material quality are highlights of the IS range; put together with upscale materials, the iconic Lexus craftsmanship is evident in the spacious, well-appointed cabin which seems focused on providing luxury and comfort as standard. Seating throughout the cabin is well-cushioned and comfortable enough for extended periods of time spent on the road. This is further improved by a ten-way power-adjustable driver seat, and an eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat, with both featuring lumbar adjustments. Through the optional packages, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver-seat memory settings, as well as heated and ventilated front seats can be added. For the IS 350, the F Sport package also adds enhanced bolstering with the heated and ventilated front seats. Some versatility is provided by the standard 60/40-split fold-down rear seats, though seating and space have been oriented towards accommodating passengers.

2018 Lexus IS Steering Wheel
2018 Lexus IS Central Console
2018 Lexus IS Infotainment System
See All 2018 Lexus IS Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

As a four-door small luxury sedan, the IS seats a maximum of five occupants, driver included. Seat comfort is exceptional in both the front and rear of the cabin, and the highly adjustable front seats allow for better positioning and support capabilities for even six-foot occupants. Forward visibility is generally above average, but the large rear pillars and high body slope create blind spots when reversing. Seating ergonomics upfront is slightly flawed, as the center tunnel console seems unnecessarily wide which results in a sense of the armrest intruding on space for even average-sized occupants. The rear bench offers less legroom than what is available in some rival luxury-sedans, and headroom in the center rear seat proves marginal and is probably best left for children. Due to the IS's low proximity to the ground, ingress and egress may prove difficult for some; overall, the IS is easy to live with and being a passenger is generally quite pleasant.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

A selection of four interior material/color options is available for this range, along with two trim/finish options. The material/color options include Black, Nuance Black, Chateau, and Flaxen NuLuxe. A lustrous Piano Black trim/finish is available with all material/color options, while the Silver Performance trim/finish is available with the Black and Chateau NuLuxe. Black, Chateau and an exclusive Rioja Red NuLuxe interiors are available with the F Sport package, along with the Silver Performance trim/finish. Premium vinyl upholstery is featured in the IS 300, while the IS 350 is upholstered in premium leatherette. Both variants have a perforated leather-trimmed shift knob and steering wheel.

IS Trunk and Cargo Space

The Lexus IS has one of the smallest trunk spaces in its class, at just 10.8 cubic inches. This is practically only enough room for a week's worth of groceries for a small family. The 60/40 split-folding rear seats don't stow away flat either, which limits versatility although it does expand cargo volume to accommodate larger, or odd shaped, items. Though the trunk opens up widely, the rear door openings are more restrictive, which is problematic for loading and accessing bigger objects.

In-cabin small-item storage is not the best in this segment either; a sizeable center armrest bin is present, but a single, shallow center cell, dual cupholders, a very slim glovebox, and four shallow door pockets make up the remainder of on-board storage options. Additionally, there are two seatback pockets and the rear center seat backrest folds down to reveal another set of cupholders for rear occupants.

2018 Lexus IS Rear Passenger Seats
2018 Lexus IS Side View
2018 Lexus IS Rear Angle View
  • Trunk Volume
    10.8 ft³

IS Infotainment and Features

Features

Standard features on all models include SmartAccess technology with push-button start/stop, drive mode select, dual-zone automatic and touch-based climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, a power moonroof, front seats that power-adjust, and 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks. Notable safety and driver-assist features that are included across the range entail a rearview backup camera with dynamic gridlines, and the Lexus Safety System+, which is comprised of a pre-collision warning system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and intelligent high beam headlamps. All-wheel-drive models of the IS 300 and 350 receive perforated heated and ventilated front seats as standard.

Infotainment

The basic infotainment setup consists of a seven-inch color multimedia display combined with a ten-speaker audio layout; the system is compatible with voice command and Bluetooth connectivity, and allows for satellite HD radio with subscription-free traffic and weather updates as well as Scout GPS Link. Unfortunately, the IS models do not have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, although Siri Eyes Free is included. The radio features a CD player, an auxiliary input and two USB ports for device connectivity which are located under the front center armrest (however, there's no cord pass-through). With the optional Navigation Package, a 10.3-inch HD widescreen display and Remote Touch joystick-like controller is added, but sadly the controller is awkward and distracting, with imprecise movements. A 15-speaker premium Mark Levinson audio system can be included by means of package upgrade as well.

IS Problems and Reliability

J.D. Power scored the 2018 Lexus IS with a below-average predicted reliability rating of two-and-a-half out of five. On average, new vehicles are given at least three out of five, so this score is quite disappointing. From the substantial decrease in complaints over time, however, one could infer that reliability could have been scored a little higher: only two complaints were logged on the NHTSA site for this range thus far. Furthermore, no recalls have been issued for any model of the 2018 IS fleet.

Lexus offers the IS with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty and rust-through coverage. A four year/unlimited mile roadside assistance program is also included with purchase.

IS Safety

The NHTSA scored the 2018 Lexus IS at five out of five stars for overall safety and crash test performance, and it earned the highest results of good in five individual crash tests by the IIHS. The IIHS also scored the range as superior for its front crash prevention features, although an average rating of acceptable has been noted for headlights specifically. Despite having a sub-par reliability rating, IIHS named the Lexus IS its Top Safety Pick for 2018 in the luxury 4-door sedan category.

Key Safety Features

The Lexus IS is released with a broad variety of safety and advanced driver-assist features as standard, including the Lexus Safety System+, which is characterized by a pre-collision warning system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and intelligent high beam headlamps. Each model has a rearview backup camera with dynamic gridlines, and ten class-leading airbags are located throughout the cabin. Intuitive park assist and blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert are available within the optional packages and are not included as standard.

Verdict: Is the 2018 Lexus IS a good car?

The 2018 Lexus IS is an average small-to-midsize luxury sedan; though it offers a refined ride, a comfortable cabin, and a high quality build inside and out, the IS lacks in practicality with impractical rear folding seats and limited in-cabin storage compartments. Despite the fact that designers have made a good attempt at including sporty appeal through the 350 models, class rivals simply outperform its bland V6 engine. The Audi A4 offers a more engaging driving experience by means of its enthusiastic 2.0-liter turbo-four engine, with the added benefit of more cargo space and versatility through rear seats that fold down in 40/20/40 configuration.

On the plus side, excellent crash test ratings and safety scores make this a superb family sedan. A superior selection of safety and advanced driver assist features are equipped as standard, with the option of adding to the list by means of optional packages. Additionally, the comfort of the interior and the smooth, effortless ride make the IS a great daily drive and long distance commuter, although the infotainment system proved subpar compared to competitors. Some rivals also offer more space in the back seat.

What's the Price of the 2018 Lexus IS?

The most affordable model from the 2018 range is the IS 300 RWD, with a starting MSRP of $38,210. Opting for the all-wheel drive variant will bump the price up to $40,660. IS 350 variants in rear-wheel-drive configuration have a starting price of $41,830, while the fully-loaded all-wheel-drive trim will set you back $43,995. All given prices are exclusive of Lexus' delivery, processing and handling fee of $1,025 and do not include tax, licensing, registration, and any dealer provided incentives.

2018 Lexus IS Models

The 2018 Lexus IS lineup consists of the IS 300 and IS 350, both of which are available in rear-wheel or all-wheel drivetrains, both with different powertrain specifications..

At the entry point of the range, the IS 300 RWD is equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Standard features carried throughout the IS range from this model onwards include SmartAccess with push-button start/stop, drive mode select, dual-zone automatic and touch-based climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, a power moonroof, power-adjustable front seats, and 60/40 rear seatbacks. Safety features on board include a rearview backup camera and the Lexus Safety System+.

For the all-wheel-drive version of the IS 300, an upgraded 3.5-liter V6 engine is fitted and paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Perforated leather seats in the front are included and are heated and ventilated for this trim.

The IS 350 is equipped with a dialed-up version of the 3.5-liter V6 engine and generates 51 more ponies than in the IS 300 AWD. It uses an eight-speed automatic transmission to drive power to the rear wheels. This same powertrain is present on the all-wheel-drive variant but is paired to a six-speed automatic gearbox instead. This derivative also receives the premium heated front seats.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
IS 300 F Sport
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
3.5-liter V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$38,210
IS 300
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
3.5-liter V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$38,210
IS 350
3.5-liter V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$41,830
IS 350 F Sport
3.5-liter V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$41,830
See All 2018 Lexus IS Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

For both the IS 300 and IS 350 an optional Navigation Package can be included at a cost of $1,735. This consists of a navigation system, fuel guide, sports and stocks, Lexus Enform destination assist, Enform app suite, Remote Touch, and advanced voice command with enhanced Bluetooth technology. The $2,835 Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package is also available and includes the Navigation system, plus a 15-speaker Mark Levinson Premium surround-sound audio system, and a 10.3-inch split-screen multimedia display. At $720, a Comfort Package equips the IS with a seat memory system, electrochromic outside mirrors, a power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and rain-sensing wipers. The IS RWD variants also have access to a Premium Package which adds heated and ventilated front seats only at $790, which - for all-wheel-drive models - cost only $350.

The F Sport Package equips the IS with supercar sport-like instrumentation, F Sport exterior styling, and 18-inch split-five-spoke alloy wheels as well as a sport-tuned suspension. At a price of $3,195 extra, this bundle also adds bolstered/heated and ventilated front seats, perforated leather-trimmed F Sport steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, silver performance interior trim, and a black headliner. The IS 350 receives a limited-slip differential and an adaptive variable suspension with Sport S+ driving mode at the same cost.

What Lexus IS Model Should I Buy?

The base model IS 300 in all-wheel-drive configuration is equipped with the more refined engine and transmission; the 2.0-liter turbo-four delivers more effective low-end torque for better acceleration from standstill and delivers better gas mileage than the larger V6 engine. To get the most out of what the IS has to offer, adding the Comfort Package for the extra convenience features and safety aids is almost a must, especially in comparison to rival vehicles that already include these features as standard. The Navigation/Mark Levinson premium audio package would be an ideal addition as well, despite the hefty price tag, although the inclusion of the unintuitive Lexus Remote Touch controller is a bit of a letdown.

For a fully-loaded, sport-sedan experience, the IS 350 RWD with the F Sport Package equipped is the best option. Also installing the Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio System Package rounds out the vehicle to include everything the Lexus IS has to offer in terms of performance and comfort. For those looking for a little more oomph and flair from the basic sedan, this is the model to buy.

2018 Lexus IS Comparisons

2018 Lexus IS
2018 Lexus IS

2018 Lexus IS vs Audi A4 Sedan

Clocking more impressive 0-60 mph times than the IS, the Audi A4 offers more energetic acceleration as well as a smoother and quieter 2.0-liter turbo-four engine. The A4 also exhibits far more satisfying handling dynamics than any of the IS models, with superior brakes and high grip tires that deliver stable cornering and traction in most scenarios. The A4 also has a better infotainment system which allows for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and has the benefit of a more user-friendly controller. Where the Lexus IS stands out is in the high level of luxury and comfort in the cabin; it is evident that the A4 has been designed with a bias toward sport over luxury, and thus the seats and ride are a lot firmer compared to the IS. Deciding between the two vehicles comes down to whether you're in search of a sport-centric or comfort-focused small-to-medium luxury sedan. The Audi A4 is definitely sportier by nature, and is equipped with superior technology. However, the A4 doesn't quite match up to the comprehensive level of comfort and safety offered by the IS.

See Audi A4 Sedan Review

2018 Lexus IS vs Acura TLX

The Acura TLX and Lexus IS both offer expressive comfort and convenience, making the daily commute - as well as long-distance trips - satisfying and pleasant. The TLX does, however, offer more space in the cabin, and there is greater rear cabin legroom available as opposed to the IS' back seat, which can be restrictive for three adults across. Trunk and in-cabin cargo space are excellent in the TLX, and it is far more practical than the Lexus in terms of rear seats folding down. The IS does offer a more powerful engine which is also more fuel-efficient than the engine options available for the TLX. On the one hand, the Acura offers a wider variety of affordable trim options, but in general, these lack the necessary comfort, convenience and safety features that make a luxury sedan appealing. Though the IS may not be as practical as the TLX, overall it offers more value for money in the upper-level models, making the IS the better option of the two.

See Acura TLX Review

Lexus IS Popular Comparisons

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2018 Lexus IS Video Reviews